Left, Right & Center
Left, Right & Center
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Left, Right & Center is KCRW’s weekly civilized yet provocative confrontation over politics, policy and pop culture.
Once more, with policy
It was the last debate of the campaign, and it was less crazy than the last one. NBC’s Kristen Welker kept it on lockdown with some help from a mute button. There was also a lot more policy discussion in this debate than the last. Josh Barro talks with Tim Carney and Christine Emba about President Trump and Joe Biden’s exchanges on schools and the coronavirus, immigration policy, a major hike to the minimum wage, race, criminal justice and corruption. By the time the debate aired Thursday night, more than 50 million people have already voted. Jessica Huseman of ProPublica talks about whether the long lines and technical issues from the early days of voting have persisted, the litigation over voting practices in Texas and Pennsylvania, and what to expect and when to expect it on election night.
Oct 23
58 min
This town hall ain’t big enough for the two of us
It was the week of dueling town halls. President Trump did not want to do a virtual debate but he’s trailing in the polls. Did his combative town hall with NBC’s Savannah Guthrie make the case that voters should change their minds and re-elect him? Christine Emba says the more people see of Trump being combative, it helps Biden. Or, as Tim Carney puts it, is Joe Biden rising in the polls because there’s been no effective critique of him from the right, the left, or the media? Josh Barro says Republicans appear to be preparing to lose the election and their last move — instead of working on another coronavirus relief package that might actually help them in this election — is to solidify a conservative majority on the Supreme Court as a bulwark to an impending Democratic majority in government. Tim Carney says that’s not really the whole story: this has always been Mitch McConnell’s aim. What did we learn from Amy Coney Barrett’s hearing? And have both the right and left gone astray with how they articulate the stakes of abortion access and prohibition in the US? Finally: Dr. Lauren Ancel Meyers of the University of Texas at Austin has developed a model to gauge the risks of reopening schools for in-person instruction based on the spread of the coronavirus in communities. She says most localities are taking baby steps based on what they see in the data — could, and should, they be more bold?
Oct 16
1 hr
Total chaos
Is the president a super spreader? President Trump’s doctors say he can resume public events soon — certainly what President Trump prefers, as he trails Joe Biden in the polls less than a month before Election Day — but is that really safe? Should Americans consider and judge Trump’s diagnosis and the fact that the virus spread among his staff and close contacts? Michael Brendan Dougherty says that’s fair. This week, President Trump appeared trapped between doing things to please his base and doing the right thing — largely viewed as favorable by the public — about the pandemic. Jamelle Bouie says the president has set himself up to be in this position: unable to do the politically smart thing, and that includes responding to the cluster of cases and his own illness in a smart way. Science journalist Christie Aschwanden discusses the cluster of cases at the White House and the treatments the president says cured him (though he also says he would have gotten better on his own), noting that even the limited information we have about the president’s condition and treatment points to a more severe case and that he may not be out of the woods yet. At Wednesday’s vice presidential debate, Senator Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence argued over the Trump administration’s pandemic record. But would a Biden administration handle everything so differently? Finally, what’s with President Trump’s on-again, off-again push for a new stimulus bill. Does he actually want one, and why hasn’t he gotten it done, since it could help him get re-elected?
Oct 9
51 min
October Surprise
President Trump has tested positive for the coronavirus. Just days ago at the presidential debate, he mocked Joe Biden for wearing masks too much. After learning Hope Hicks, a top aide, had the virus, he still attended an in-person fundraiser with dozens of supporters. Does the president bear moral responsibility for taking excessive risks, contracting the virus and exposing others to it? Tuesday’s debate was a bit of a mess. Josh Barro empathizes with moderator Chris Wallace, and the panel considers what viewers learned in the debate. In his attempt to dominate the debate, Trump took heat for his unwillingness to condemn the Proud Boys, and his sinister take on voting and election legitimacy. Michael Brendan Dougherty wonders if the president has lost the ability to make a populist case for his presidency, or even tell a story about the corruption in Washington and why voters would still want him to be president? Jamelle Bouie says that if Trump had populist instincts, he wouldn’t have fought the Democrats on another coronavirus relief package. Speaking of: will Congress finally go for another round of coronavirus relief? On the Supreme Court, why are Republicans making assurances that even a court with a conservative majority won’t do what conservatives have asked it to do on abortion and Obamacare? Plus: remember the story about the president’s tax returns from the beginning of the week?
Oct 2
51 min
Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the future of the Supreme Court
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is dead at 87. She leaves a legacy as a liberal icon, from her time litigating for equal rights before the court and from her 27 years serving on the bench. In the midst of fierce objections from Democrats in Congress, Republicans intend to replace her with a conservative, which will shift the Supreme Court firmly to the right. How would this affect American law in the long run, and more immediately, the challenge to the Affordable Care Act that the justices intend to hear right after the election? Should the Supreme Court — and its individual justices — have this much power? Josh Barro talks with Michael Brendan Dougherty, Jamelle Bouie and Emily Bazelon to talk about Justice Ginsburg’s legacy, what happens when the Supreme Court moves away from American public opinion, and how the Supreme Court’s power could be limited, and if it should be. Then: one of the Louisville police officers involved in the fatal raid on Breonna Taylor’s apartment has been indicted, but not for killing her. We’ll look at whether there was a viable avenue to prosecute, and whether reforms in Louisville will prevent similar botched raids in the future.
