25 episodes

Left, Right & Center is KCRW’s weekly civilized yet provocative confrontation over politics, policy and pop culture.

KCRW's Left, Right & Center KCRW

    • News
    • 4.1, 3K Ratings

Left, Right & Center is KCRW’s weekly civilized yet provocative confrontation over politics, policy and pop culture.

    Will it change us?

    Will it change us?

    Halfway through an extremely eventful 2020, what is the outlook for persistent change?

    In this special midyear episode, Josh Barro speaks with Dorian Warren and Megan McArdle about whether this year’s events — in policing and racial justice, the economy, and public health — will make change in these areas more possible and more necessary.

    A lot of change is happening quickly. The government has spent trillions to support the economy, Americans’ lives are barely recognizable, and public opinion has moved faster than we’ve ever seen on issues related to race and policing. Will it change the country permanently? Positively? And what are we learning from these extraordinary months?

    Megan notes that many trends appear revolutionary in the short term but less so in the long term, citing how little changed after the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic. She also says there are examples in our history of police reform and “defunding” actually backfiring, and reform may be more difficult in the midst of economic troubles.

    Dorian notes that we’ve already seen incredible change as a result of the multiple crises facing the country now. “Normal models we look for in politics don’t quite explain how much change we’ve seen so far...” and he says generational change and indicators in the culture should not be underestimated.

    • 54 min
    The Center is right again

    The Center is right again

    How’s this for a civilized yet provocative start to the show? This week, people finally started admitting Josh Barro has been right about Joe Biden. Though, for the record, a lot of people have been agreeing with him all along: voters. Now, many others are realizing maybe what America needs next in a president is a broadly acceptable leader with unifying messages that can make people feel good about the country again, and one who adopts broadly popular reform positions while resisting the pressure to be on the unpopular side of wedge issues.

    Well, on this show, we do a lot of disagreeing, and Megan McArdle and Christine Emba have some things to say about Josh’s victory lap. What everyone does agree on is that President Trump’s handling of national crises grew even more grim and it’s definitely not helping him in the polls. The sparsely attended Tulsa rally didn’t help either, nor do the spikes in covid-19 cases in the south and west. Progressives had a strong showing in Tuesday’s primaries, so what are the implications further down the ballot if Biden wins big in November?

    Plus: what should be done about China? Democrats and Republicans feel increasingly negative about our relationship with China. Why is it so hard to determine the exact foreign policy strategy? Ali Wyne from the Atlantic Council joins the panel to talk about the tough road ahead.

    • 59 min
    A big week at the Supreme Court

    A big week at the Supreme Court

    The Supreme Court delivered two major opinions this week and conservatives are not very happy with two Republican-appointed justices. Justice Neil Gorsuch — often held up as the example of why Republicans should tolerate President Trump’s antics — wrote the opinion in a 6-3 decision that said employers cannot discriminate against employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity because, well, Gorsuch argues that’s what the text of the law says. Might conservatives abandon textualism? Later in the week, the Supreme Court decided 5-4 the Trump administration improperly tried to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects from deportation many unauthorized immigrants who arrived in the country as minors.

    One way to read Chief Justice John Roberts’s opinion, Emily Bazelon says, is that he’s offended by the Trump administration’s sloppy lawyering. They should have been more clear about why they wanted to toss protections for Dreamers. Michael Steele says the administration’s actions are less about a coherent immigration policy and more about undoing President Obama’s work. This decision, of course, doesn’t erase all the uncertainty about the future of DACA. Plus: why did the Supreme Court pass on cases about the Second Amendment and qualified immunity?

    And speaking of, how much would eliminating qualified immunity actually improve police behavior? Without it, Christine Emba says there could be trickle-up accountability — the threat of a lawsuit could make officers behave better, but maybe it would simply force local government to pay more attention to training and hire better officers. Emily Bazelon says the threat of lawsuits can be a good accountability tool for law enforcement, but for large-scale reform, major culture change is necessary from leadership to the unions and through the ranks.

    Finally: John Bolton’s tell-all memoir is coming out next week, and the details in it are pretty embarrassing for President Trump. The Department of Justice is trying very hard to stop the publication of the book. Josh Barro says it’s an egregious abuse of power for the Department of Justice to try to silence John Bolton and punish him for exercising his First Amendment rights.

    • 51 min
    Biden’s lead widens

    Biden’s lead widens

    Lots of people in Washington seem to want more distance from President Trump as his actions have grown even more erratic and his poll numbers have deteriorated. This week, General Mark Milley, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff apologized for appearing with President Trump in that infamous church photo opp. Mitt Romney got a lot of attention for marching in support of Black Lives Matter. Michael Steele says it was partially political because the senator is unlikely to face retribution from his party or his constituents but it’s an important moral and personal move too.

