Ari Shapiro

Ari Shapiro is an NPR international correspondent based in London. An award-winning journalist, his reporting covers a wide range of topics and can be heard on all of NPR's national news programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

Prior to his current post, Shapiro reported from the NPR Washington Desk as White House Correspondent during President Barack Obama's first and second terms, as Justice Correspondent during the George W. Bush administration and as a regular guest host on NPR's newsmagazines. He is also a frequent analyst on CNN, PBS, NBC and other television news outlets.

Shapiro's reporting has consistently won national accolades. The Columbia Journalism Review recognized him with a laurel for his investigation into disability benefits for injured American veterans. The American Bar Association awarded him the Silver Gavel for exposing the failures of Louisiana's detention system after Hurricane Katrina. He was the first recipient of the American Judges' Association American gavel Award, recognizing a body of work on U.S. courts and the American justice system. And at age 25, Shapiro won the Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize for an investigation of methamphetamine use and HIV transmission.

An occasional singer, Shapiro makes guest appearances with the "little orchestra" Pink Martini, whose recent albums feature several of his contributions. Since his debut at the Hollywood Bowl in 2009, Shapiro has performed live at many of the world's most storied venues, including Carnegie Hall in New York, L'Olympia in Paris, and Mount Lycabettus in Athens.

Shapiro graduated from Yale University magna cum laude and began his journalism career in the office of NPR Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg.

President Obama's poll numbers have hit just about the lowest point of his presidency.

They started sinking after the Obamacare website's miserable debut last month. Now, only around 40 percent of Americans think Obama is doing a good job. More than half disapprove of his performance. (A year ago, the numbers were the opposite.)

It seems obvious to say that a high approval rating helps a president, while a low approval rating hurts him. But here are five reasons Obama's numbers might not be as troublesome as they sound.

There are many reasons for the gridlock in Washington. Some are recent developments, as the U.S. becomes more politically polarized. Others are structural, built into the American political system.

Regardless, the extreme paralysis that has recently become the norm in D.C. almost never happens in Western European democracies.

"You're asking: Do other democracies have this problem? And the answer is: Not many," says Jane Mansbridge, a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School.

The American system of government was built on gridlock. Yet even by that standard, this past week has demonstrated new levels of immobility.

So the special forces operations carried out in Libya and Somalia over the weekend were a bracing change. President Obama decided to do something — and it happened.

President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner have had five years of fights and negotiations to learn how to work together.

The relationship has had ups and downs. Today it's as sour as it's ever been.

Even if they had a warm friendship, it might not be enough to solve the government shutdown. But the chilliness doesn't help.

'We Get Along Fine'

Their relationship has been a constant source of fascination in Washington. Interviewers ask the two men about it all the time. And they give pretty much the same response, year after year:

President Obama has been railing against Republicans in Congress nearly every day this week.

"One faction of one party in one house of Congress in one branch of government shut down major parts of the government," he said in the White House Rose Garden on Tuesday. "All because they didn't like one law."

He's expected to take that message on the road on Thursday, visiting a construction company in Maryland to talk about the impact of the shutdown on the economy.

And that finger-pointing at Republicans is sure to be part of his speech again.

Top White House aides constantly refer to a "civil war" in the Republican Party.

They sometimes use the phrase with near delight, reveling in the tensions that threaten to pull apart the GOP. But for President Obama, the divided opposition creates a major problem: He has neither a partner to cut a deal with nor a high-profile adversary to vilify.

That situation stands in stark contrast to previous fiscal standoffs.

President Obama isn't known as a schmoozer like Bill Clinton or a back-slapper like George W. Bush. But he does know that a personal touch can woo allies and soften adversaries.

Right now, domestic and international crises are looming on all sides of the president. Although a little tenderness might come in handy, Obama is repeatedly passing up opportunities to wage a charm offensive.

Five years ago this week, Lehman Brothers collapsed, and America's financial crisis began. On Monday morning, President Obama will mark the anniversary with a speech in the White House Rose Garden. The White House released a new report ahead of the address, assessing how the government's efforts to stabilize the economy turned out.

President Obama has come home from the Group of 20 summit with essentially no more international support for a strike on Syria than when he left the U.S.

He spent the last three days in Sweden and Russia, lobbying U.S. allies on the sidelines and on the public stage, with little movement.

The conflict has presented perhaps the biggest challenge yet to Obama's multilateralist inclinations.

'A Hard Sell'

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WADE GOODWYN, HOST:

The Arab spring has brought large-scale protests and violence to at least half a dozen countries in the past three years. Until now, the U.S. has only intervened militarily in one of them — Libya.

Now, as President Obama considers a strike on Syria, here's a look at some of the differences between the two scenarios:

1. Syria's Not Standing Alone

People have been talking a lot lately about the National Security Agency. But there's another important "NSA" in the federal government — the president's national security adviser.

