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KCRW's Left, Right & Center


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

102 Episodes

Will presidential candidates fare better than what polling suggests?

How voters feel about the presidential candidates — and what issues are most important to them — are the focus of a new PBS/Marist poll. The economy is their top priority, and democracy comes in second. Hot-button subjects like abortion and foreign policy are noticeably absent. Meanwhile, how much impact will culture wars and tribalism have on winning over voters?In North Dakota this week, voters approved a ballot measure that set an age limit on the state’s members of Congress. It says that if a Senate or House candidate would be 80 or older at the end of their term, they would be ineligible to run for those positions. The Supreme Court may have to review the measure’s constitutionality. Joe Biden and Donald Trump will debate at CNN’s Atlanta studios next Thursday. Saying the wrong thing can sink campaigns and become tent poles for lasting narratives. KCRW reviews quips and blunders from past presidential debates, and previews what to expect from Biden and Trump now.

Transcribed - Published: 21 June 2024

Are Trump’s claims for political revenge more than rhetoric?

Following his felony conviction, Donald Trump has spent the last week talking about revenge on his political enemies, such as throwing the president’s wife in jail. Some voters are concerned about the dramatics and inflammatory terminology, particularly Project 2025, the conservative playbook for realigning the federal government. How realistic are those ideas, and what are the safeguards to maintain the balance of prosecutorial power?Over the weekend, an IDF operation led to the rescue of four Israeli hostages and the reported deaths of over 200 Palestinian civilians. Journalist Abdullah Al-Jamal and his family were killed in the raid. Initial reports from Israel claimed that three of the hostages were in Al-Jamal’s home. The reporter was also linked to Al-Jazeera, an international media outlet that the Israeli government banned last month for alleged ties to Hamas. The Palestinian Chronicle, where Al-Jamal worked, is now disputing his connection to Al-Jazeera, as well as the initial reports on the hostage claims. The messy situation raises larger questions about the role of activism in journalism. Last year, a commonwealth judge in Pennsylvania ruled that the state’s public school system was unconstitutional. The verdict found that outdated textbooks, dilapidated facilities, and inadequate funding failed to produce fair academic opportunities for students in low-performing districts. Like in many other states, school choice advocates in Pennsylvania are promoting a new voucher program as a solution to their education system’s woes. The vouchers would give scholarships to students in the lowest-achieving schools, so they could transfer to private institutions. Results on voucher effectiveness are mixed. As part of our 50 states series, KCRW discusses the choices parents are weighing in the ongoing debate over vouchers and public school funding.

Transcribed - Published: 14 June 2024

Will Americans believe in Biden’s ability to lead?

Hunter Biden’s trial on federal gun charges got underway this week. He faces an embarrassing and revealing court case, plus possible prison time if he’s found guilty. According to Sarah Isgur, senior editor of The Dispatch, the best thing for both Hunter and his father’s re-election campaign would be a plea deal, as she wrote for The New York Times. How would the president have to respond if a guilty verdict does come down? And what do the troubles facing Joe Biden in his son’s case reveal about his struggles on other issues?One of those issues: immigration. Earlier this week, Joe Biden enacted an executive order that imposes new limits on asylum seekers coming to the United States. The move follows an unsuccessful push for bipartisan legislation to overhaul the immigration process at the border. In a speech, Biden emphasized the need for action due to the legislation’s failure. It could win over people in the center who want something done about the migrant crisis, but will it cost him support from his base?Puerto Rico’s status as a U.S. territory has long dominated its politics. For our 50 states series, KCRW tries to unwrap the growing influence of culture and societal issues shifting the island’s political scene.

Transcribed - Published: 7 June 2024

With Trump’s trial over (for now), what’s next?

A New York jury found Donald Trump guilty on 34 counts of falsifying business records. It is the first time a former president has been convicted of a crime. The case was rooted in Trump’s attempt to keep a damaging story about himself and actress Stormy Daniels out of the news during the 2016 election. With any potential punishment still far out, the focus now is on how the conviction will impact politics in the upcoming weeks and months. Will Trump or Joe Biden find the best way to capitalize on the ruling? Will voters who were already unmoved by the proceedings be stirred to action?Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito notified Congress that he would not recuse himself from cases involving the January 6th riots or the 2020 election. Members of Congress were calling for a recusal following reports that flags associated with the Stop the Steal movement were flown over his residence and a vacation home in 2021 and 2023. Alito claims his wife put up the flags and he was not involved. The situation rekindled conversations about justices’ responsibilities for their spouses’ actions. But more concerning is how this incident (and the Donald Trump trial) plays into growing levels of public mistrust in the judiciary.