    This week, there was a pretty big contrast between President Trump’s calls for “law and order” and Joe Biden’s empathy, and the polls show Biden with a growing lead over the president. It appears Biden is more open and interested in policies further to the left. He might not be a full-blown leftist, but he appears to be open to influence, Christine Emba says.

    Protests about policing are yielding government action. New York passed ten police reform laws, Minneapolis is moving toward efforts to abolish its police department, though it’s not entirely clear what that would mean or what institutions would be developed to replace it. Democrats in Congress have a suite of proposals and Republicans are working on their own slate. But some activists urge that we abolish or defund the police. What does that mean? Emily Owens says, too often, discussions about policing focus on its impact and benefits, and it’s important to consider the costs of policing — to communities, to the social safety net, and to people’s lives.

    Plus, America is reopening despite the fact that COVID-19 cases appear to be spiking. President Trump even intends to resume campaign rallies. Are we ready if things get worse? Is the president?

    • 50 min
    Will waves of protest bring waves of change?

    Will waves of protest bring waves of change?

    The killing of George Floyd by a white police officer who now faces murder charges set off a wave of peaceful protests nationwide. It also resulted in incidents of violence, with police officers blamed for using unnecessarily brutal methods to clear activists, while others have been accused of using the guise of activism to destroy and steal property. Meanwhile the president’s response has elicited criticism from some surprising sources, including the military community. The panel considers this moment: Does it represent a seismic shift? Will either party advocate real reform? The panel reacts with a mix of hope and reality.

    Plus: The Left has been clamoring for General Jim Mattis, President Trump’s former defense secretary, to speak out. Did he choose the right time? Will it matter what he’s said? And how much does it matter who Joe Biden picks to be his running mate? 

    This episode of Left, Right & Center has an all-black panel: Keli Goff is the Center with Christine Emba on the Left, Michael Steele on the Right and special guest Robert A. George. 

    • 1 hr 4 min
    George Floyd

    George Floyd

    The death of George Floyd — who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer who knelt on his neck for seven minutes in the process of arresting him — has reignited outrage over police treatment of black Americans. There have been protests in cities across the country in response to Floyd’s death and the recent deaths of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, and in Minneapolis, a level of unrest led the governor to call in the National Guard. The panel discusses what’s driving the protests and what governments can do to gain the public’s trust that justice will be done when police abuse power.

    Also on the show: Joe Biden has a plan for that. That’s what Matt Yglesias says: that Biden is the most progressive Democratic nominee ever with a long list of plans for progressive policy change. But will progressives believe that? And will conservatives be able to convince anyone that Biden is a radical? The United States Postal Service, like many institutions, faces financial trouble due to the pandemic. What’s the social purpose of the post office? And what does that say about how Congress should help it out?

    • 53 min

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5
3K Ratings

3K Ratings

C1d1p1 ,

Miss Liz...

...and Rich.

E-Stu ,

Bring Back Rich (and Liz!)

Just some thoughts. I know some episodes back recently, when the panel was discussing the George Floyd murder, the issue was very fresh and emotions were high, and Rich was a bit insensitive in his presentation. But I hope that is not the reason he hasn’t returned since. Rich could have been more delicate regarding the debate about institutional racism, but that is hardly a reason not to bring him back. We have to be able to talk about sensitive issues openly, honestly, and respectfully, even if the other person’s point of view makes one’s blood boil. And that includes a white, straight male conservative, such as Rich, being able to air his opinion in contrast with, say, Christine, who based on what she has said on the show is an African-American female who understandably feels passionate about such an issue. This podcast needs to be vigilant about not conforming to more biased narratives of either the left or right and make sure it has guests on the show who do a good job representing what true liberal, conservative, and moderate views are. Even though I fall into the moderate category, I miss Rich. And I especially miss Liz Bruenig. Christine does a good job and I value her input, especially as an African-American female. But as other reviewers have pointed out, her tone comes across as condescending too often. Josh is an excellent moderator, and I have been so happy Michael Steele has been on recently. Love him! I support this podcast (and NPR in general) and will continue to do so, but it needs to make sure it keeps its panel comprehensive and true to its mission!

Petercookies ,

Keep Rich Gone.

It’s a shame you’ve given in to these trolling reviews extolling the supposed virtues of none other than Rich Lowry, whose tone-deaf reheated remixes of the greatest hits of William F Buckley were always good for a chuckle. Points for consistency I guess. The guy was always cynical and smarmy, which granted, is an inevitability given his political ideology.

I found Christine Emba to be likable, genuine and a fine antidote to the bloodless cynicism of Lowry. If so many people want Rich back, bring Christine back too so Rich can continue to get his behind handed to him publicly on a weekly basis.

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