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Left, Right & Center


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


Santa Monica, CA





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




1900 Pico Blvd. Santa Monica, CA 90405 310-450-5183


Why is the House focusing on antizionism while addressing antisemitism?

A rise in antisemitism in the wake of Israel’s war with Hamas caught the attention of the House of Representatives this past week. Members of the House held a hearing with college presidents addressing antisemitic incidents on campuses. They also passed a resolution condemning antisemitism, including antizionism. The vote split Democrats, who raised questions about the choice to equate antizionism with antisemitism. Did Congress take advantage of a tense political moment to play a game of “gotcha?” And why did those presidents (and some members of Congress) choose to tap dance around legitimate questions about this worrying trend? The New Hampshire primary next month won’t feature President Biden on the ballot. We explore why, and look at the impact independent voters could have on the Republican side of the ballot. Two Florida school districts are facing lawsuits around the removal of books from public school libraries. The state’s position has raised some interesting legal questions about the right of districts to decide what content appears on the shelves and in the curriculum.


Will Biden’s leadership hold under pressure?

A temporary pause on fighting in Gaza between Israel and Hamas was agreed upon with the help of President Biden and the Qatari government. It’s a volatile situation, relying on the continued trade-off of hostages and prisoners between the two sides. There aren’t many on the left or the right who have been pleased with Biden’s handling of the situation, even with the desired outcome of released hostages. Will the president’s commitment to nuance continue to withstand the political pressures he faces? The Republican Party’s lack of leadership has left Speaker Mike Johnson — and the future of the GOP — hanging in the balance. Johnson’s position remains vulnerable to the appeasement of his colleagues. Donald Trump’s allegiance can’t be relied upon. Would a new face of the party provide some much-needed stability? Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger died at the age of 100 this week. His outsized influence on U.S. foreign policy since the Nixon administration drew the admiration (and the ire) of many. In the wake of his passing, David Greene, Sarah Isgur and Mo Elleithee provide their thoughts on his complicated standing as one of America’s most legendary statesmen.


Reading the tea leaves of early polling

With the primary season just around the corner, voters can expect an influx of polling data. Sorting through it all can be tricky. David Wasserman of the non-partisan Cook Political Report discusses what numbers we should be paying attention to, and explains why questions about poll reliability are valid. Joe Manchin's decision to not run for re-election in West Virginia has stoked suspicions around the senator’s possible third-party candidacy. Can the growing field of third-party candidates expect to make an impact relying on personality over issues? The Boston Tea Party’s 250th anniversary is just around the corner. Author Stacy Schiff discusses the importance of the event in the American Revolution and why it was more than just a riot.


Congress avoids a shutdown — and doesn’t seem thrilled about it

Congress agreed to a new spending bill this week to avoid a government shutdown. The bill relies on the same type of structured deadlines that cost former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy his party’s support and eventually his job. New Speaker Mike Johnson chose not to fight for the spending cuts and border funding that Republicans sought in order to get the bill through the House. Will his willingness to compromise lead him down the same path? Israel’s war against Hamas has strong backing from President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken. There’s also been plenty of public support, as seen from a large rally in Washington, D.C. this week. But rising civilian deaths in Gaza have led to calls for a ceasefire from Democratic voters as well as members of the State Department. Can Biden successfully navigate the growing rift over the conflict on the left? Plus, reversing climate change will require forward-thinking solutions. The president of the Good Food Institute talks about his innovation to soften meat production’s impact on the planet.


Will Dems’ success this week boost Biden in 2024?

It was Election Day in several states this week. Voters hit the polls to decide on abortion as a constitutional right in Ohio. Kentucky and Mississippi made their choice for governor. And every state legislative seat in Virginia was up for grabs. Democrats saw favorable results across the board. Do those results tell us more about Biden’s chances in 2024, or the struggles Republicans must overcome to get their message across? Democrats and Republicans remain at a standstill on immigration policy. The president has suggested additional funding and new strategies, but some in Congress are unsatisfied. Can they figure out a way forward without direct executive action? Alaska brings in thousands of workers from Ukraine to help keep its crucial seafood industry going. Can the same opportunities work at a larger scale for workers from other countries?


Regulating AI: What’s the government’s power?

President Biden signed a sweeping order focused on reinforcing safety, security, and trust in artificial intelligence. It creates federal guardrails for the continuously evolving technology, while advocating for its development. The government was slow to address calls for regulating social media. Will an aggressive federal approach on AI pay off? The foreign influence behind TikTok remains a major concern for U.S. lawmakers. Some congressional members continue to seek a ban on the popular app. What steps should the government take as a new front emerges in the information war? A new segment aims to zoom in on all 50 states in the lead-up to the next presidential election, starting with a tight gubernatorial race in Mississippi.