Transcribed - Published: 31 May 2024

How AI and deepfakes could affect this election

The renewed bill — to address the ongoing border crisis — fails to advance from the Senate following a 43-50 procedural vote. The bipartisan legislation would have provided more money for border security and tightened asylum restrictions, among other provisions. Republican detractors viewed this latest push as a political stunt, while some progressives argued that it was too punitive. With immigration consistently rising as a top issue for voters, how might this latest congressional failure to act influence the election? In a presidential election with two extremely unpopular candidates, down-ballot politicians in tight races are distancing themselves from the top of the ticket. They’re hoping to capitalize on popular policies without taking on too much of their party’s baggage. Meanwhile, Donald Trump’s loyalists are flocking to his New York courtroom in a show of solidarity. Are average voters willing to separate candidates from their parties, and is Trump’s trial reaching anyone beyond political junkies? AI and deepfakes pose an unprecedented threat to election integrity. With Congress and the law slow to keep pace with rapid advances in this technology, can we rely on tech companies to step up? And is government regulation of political speech a slippery slope, even in the case of misinformation and disinformation?

Transcribed - Published: 24 May 2024

Will debates give Biden or Trump an edge?

President Biden is trailing Donald Trump in several battleground states, according to new polling from the New York Times and Siena College. While polling this far out from an election often doesn’t represent final results, it can reveal trends that candidates should seriously consider, says Mo Elleithee, executive director at Georgetown University's Institute of Politics and Public Service. In Biden’s case, the polls indicate less support among young voters, nonwhite voters, and blue collar workers. With Biden and Trump agreeing to a series of debates in June and September, can the president use the head-to-head settings to regain ground with those crucial groups?The Democratic National Convention will take place in Chicago this summer. There are some concerns that the contentious atmosphere surrounding the convention, including nationwide campus protests and anger with the president’s support for the war in Gaza, could lead to a scene similar to the unrest at 1968’s DNC, also in Chicago. Are those concerns overblown? And would more protests allow Donald Trump to emerge as a figure who can end the growing sense of chaos among voters?Kansas is the focus of our 50 states series this week. Mandatory diversity, equity, and inclusion statements have become a growing legal concern for legislators and administrators in Kansas and at universities across the country. Does requiring a commitment to DEI fall mean forcing an ideology on faculty and students?

Transcribed - Published: 17 May 2024

Why Netanyahu’s latest move is a threat to a free press

The government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shuttered the Israel offices of news network Al Jazeera this week. The country blocked the network’s website, and Israeli police raided their studios, confiscating broadcast equipment. Americans would expect this move from an authoritarian leader, not a democratic ally. Will the United States’ relationship with Netanyahu’s country change how it views the threat to press freedom? South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem is under fire for several controversies from her new memoir, including a reference to shooting a 14-month-old puppy she described as “untrainable.” Noem is pushing back at the criticism amid a bid to be Donald Trump’s running mate this fall, but her pursuit of the vice presidency may be over. KCRW speculates on Trump’s other options for VP, and wonders aloud why other Republican politicians seem unable to overcome controversy as easily as the former president. There are plenty of reasons to argue that the news ecosystem is biased — does that also apply to satire? Hear an excerpt from the Cascade PBS Ideas Festival, where the Left, Right and Center panel discussed political comedy and applauded the uniting power of karaoke.

Transcribed - Published: 10 May 2024

Is the media focus on student protests missing the mark?

Pro-Palestinian protests on college campuses have taken over national headlines recently. Clashes between protestors and counterprotestors, as well as law enforcement, are top of mind for political leaders. Have the student-led demonstrations shifted the focus away from the actual conflict on the ground in Gaza? When it comes to states enforcing Title IX, the Biden administration recently announced new guidelines, which include extending discrimination protections to groups who previously weren’t covered by the legislation, including LGBTQ students. Several Republican-led states have filed lawsuits claiming that the administration overstepped its authority and attempted to change how they define sex and gender. And this installment of the 50 states series looks at a rare phenomenon in Idaho politics that could empower the political middle.

Transcribed - Published: 3 May 2024

Foreign aid bill passes US House. What’s next for Speaker Johnson?