That person is a sort of funnel — gathering information from the military, the intelligence community, the State Department — and channeling it all to the president.

On race, Barack Obama often says he is not president of black America, but of the United States of America. Though he has not avoided the subject during his time in office, he tends not to seek out opportunities to discuss racial issues.

"He wanted to address them in a time and a way that accomplished specific objectives," says Joshua Dubois, who ran the White House's faith-based initiatives during Obama's first term.

Dear Salt,

I recently joined President Obama on his trip through Africa, and I brought a mystery home with me. I wonder if you can help me solve it.

Former President George H.W. Bush will visit the White House on Monday, along with his wife, former first lady Barbara Bush, to celebrate a milestone for Points of Light, a volunteer service organization that got its start during the first Bush administration.

During President Obama's first term, he didn't see much of the Bushes. He met with the former presidents — father, son or both — a total of just five times in four years.

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And farther south on the African continent, President Obama is wrapping up a three-country tour. He's in Tanzania now, on the coast of the Indian Ocean. NPR's Ari Shapiro is travelling with the president and reports on Obama's first day in the Tanzanian city of Dar es Salaam.

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LYNN NEARY, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Lynn Neary. President Obama is in Johannesburg, South Africa this morning. It's his second stop on a three-country tour of Africa. NPR's Ari Shapiro is traveling with the president. He joins us now. Good morning, Ari.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: Good morning, Lynn.

NEARY: The president held a press conference with the current South African president Jacob Zuma this morning. Tell us about that.

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On a Friday, this is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.

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And I'm Renee Montagne. Good morning.

President Obama's trip through Africa is turning out to be political and also personal. The Obama family is visiting three countries in vastly different regions of the continent.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene.

President Obama flew home from Europe less than a week ago, and this morning, he is headed back overseas. This time, Air Force One is bound for Africa. It's a weeklong journey that will take the president and his family to three countries covering vastly different regions. This is Obama's first extended trip to the continent as president.

Between his trip to Europe last week and his travels to Africa next week, President Obama is doing a lot of gift exchanges with foreign leaders.

In the past, he has gotten mixed reviews. Four years ago, he was panned for giving the queen of England an iPod. Other presents have gone over better. But the president does not personally select these gifts — a staffer does.

President Obama always intended to talk about spying this weekend. But not like this.

He's getting to know China's new leader at a sprawling estate in the Southern California desert this weekend, but domestic controversies have followed him there.

The president veered off his talking points Friday to spend more than 10 minutes defending a pair of massive surveillance operations that the media recently disclosed.

President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping are meeting this weekend at Sunnylands, an exclusive retreat center near Palm Springs, Calif. On top of 11 lakes, a private golf course and a world-renowned art collection, the compound holds more history than even a 200-acre estate should be able to contain. Obama is the eighth U.S. president to have spent time there. Frank Sinatra married his fourth wife there.

President Obama arrives in Rancho Mirage, Calif., on Friday to spend two days with China's new president, Xi Jinping, at a 200-acre estate called Sunnylands.

The house at Sunnylands is built of lava stone. The private golf course includes a pink pagoda. And if the presidents feel like fishing in one of the property's 11 lakes, they will hardly be the first world leaders to dip a line in the water.

It has been a good week for economic news. Here's a quick rundown of the positive signs: Home prices showed their best gains in seven years. Consumer confidence hit a five-year high. The stock market set a new record. All just this week.

"We're seeing progress," President Obama said in the White House Rose Garden on Friday morning, "and the economy is starting to pick up steam. The gears are starting to turn again, and we're getting some traction."

You could tell from the tone of his voice that he was leading up to a "but."

Almost all of the federal government's actions against terrorism — from drone strikes to the prison at Guantanamo Bay — are authorized by a single law: the Authorization for Use of Military Force.

Congress passed it just after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Now, President Obama says he wants to revise the law, and ultimately repeal it.

President Obama often tells audiences that he has waged his last campaign. But that's not exactly true.

The White House is gearing up for a massive campaign this summer that will cover all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C. And the president's legacy may hinge on whether it succeeds or fails.

Organizing for Action — a group that formed out of President Obama's re-election campaign — has posted five tweets in the past week about climate change using the @BarackObama Twitter account.

The phrase "second term curse" is so familiar that it's become a cliche of American politics. Whether it's President Richard Nixon's resignation or President Bill Clinton's impeachment, presidents tend to have a tough time during the back half of an eight-year presidency.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. There are three simultaneous controversies rattling the Obama administration this week: the IRS, the phone records of the AP reporters, and Benghazi. NPR's White House correspondent Ari Shapiro joins us. Ari, thanks for being with us.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: My pleasure, Scott.

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