Democracy is back in session

After an embarrassing three weeks of nominees and almost-elections, the House of Representatives finally chose a new speaker — Republican Rep. Mike Johnson, who tried to help Donald Trump overturn the 2020 election. Now, can Congress get to work on government funding and pressing national crises? In an Oval Office address to the nation, President Biden announced a request to Congress for $106 billion to boost national security. The package would include military aid for Israel, increased arms production for Ukraine, funds for Taiwan, and more security along the U.S.-Mexico border. It was part of the outline for renewing America’s role in protecting democracy at home and abroad. But is that plan outdated for a changing world? The press serves as a pillar of democracy, and that role is under scrutiny after conflicting reports from the Israel-Hamas conflict, including a deadly hospital blast. And at a local level, massive declines in media have contributed to our political polarization. How can the public’s trust — and local journalism — be rebuilt?


What does a just response from Israel look like?

President Biden traveled to Israel this week to offer support, but warned against letting rage consume the response against Hamas. Plus, there’s been a lot of dehumanizing rhetoric around the conflict. What real world impact could that have?


What will Israel’s war with Hamas mean for Gaza?

After Hamas killed 1,200 Israelis in an attack at the Gaza border over the weekend, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to respond with unprecedented force. That meant a wave of airstrikes over Gaza, killing more than 1,100 Palestians, reported the Gaza Health Ministry. Israeli forces are preparing a ground invasion as well. Israel is known for having one of the world’s most powerful militaries — supported by billions of U.S. dollars annually. So how was Hamas able to penetrate the robust defense system? President Biden said that the U.S. will offer whatever Israel needs to care for its citizens and defend itself. Biden’s message of support also came with a reminder about how democracies should act, even in self-defense. For example, Israel ​​Defense Minister Yoav Gallant’s statement that Gaza would be cut off from food, water, and power would be a war crime, Juliette Kayyem tells KCRW. She chairs the homeland security program at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. Meanwhile, a number of universities in the U.S. renounced public statements by student groups that blamed Israel for the attacks. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has long been a thorny conversation topic. Will our ability to discuss tense political issues survive the rush to make a point or be the loudest in the room? So far, outsized attention on extreme responses are taking away from productive conversations about the conflict, this week’s LRC panelists say.


How the House was lost and what could come next

For the first time ever, the House of Representatives voted to oust its speaker. This week, House Democrats joined forces with the small contingent of Republicans who wanted Kevin McCarthy gone. Was it the right call, and what’s next? Hunter Biden pleaded not guilty to three charges related to his purchase of a gun in 2018. He’s accused of lying about his drug use on the application he submitted in the purchase. His legal team and other critics say the charges are out of line with Department of Justice policy. Is it political pressure, or the letter of the law guiding prosecutors in this case? Taylor Swift’s budding romance with NFL superstar Travis Kelce is causing quite a commotion. Could they fuel a political moment?


Can the party of Reagan right its course?

Republican presidential candidates faced off in another primary debate this week. As they stated their case to voters, they aligned themselves with Ronald Reagan’s vision for the Republican Party. But is the party of Reagan a thing of the past? Donald Trump and Joe Biden both made their way to Michigan in support of striking auto workers. What are working voters looking to see and hear from the presidential front runners? Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson’s new book, Enough, is drawing a lot of attention. It gives insight into the final days of the Trump administration, but will the lessons stick?


Biden v. Trump: Who will win over more auto workers amid strike?

The United Auto Workers union initiated a partial strike after failing to reach a new contract with automakers General Motors, Ford and Stellantis. Thirteen thousand workers hit the picket lines outside of plants in Michigan, Missouri and Ohio. As the president and GOP candidates weigh in, whose response will resonate most with the workers? Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had a stark warning for other world leaders as he addressed the United Nations General Assembly this week. Then he visited Capitol Hill, seeking further support for his nation’s efforts in the war against Russia. Is the United States as receptive to his calls for aid as they were when the conflict began? Famed football player Deion Sanders (aka Coach Prime) is now in his first season as head coach at the University of Colorado, Boulder. The success of Sanders, his sons, and a rejuvenated roster have garnered heaps of praise and support. But does his newest project highlight the cycle of diminished support for historically overlooked Black colleges and programs, like his previous stop at Jackson State?