President Biden signed off on a $95 billion foreign aid package approved by Congress this week. It includes military funds to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. While Democrats were happy to work with the Republican leadership to get the bill done, a more conservative wing of the GOP was less than thrilled. Will the package cost another speaker of the House their job? And how are U.S. allies feeling about the drawn-out fight to get a deal done? New polling from NBC shows a shift in support for Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s presidential campaign. The independent candidate is trending upward with voters who would otherwise be supporting former President Donald Trump. How will the Trump and Biden camps prepare to deal with a growing third-party challenge? Early electoral maps reveal a short list of battleground states. What will it take to capture the electoral votes that will define the 2024 election?

Transcribed - Published: 26 April 2024

Trump’s criminal trial takes center stage

The embattled leadership of the Republican Party came together in a show of solidarity this week. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was joined by House Speaker Mike Johnson for a press conference at Trump’s Mar-A-Lago compound. Trump backed the speaker in the face of mounting pressure from conservative members of the House to remove Johnson from the role. This show of support came amid another legal challenge for the former president. Jury selection in Trump’s trial over alleged hush money payments began this week. It’s the first time a former president has faced criminal charges, and drew substantial media coverage. That coverage added increased difficulty to the selection process, with one seated juror dropping out over fears that media reporting on the case would reveal her identity. Can the media circus surrounding the case be wrangled to avoid further interruptions? Will Johnson be able to survive his own circus in the House to accomplish something — anything — as speaker before November’s election? U.S. colleges continue to struggle with the protecting free speech and fighting hate on campus. Another congressional hearing on campus antisemitism — this time with officials from Columbia University — arrived at the same time a valedictorian at the University of Southern California faced backlash for her support of pro-Palestinian causes. How can colleges navigate increasing tensions as the lines between anti-semitism and calls for an end to the conflict in Gaza continue to be blurred? An Oklahoma city councilman was elected last year, before reports he had ties to a white nationalist group became more widely known. For our 50 states series, we examine what lessons we all could stand to learn from the voters of Enid, Oklahoma.

Transcribed - Published: 19 April 2024

Trump’s abortion position? Leave it up to the states

This week, former President Donald Trump took credit for leaving decisions about abortion bans up to individual states, while pledging to maintain that choice for states if he’s re-elected. Can we expect the lack of federal guidance on individual rights to continue? And will Republican supporters hold any ill will for his lack of commitment to a classic conservative value? President Biden openly criticized Benjamin Netanyahu’s deadly campaign in Gaza following last week’s attack on World Central Kitchen aid workers. In an interview with Univision, Biden called for a temporary ceasefire and for Israel to allow more aid into Gaza. It’s a significant change of attitude publicly for the president. It could appease some more moderate observers who take issue with Israel’s military strategy. But many on the left believe nothing has actually changed regarding U.S. policy with Israel. President Biden vowed to federally fund the rebuild of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge following a tragic accident late last month. That promise could be slowed by opposition to commit taxpayer dollars towards the project without certain guarantees. We hear and use the phrase “taxpayer dollars” so often, but what does it really mean?

Transcribed - Published: 12 April 2024

Will congressional candidates suffer from voters’ fatigue with Biden, Trump?

Donald Trump and Joe Biden aren’t the only ones preparing for a tight race this year. With every House seat and a third of Senate seats up for grabs in November, both Democrats and Republicans are hoping to take control of Congress. But will congressional candidates be able to overcome the unique situation that Trump and Biden’s policies and personalities present? More Americans than ever believe religion’s influence in politics is dwindling. Evangelical voters have pointed to President Biden’s support for abortion access and LGTBTQ issues as signs that he lacks a commitment to religious values, despite his Catholic faith. Those sentiments were on display last weekend in the conservative uproar over Biden’s choice to simultaneously acknowledge Transgender Day of Visibility and Easter Sunday. Why did a statement from the president cause so much outrage? Will the lack of religious faith in Biden play a role in 2024? As part of our 50 States series, we explore a proposal from Kansas Republicans that aims to change the mail-in ballot process.

Transcribed - Published: 5 April 2024

What’s behind the recent wave of Congressional exits?