Sep 25
50 min
One Billion Americans
***Hi Left, Right & Center listeners: this week’s episode was recorded Friday morning before news broke that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died at 87 of pancreatic cancer. President Trump is fighting with his CDC director. Dr. Robert Redfield says we won’t likely have wide enough distribution of a potential coronavirus vaccine to return to normal life until the second or third quarter of next year. Anthony Fauci agrees with that rough timeline. But that’s not the full story: it will take months to get all those doses in people’s bodies and fighting the coronavirus. Josh Barro talks with Michael Brendan Dougherty and Jamelle Bouie about how Democrats can express concerns about Trump’s role in the vaccine process without scaring people away from an effective vaccine when it does come. Then, Matt Yglesias joins the panel to talk about his argument that the United States should have population one billion: how we could achieve it, and why America needs to be bigger to be better. Elizabeth Nolan Brown joins the conversation too.
Sep 18
1 hr 6 min
Wildfires are raging in the west. The pandemic is still raging, with nearly 200,000 Americans dead. What is the government doing? Congress still cannot agree on additional aid for Americans. President Trump has resorted to using disaster relief funds to pay for additional jobless benefits and is eyeing more executive action, but is there a bigger response coming for any of these crises? President Trump took a lot of heat for statements he made to journalist Bob Woodward, detailed in Woodward’s new book Rage, about how he knew how bad the coronavirus was and downplayed it on purpose to avert panic. Ariel Edwards-Levy (senior reporter and polling editor at the Huff Post) tells the panel about the state of the presidential race and sticks up for polling: why you should believe it more than a lot of people say they do.
Sep 11
53 min
Left, Right and Center Presents: Diaries of a Divided Nation 2020
Diaries of a Divided Nation: 2020 is a people’s history of the United States recorded in real time. Over the past year, a team of audio journalists have documented the lives of seven ordinary people with different views, living in different places, and with different stakes in politics. Each participant has recorded their thoughts and experiences as the extraordinary events of 2020 have unfolded. We hear from Americans in Texas, Iowa, Virginia, Washington, Alabama, Michigan and Kentucky among others.
Sep 10
52 min
Two trips to Kenosha
Both Donald Trump and Joe Biden traveled to Kenosha, Wisconsin this week, following the police shooting of Jacob Blake and subsequent protests, riots and looting. President Trump warned putting Democrats in power will lead to more of this sort of unrest. Joe Biden spoke in Pittsburgh to say riots are bad — which has been his position all along — and that Trump has fomented unrest with his divisiveness. A new wave of polls showed the presidential race little changed, not due to this news story, and not due to the conventions either. Then: Since students returned to campus at the University of Illinois one week ago, the university is processing more than 15,000 tests a day, accounting for as much as two percent of daily nationwide tests. This is part of the university’s plan for in-person instruction while preventing outbreaks. Dr. Rebecca Smith, a researcher and epidemiologist at the university, talks about how the program works, how it’s working so far, and where else this testing model could be appropriate. Jamelle Bouie and Michael Brendan Dougherty discuss the president’s executive actions for coronavirus relief, including the use of the Centers For Disease Control to stop evictions, and the outlook for a coronavirus relief package this month.
Sep 4
51 min
Is triggering the libs a policy platform?
President Trump accepted his party’s renomination to be president on the White House lawn, despite rules about not using government property for political purposes. He says he wants to unify the country and that Joe Biden is a Trojan horse for socialism who will demolish the suburbs and govern in thrall to Bernie Sanders. Josh Barro says that seems a little over the top. He recaps the GOP convention, President Trump’s nomination acceptance speech and the party’s overall message with new Right and Left panelists Michael Brendan Dougherty of National Review and Jamelle Bouie of the New York Times Tim Alberta says the GOP’s “we’re not that evil” message was directed at one class of persuadable voters the party cannot afford to lose en masse: college educated suburban voters, i.e. voters who aren’t running away from the Republican Party so much as they are sprinting away. According to public opinion, Americans say the most important issue facing the country is the coronavirus, so is it a good strategy for the Republican Party to talk about the coronavirus like it’s in the past? Michael Brendan Dougherty says it might work out that by November, voters will be more ready for President Trump’s outlook and tone. Jamelle Bouie says that will be a tough sell if the virus spikes in the fall, people are still out of work with their children attending school from home, and moreover, the theme of this race has been the steadiness of Biden’s lead over Trump. What was the GOP’s closing argument to voters? And is triggering the libs enough of a policy platform for Republican voters? Kenosha, Wisconsin has been rocked by protests and riots over another police shooting of a black man, plus counterprotesters, some of whom were essentially militia. One person shot and killed two demonstrators and wounded another. What will this mean for police reform and a 2020 campaign in which both parties have made policing a key issue?
Aug 28
50 min
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