Dems at odds over support for asylum seekers

New York City Mayor Eric Adams says the city is struggling to support 110,000 migrants who have arrived there in the last year. He’s called for support from the federal government. Republicans have taken a victory lap as the Democratic mayor’s comments have caused a rift on the left. Will politics or policy win in the search for a solution? A recently elected state Supreme Court judge in Wisconsin is being threatened with impeachment just a month after being sworn in. Republicans in the state legislature say that Justice Janet Protasiewicz should recuse herself from cases involving controversial congressional maps after she was critical of the issue during her campaign. Will calls for recusal or removal prevent an independent judiciary from doing its job? Google and the Department of Justice are going head to head in an antitrust suit that began this week. Google says its dominance over the search engine market is earned. The government says not quite. Will they have trouble making their case? Plus, hear another installment of our “Changed My Mind” audio essays that’s all about focusing on distraction.


Biden’s race for re-election approaches new hurdle

The choice between Joe Biden and Donald Trump is a toss-up nationally. Will a possible rematch turn emerging polling trends into a new political reality? The effects of climate change were on full view this summer. The insurance industry claims that protecting Americans from those effects is growing too costly, forecasting some hefty costs for homeowners without an appropriate response. A scandal reverberates throughout Spanish soccer. Plus, hear another installment of our Changed My Mind audio essays.


Will ‘Trump Lite’ leave voters wanting more?

Vivek Ramaswamy had a strong performance in the first Republican primary debate. It’s too early to tell how it will translate in the polls. Can he connect the party’s base with the next generation of voters? Nikki Haley drew heat for saying Americans should be afraid of a possible Kamala Harris presidency. Critics say the comment is a dog whistle for racist and sexist voters who oppose the vice president. Is she out of bounds, or are the VP’s supporters being overprotective? Last week, a mass shooting broke out in Jacksonville, FL. Why do political leaders in the U.S. struggle with their responses to these tragic events?


GOP candidates fight to fill Trump’s absence

The first primary debate of the 2024 presidential election took place in Milwaukee this week. Eight Republicans took the stage. Who left their mark? Donald Trump was invited but chose not to attend. His presence continues to linger over the participants and the identity of his party. Will the GOP’s traditional conservative ideals take hold, or will voters follow their hearts back to Trump and his acolytes? The response to Maui’s raging wildfires left plenty of room for criticism of emergency and government officials, including Joe Biden. His genuine empathy and ability to connect used to be a strength, but has it fallen to the wayside during his presidency?


Georgia On My Mind

A fourth indictment was filed against Donald Trump this week — in the state of Georgia. Fulton County D.A. Fani T. Willis presented a sprawling document charging Trump and 18 others for conspiring to reverse the state’s results in the 2020 presidential election. Will an elected official pursuing a legal case against Trump hurt what is an otherwise strong case? The first Republican primary debate is less than a week away. With several candidates jostling for second place behind Donald Trump’s big lead, a report detailing strategy memos from a Ron Desantis super PAC surfaced. Will the derided governor’s campaign be able to recover before he hits the stage? Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez hit social media to call on the FDA to reduce its strict regulations on sunscreen. It could be a viable political move. So what’s stirring the criticism from supporters on the left?


Buckeye State bucks ballot initiative

Ohio voters turned out in droves to reject a ballot measure that would change the state’s amendment process. An upcoming vote on abortion rights lingered in the background of the special election. What role could abortion play in national voter turnout next November? Hunter Biden’s business partner testified before Congress last week. A collapsed plea deal on tax charges means a potential trial for the president’s son could be around the corner. Could further investigation into Hunter’s legal troubles spell disaster for his father’s re-election hopes? Negative reactions to the U.S. Women’s National Team’s early exit from the World Cup angered supporters. Is it unfair to expect the team to be shielded from critiques over their political activism?


Adding indictments to injury

Donald Trump was indicted this week for several charges related to the events of January 6. U.S. Special Counsel Jack Smith presented a strong legal case against the former president. Will litigating the Capitol riots help mend the political divide, or set a strict precedent for the executive branch? President Biden’s administration says it’s doing everything it can to solve a broken immigration system. The policies put in place so far haven’t garnered much support from either side of the political aisle. Do genuine solutions lie in the middle, and what do they look like? In the latest installment of “Changed My Mind,” a veteran reckons with the realities of battle.


McCarthy’s on the Hunt(er)

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy thinks it may be time to open an impeachment inquiry to get more information on President Biden’s involvement in his son Hunter’s questionable business dealings. Congress can pursue impeachment at its own discretion, but is now too soon? Also, Mark Zuckerberg narrowly missed being held in contempt of Congress after initially withholding internal communications between the White House and Facebook. The House Judiciary Committee says he may not be so lucky next time. Is there any middle ground for allowing communication between the White House and tech platforms? Plus, in the next installment of our “Changed My Mind” series, learn why you should always examine polling data.