Two dozen Democrats and over 20 Republicans plan to retire from Congress this year. Several members of the House have chosen to end their terms early, making the situation especially difficult for an already tight GOP majority. The most recent examples include Wisconsin Representative Mike Gallagher and Texas Congressman Ken Buck. In interviews prior to his exit this month, Buck called out a lack of professionalism in the current Congress. How serious is this wave of exits? And what are some of the underlying factors making it harder for well-intentioned members to do their jobs? Vice President Kamala Harris is campaigning for Joe Biden’s re-election with strong messaging on protecting abortion rights. It seems like an opportune time for Democrats to push the issue, with oral arguments in a Supreme Court case over access to the abortion drug mifepristone beginning earlier this week. There is hope that keeping abortion in the news could drive fringe voters to the polls this fall. But does a strong push on abortion miss the issues that matter to the class of voters at the foundation of the Democratic party? How would Biden’s re-election bid fare if the current realignment of non-college-educated voters continues? A new law in Indiana seeks to create more space for intellectual diversity in college classrooms. Supporters say the law could change a culture of silencing conservative voices on campus. It’s a serious problem, but will legislation provide a real solution?

Transcribed - Published: 29 March 2024

What’s driving the divide between Netanyahu and the White House?

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer upset critics on the right when he called for an election in Israel to remove Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister. Schumer’s counterpart, Mitch McConnell, called the move “disrespectful” of Israeli democracy and sovereignty. Many think Netanyahu’s administration is on the path to peace in Gaza, but a planned offensive in the southern city of Rafah could worsen the situation. Despite Schumer’s perceived overstep, was he right about the need for leadership to resolve the conflict and secure the return of Israeli hostages? Should American officials re-examine their relationship with Netanyahu? The House of Representatives’ consideration of a TikTok ban seems to fit with the federal government’s larger push to regulate social media. Members of the House say the effort is aimed at improving the content available to Americans online. Does it represent a larger trend of policies accused of stifling free speech? As part of our 50 states series, we examine a question that’s taken on increased importance in recent years: Who can we trust to run our elections?

Transcribed - Published: 22 March 2024

This election season, will media learn from past mistakes?

An election rematch between Joe Biden and Donald Trump became official after the two clinched the nominations for their respective parties this week. Media outlets have experience reporting on the two of them, but the stakes seem higher this time around. Will covering 2024 like a traditional election create the same pitfalls journalists have fallen for in the past? Some of the flaws the media will have to confront were on full display following Special Counsel Robert Hur’s congressional testimony. The amount of focus on Hur’s assessment of Biden’s memory overshadowed coverage of the report and its accompanying transcripts. Our panel shares the issues they saw with the hearing. New York Governor Kathy Hocul proposed several new plans for addressing public safety in New York City’s massive transit system. One proposal included sending 1,000 National Guard members and state troopers into the subway to check passengers’ bags. Hocul said the decision wasn’t based on rising crime numbers, but on the perception that the subway had become unsafe for everyday riders. Is it a smart political move to rely on perception to create a policy? And how does it highlight the hypocrisy in responses to similar proposals in 2020?

Transcribed - Published: 15 March 2024

Voters, not courts, to decide 2024 election

In a 9-0 decision, the Supreme Court found that Colorado did not have the power to remove Donald Trump from the state’s primary ballot. Though the justices had a difference of opinion on how the ruling was decided, their overall agreement was that individual states should not have the power to decide who would be eligible to run for president. That may be the best-case scenario for the 2024 election, according to panelist Mo Elleithee. “For anyone on the left, anyone who’s worried about Trump, [this election] has to be up to the voters. Trumpism has to be beat at the ballot box,” says Elleithee. As Trump’s candidacy moves forward, will the left shift its focus away from trying to beat Trump in the courtroom? Meanwhile, commitment to democracy across the globe remains strong, says a poll from the Pew Research Center. But a closer look reveals that satisfaction with the democratic process may be taking a hit. What’s at the root of a growing desire for stronger, singular leaders? Controversy over Google’s AI tool Gemini raises familiar questions about the trustworthiness of our institutions. Is it much ado about nothing, or a chance to deeply inspect our ideas about bias?

Transcribed - Published: 8 March 2024

How Mitch McConnell changed the courts and US politics

Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell announced that he would step down from his role as Senate minority leader this November, though he’ll still be a senator through the end of his term. McConnell had been the head of the Senate’s Republican members since 2006. What motivated the leadership exit? The 82-year-old pointed to personal concerns and the changing politics of his party. What should we remember about the longtime Republican figurehead, and what could the end of his time as a Senate leader look like? Immigration is among the most important issues for American voters. News stories and political messaging about a rise in border crossings play into that concern. But finger-pointing over the failure of the border security bill won’t lead to solutions, according to panelist Mo Elleithee. How can a shift in perspective resolve voters’ desires for a solution on immigration? Louisiana is the focus of our 50 States segment. The state’s governor, Jeff Landry, chose not to opt into a new federal initiative that would extend electronic benefit transfer (EBT) funds for families into summer. Several other states with Republican governors also opted out of the program for 2024. Why might states deny more federal dollars, even if they’re aimed at more nutrition for kids?

