Rank #1: A birthday check-up
Well, it’s a long story. But it’s a healthy discussion to have with different political perspectives present.
We’ve seen an ebb and flow in the power of the three branches of government. Special guest Matt Yglesias wrote in 2015 that American constitutional democracy as we know it will collapse because it creates too many pressure points, inherently creates gridlock, and often runs against policy making even when there’s popular will. Obviously, a lot has happened since then. Today, the judiciary and executive branches are stronger than the legislative. Rich Lowry notes the plasticicity of the system, built around tensions and competing centers of power, which allows for such swings.
Liz Bruenig says the shear difficulty of making any change to the Constitution is itself a pressure point. And what about states? Why haven’t we seen states experimenting with something other than the presidential-style government?
Then Michael Brendan Dougherty joins the panel to discuss his memoir My Father Left Me Ireland and themes of nationalism, homeland and identity.
Rank #2: Debating the Debates
Now that the dust has settled after the first major democratic debates, who will be left standing on the next stage?
While Kamala Harris distinguished herself with a particularly strong performance on the second night, host Josh Barro thinks Joe Biden might still be OK. Did the candidates give President Trump a gift for the campaign by raising their hands to offer up healthcare to undocumented immigrants? We talk about how the candidates barely talked about why so many immigrants are coming to the United States. The Daily Beast columnist and special guest Keli Goff wondered why Marianne Williamson was even on the stage, but Josh says he found her delightful. And we look at the Supreme Court’s ruling on gerrymandering.
Rank #3: Let’s call the whole thing off
Tensions with Iran escalated this week and then, Thursday evening, President Trump apparently signed off on airstrikes in Iran only to cancel them. According to reports and an interview the president gave to NBC’s Meet The Press, the estimate of people that would die in the strikes changed his mind and he tweeted that it would not be “proportionate.” CHRIS DOUGHTERY of the Center for a New American Security discusses the events this week and whether we’d be at war with Iran if the strikes had occurred.
Then: EMILY BAZELON joins the panel to discuss an in-depth profile she wrote about Elizabeth Warren, Biden’s follies on the campaign trail, and her book Charged on how the criminal justice system can be reformed by making criminal changes to prosecution.
Rank #4: The Mueller report is out
On Thursday, we all finally got to see Robert Mueller’s report on his investigation — or most of it, anyway. Volume I of the report looks at whether there was any conspiracy or coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, related to Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 elections. Volume II of the report looks at President Trump’s efforts to interfere with the investigation itself, identifying ten such episodes, including: Trump asking then-FBI director James Comey to let the investigation of Michael Flynn go, directing White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Robert Mueller, and such.
All of this raises the possibility that the president criminally obstructed justice, though Mueller declined to offer a conclusion either way on that question. Ken White joins the LRC panel to discuss the report, what it means, and what should be done next.
Then Igor Volsky talks about his plan for tighter regulation of guns in the United States and how public opinion makes it easier for Democrats to take a more aggressive stance on gun control.
Plus: Bernie Sanders does a town hall on Fox News, and Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker are speaking openly about their Christian faith — will it bring some evangelical voters who went for Trump back to the Democrats?
Rank #5: Bonus Episode: Right or Left — Who’s Best For Freedom?
In this special episode, Josh Barro, Rich Lowry, Felicia Wong, Gene Sperling and Kenneth Hersh discuss how the right and left talk about economic freedom. The right has long touted its commitment to economic freedom in the form of government restriction. But the left is making the argument that defending economic freedom means fighting against poverty and discrimination and fighting for a social safety net. Which side is more correct about economic freedom, and which side is more persuasive. This panel touches on issues of healthcare and school choice as well as bigger ideas of positive and negative liberties.
Rank #6: Beto & Buttigieg & Biden & Yang
The 2020 Democratic campaign has begun in earnest. Can Beto O’Rourke ride tables and countertops all the way to the presidency? Is being the mayor of South Bend enough to run for president? Who the hell is Andrew Yang? And should Joe Biden pick a running mate right as he announces his campaign?
Houston Chronicle columnist Erica Grieder tells the panel about Democratic hopes to gain more ground in Texas in 2020 and what Republicans are doing to hold on to a state they’ve run for more than two decades.