Transcribed - Published: 1 March 2024

Will Navalny’s death motivate the US to act in Ukraine?

Mourning continues after the death of Alexei Navalny, a Russian opposition leader and one of Vladimir Putin’s most vocal critics. Navalny, who returned to Russia in 2021 following an attempted poisoning, died in a remote prison last Friday. His widow Yulia vowed to take up his cause and urged the international community to join her as she seeks justice for her husband’s death. Will Putin tightening his hold on power in Russia motivate more direct support for Ukraine from the United States? Crime is trending back to pre-pandemic levels in most major U.S. cities, except for Washington, D.C. The district has seen troubling increases in youth offenders committing carjackings, thefts, and gun violence. For our 50 States series, we look at proposed solutions in the nation’s capital, including a controversial crime bill that could extend police powers throughout the city. The Senate is considering new legislation to regulate social media. Will the Kids Online Safety Act help protect children from the harmful impacts of being constantly online?

Transcribed - Published: 23 February 2024

Are we failing to put Trump and Biden concerns into proper context?

Donald Trump made waves with a speech at a campaign rally in South Carolina last week. The former president recalled an encounter with a leader of a NATO country, where he threatened to withhold U.S. protection from Russia if the country didn’t make adequate financial contributions to the alliance. Is it an example of the leading Republican candidate’s flair for the dramatic? Are there more serious concerns about the United States’ credibility with its allies? Special Counsel Robert Hur completed a report on President Biden’s handling of classified documents outside of the White House. The report found that Biden committed no wrongdoing, but included concerning statements on the president’s memory and mental sharpness. Democrats have pushed back on Hur’s analysis of the president’s cognition. Skepticism surrounding the age and ability of the president is nothing new. If his age isn’t the weakness critics claim it is, why is the party spending so much time defending it? For our 50 states series, we turn to Georgia, where a conservative civil rights group is suing a venture capital fund aimed at increasing women of color’s access to capital. This shifts the affirmative action debate from the classroom to the boardroom. Can we address the difficult realities of disadvantage without focusing on race?

Transcribed - Published: 16 February 2024

Republicans’ horrible, no good, very bad week in Congress

A tumultuous week in Congress centered around the failure of a comprehensive immigration and national security bill. Democrats in the Senate compromised on demands by Republicans for tighter border measures. The hope was that it would help secure more military assistance for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. However, the legislation failed to make it past a procedural vote after pressure from Donald Trump and House Speaker Mike Johnson. Johnson faced issues in his own chamber as well, with the failure of a separate funding bill for Israel and an unsuccessful impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Can Republicans save face after a series of embarrassing losses? Michigan is home to the largest population of Arab Americans and Muslims in the United States. It’s also a state that is vital to the hopes of any presidential candidate. President Biden relied on the support of these communities in 2020, but his handling of the conflict in Gaza has upset voters and community leaders who are advocating for a permanent cease-fire. His campaign’s efforts to reach out have been met with accusations of playing politics. How can Biden maneuver the political reality of such a deeply personal issue? There were mixed feelings when country star Luke Combs covered Tracy Chapman’s hit record “Fast Car” last summer. The pair came together for a moving duet of the smash song at last week’s Grammys. Our panel reflects on the moving lessons they took away from the performance amid a polarizing debate.

Transcribed - Published: 9 February 2024

Who’s in charge at the border?

A drone attack on a United States military base in Jordan killed three servicemembers. President Biden announced that a decision had been made on responding to the attack, though details weren’t shared. The White House did say Iranian-backed militias responsible for several other attacks on U.S. troops in the Middle East can expect to be targeted. Will that be enough to deter the growing threat of a wider conflict with Iran? The United States sued for the right to take down a nearly three-mile stretch of fencing and razor wire that the Texas National Guard erected last month. The Supreme Court ruled the government had the right to tear down the barriers to access the border, but as of now, the state still has the right to put more up. Will the state’s obstruction of the government at the border push Congress to agree to increased measures on immigration? Conservative media had plenty of headlines about a possible Taylor Swift endorsement for President Biden. While it’s confusing on its surface, is there an underlying strategy to stir paranoia on the right?

Transcribed - Published: 2 February 2024

How can Biden, Trump can get voters to believe in their visions?

A rematch of the 2020 presidential election seems unavoidable. Most voters may be disappointed by the choice between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, whose victory in the New Hampshire Republican primary made his nomination a near certainty. President Biden and Donald Trump will have to craft clear messages about their visions for 2024. “It’s not really … a solution to an American problem that they’re trying to pitch to voters,” says Sarah Isgur, senior editor at The Dispatch. She argues that winning voters will depend on Biden and Trump’s stances on issues that strike a “cultural nerve.” As part of our 50 States series, we discuss the Supreme Court’s decision to hear a case in Grants Pass, Oregon, that could determine how western states can address a growing homelessness problem.

Transcribed - Published: 26 January 2024

What did Trump’s Iowa victory reveal about the political landscape?

Donald Trump’s path to the GOP nomination kicked off with a win in the Iowa caucus this week, which some media outlets announced early. One key to his victory was outperforming among demographics he struggled with in the 2016 primary. Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley are looking to regroup before New Hampshire, but will they be able to overcome the trends that emerged from the decisive results we saw in Iowa? Israel’s war against Hamas passed the 100-day milestone. New dangers have emerged along the country’s border with Lebanon and in the Red Sea. The Israel Defense Forces say they are committed to fighting on all fronts, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he is against the possibility of a Palestinian state post-war. How receptive are Israeli citizens to Netanyahu’s leadership as regional conflict becomes a greater threat? Haviv Rettig Gur, senior analyst at the Times of Israel, provides an Israeli perspective. The Supreme Court will hear a case out of Oregon that could change how local governments address homeless populations in the western United States. Is there a search for compassion in the arguments?

Transcribed - Published: 19 January 2024

Democracy is on the ballot (and the docket) in 2024

Donald Trump is appealing the Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling that his role in the January 6 Capitol riots classifies as engaging in insurrection and thus disqualifies him from appearing on the state’s Republican primary ballot. The Colorado judges’ ruling relies on language in the 14th Amendment, which bars any public official engaging in insurrection from seeking public office. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments next month. Will the nine justices rule against Trump, and what impact could that have on the legal legacy of January 6, 2021? The Capitol riot also played a significant role in President Joe Biden’s speech as he launched his 2024 campaign last week. The president centered his appeal to voters with a message of American democracy hanging in the balance with the upcoming election. One new report claims that the political tension in the United States could be the year’s biggest geopolitical risk. Can Biden convince the nation that he’s the best option to keep its democracy intact, or will he sound like a broken record? Social and emotional developmental gaps between boys and girls have become commonly accepted in society. However, recent data shows that boys are falling behind in educational performance as well. One option some parents in affluent communities have turned to is “redshirting” their boys, which means delaying their start of kindergarten by a year so they could have time to catch up developmentally. How effective is this strategy, and is it feasible on a large scale? Weighing in is Ioakim Boutakidis, a professor of Child and Adolescent Studies at California State University, Fullerton, and a member of the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Boys in School.

Transcribed - Published: 12 January 2024

Can Haley, Desantis keep the spotlight after Iowa?

The Iowa caucus is two weeks — and one Republican debate — away. The crowded GOP field has narrowed down to three. Is there a miracle in store for Ron Desantis or Nikki Haley that would allow them to overcome Donald Trump’s commanding lead? Or are the two remaining contenders setting themselves up for a run in 2028? An approaching election means maps covered in red and blue should be popping up any day now. But is the makeup of modern parties more complex than the binary framework around our political ecosystem? A Connecticut lawsuit centered around the state’s policy on transgender athletes was revived this week. The plaintiffs are four former high school runners who claim that allowing transgender athletes to compete in women’s sports violated their Title IX rights. In another installment of our 50 States segment, we hear from the founder of an organization standing behind the students’ case.

Transcribed - Published: 5 January 2024

What 2024 could mean for trust in the judiciary, journalism

As 2023 comes to a close, speculation about what the government will look like this time next year is running wild. The nation will be readying for a second term of either Donald Trump or Joe Biden as president. But are the foundations of the nation’s democracy ready for whatever shake ups are on the horizon? David Greene, Sarah Isgur and Mo Elleithee examine the erosion of trust in the judiciary, police and journalism. Is the shift towards political extremes hurting citizens’ belief in these institutions? What reforms could reestablish the strong confidence they once held in the minds of Americans — no matter who wins in 2024?