Then, Rich Lowry, Liz Bruenig and Josh Barro discuss the death penalty and the death penalty for the electoral college. Is it worth the Democrats’ time to abolish both?
Rank #7: Roe, Casey – what’s next?
Alabama’s legislature voted overwhelmingly to ban abortion in the state, even in cases of rape or incest, and to impose a penalty of up to 99 years in prison for performing an abortion. Lawmakers in Ohio, Georgia, Kentucky, Iowa and Missouri have passed so-called “heartbeat” bills that prohibit abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, approximately six weeks into pregnancy. Irin Carmon joins the panel to discuss the new laws and how this is a shift in the debate, and what a Roberts-led court might consider should it reach the Supreme Court.
Plus: President Trump is ratcheting up the trade war with China. Will he be able to win it? And what’s going on with Iran?
Then researcher and psychology professor Jean Twenge tells the panel about kids today, a.k.a. Generation Z, or iGen, as she calls them. What messages resonate with the generation under age 24? What risks do they see, and how is their smartphone-centric upbringing affecting how they view politics?
Rank #8: Early days in Iowa
Joe Biden went back to Iowa for the first time in weeks and got into a very public fight with President Trump. Biden leads the polls there, but is his lead secure? And what’s behind Elizabeth Warren’s surge in the polls nationally and in Iowa? Natasha Korecki of Politico updates the panel on how the candidates are being received by Iowa voters, and which candidates are going all in on the state.
President Trump told ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos he’s listen if a foreign power came to him with dirt on his 2020 opponent. The panel discusses that, the negotiations with Mexico over its southern border, and attacks on tankers in the Gulf of Oman.
Then, Kerry Howley talks about candidate Tulsi Gabbard and her anti-war platform. It’s not getting much traction with voters, and her foreign policy views are not exactly welcome on the left either.
Rank #9: Upheaval at the Department of Homeland Security
News stories say President Trump is frustrated by his appointees’ failure to stop the surge of families and asylum seekers entering the United States. While the level of total unauthorized border crossings is not unprecedented, the level of crossings by these kinds of people appears to be -- and because of the government’s limited ability to detain, rapidly deport or adjudicate families and asylum seekers, the crisis there continues to escalate.
The power struggle within the Trump administration over immigration also appears to be dialing back up the White House leak wars. The Washington Post reported this week the White House twice proposed to release detainees in small- and mid-size cities with sanctuary city policies, an effort to use human beings to troll the libs. Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute joins the panel to discuss DHS leadership, what's ahead for the agency and immigration policy ideas from a libertarian perspective. Should there be a policy that limits immigration at all? Should visas have a price tag determined by the market?
Then Vanessa Williamson of the Brookings Institution joins to talk about the first tax season under the new tax law. How do Americans think about the new law, and do they still believe paying taxes is their civic duty? And does reforming how we file and pay our taxes have a chance?
Plus: Julian Assange has been arrested. What's next for him, and should his arrest make free speech advocates concerned? And Attorney General Bill Barr said in a Senate hearing this week that the 2016 Trump campaign was spied on by the government. Should the investigators be investigated?
Rank #10: Not the most turbulent trip
President Trump visited France, the United Kingdom and Ireland, and on this trip to commemorate the invasion of Normandy, there was less tension between him and European leaders than on previous trips.
As Britain approaches Brexit, what is the role for the United States in Europe? Amanda Sloat of the Brookings Institution gives her take on the president’s trip and more.
Then: Tucker Carlson made a surprising pitch for...Elizabeth Warren’s economic agenda? What is happening? And, President Trump’s strategy of putting trade pressure on Mexico to get what he wants on immigration might be working. Well, the tariffs aren’t making Senate Republicans very happy. Will this turn into a major revolt from the president’s own party? And, with Friday’s job market numbers showing a bit of a slowdown, is the president prepared for the possibility that his trade policies are hurting the economy?
Cory Booker and Kamala Harris have big plans to address the affordable housing crisis. Do they have good ideas? Urban planning professor Michael Lens joins the panel to evaluate their pitches.