Transcribed - Published: 29 December 2023

Why Colorado court’s ruling (probably) won’t spell an end for Trump

The Colorado Supreme Court determined, by a vote of 4-3, that Donald Trump was ineligible to be on the state’s ballots. The court found the former president engaged in insurrection against the United States — a charge he hasn’t been found guilty of in any other court. Now, the case rests in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court. What could be the lasting impact of the court’s decision? For our 50 States segment, we turn to the state of Texas and the lawsuit of Kate Cox. Cox filed a lawsuit seeking emergency approval for an abortion due to medical difficulties. She was originally approved, but the state’s Supreme Court reversed the order. It seems like a win for pro-life proponents. But what could defenders of strict abortion laws be missing in the nationwide debate? A Georgia teacher was arrested for allegedly threatening a student who claimed they were offended by an Israeli flag flying in the teacher’s class. It’s a sad case of cultural misunderstanding and a lack of tolerance. As our political debates grow more tense, how can we mend the gap discussing our toughest issues?

Transcribed - Published: 22 December 2023

Biden calls out Bibi

President Biden’s steadfast support for Israel since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack is looking less steadfast this week. At a donor event, Biden warned, “They’re starting to lose [international] support by indiscriminate bombing that takes place.” Our panel takes on the practical and philosophical questions around Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. The 2024 presidential primaries are just a month away. The outcome is hardly a mystery in either party, even though voters are dissatisfied with having to choose between Donald Trump and Joe Biden once again. But maybe it doesn’t have to be this way. Author and professor Hans Noel argues in a recent New York Times op-ed to have party delegates pick their nominees at conventions as they did decades ago, instead of the relatively small number of voters who participate in primaries now. Plus, a novel legal case in Arizona: When a new law is challenged in court, do lawmakers have to explain, under oath, why they supported and passed it?

Transcribed - Published: 15 December 2023

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.

Transcribed - Published: 8 December 2023

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.

Transcribed - Published: 1 December 2023

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.

Transcribed - Published: 24 November 2023

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.

Transcribed - Published: 17 November 2023

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?

Transcribed - Published: 10 November 2023

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.

Transcribed - Published: 3 November 2023

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?

Transcribed - Published: 27 October 2023

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?

Transcribed - Published: 20 October 2023

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.

Transcribed - Published: 13 October 2023

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?

Transcribed - Published: 6 October 2023

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?

Transcribed - Published: 29 September 2023

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?

Transcribed - Published: 22 September 2023

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.

Transcribed - Published: 15 September 2023

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.

Transcribed - Published: 8 September 2023

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?

Transcribed - Published: 1 September 2023

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?

Transcribed - Published: 25 August 2023

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?

Transcribed - Published: 18 August 2023

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?

Transcribed - Published: 11 August 2023

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.

Transcribed - Published: 4 August 2023

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.

Transcribed - Published: 28 July 2023

Who’s afraid of the big bad Trump?

Conservative groups and the Donald Trump campaign are collaborating to expand executive powers if Trump secures a second White House term. At the heart of the plan is a legitimate debate about the scope of government —- and legitimate fears about what Trump would do with all that control. The independent group No Labels held a town hall unveiling its plans to present a third party option to a Biden-Trump rematch. Can they present anything to independent voters that’s worth a spot on the ballot next November? Two blockbuster films hit theaters this weekend — about one of the world’s most popular toys, and about one of history’s most destructive events. Some moviegoers can’t wait to see both “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer.” What does that reveal about us? Plus, the first in a new series of essays presents a shocking discovery about relationships.

Transcribed - Published: 21 July 2023

Tuberville blocks nominees — will US military lose its might?

Both the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the National Institutes of Health need a chief. Some senators are blocking confirmation of those nominees — so what will it take to win them over? Meanwhile, Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville of Alabama is feeling heat for his comments defending white nationalism. Why does the GOP still feel the need to reach a controversial wing of voters? The increased popularity of artificial intelligence means tech could play a bigger role this upcoming election season. Are politicians ready to handle that responsibility? Will the showdown between Threads and Twitter become an ideological battle?

Transcribed - Published: 14 July 2023

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