04 21 2015
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  • When should we use military to enforce US goals? NASHUA, N.H. (AP) — Rand Paul lashed out Saturday at military hawks in the Republican Party in a clash over foreign policy dividing the packed GOP presidential field. Paul, a first-term senator from Kentucky who favors a smaller U.S. footprint in the world, said that some of his Republican colleagues would do more harm in international affairs than would leading Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton. "The other Republicans will criticize the president and Hillary Clinton for their foreign policy, but they would just have done the same thing — just 10 times over," Paul said on the closing day of a New Hampshire GOP conference that brought about 20 presidential prospects to the first-in-the-nation primary state. "There's a group of folks in our party who would have troops in six countries right now, maybe more," Paul said. Foreign policy looms large in the presidential race as the U.S. struggles to resolve diplomatic and military conflicts across the globe. The GOP presidential class regularly rails against President Barack Obama's leadership on the world stage, yet some would-be contenders have yet to articulate their own positions, while others offered sharply different visions. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whose brother, President George W. Bush, authorized the 2003 invasion of Iraq, declined to say whether he would have done anything different then. Yet Jeb Bush acknowledged a shift in his party against new military action abroad. "Our enemies need to fear us, a little bit, just enough for them to deter the actions that create insecurity," Bush said earlier in the conference. He said restoring alliances "that will create less likelihood of America's boots on the ground has to be the priority, the first priority of the next president." The GOP's hawks were well represented at the event, led by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who has limited foreign policy experience but articulated a muscular vision during his Saturday keynote address. Walker said the threats posed by radical Islamic terrorism won't be handled simply with "a couple bombings." "We're not going to wait till they bring the fight to us," Walker said. "We're going to bring the fight to them and fight on their soil." South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham addressed the question of putting U.S. troops directly in the battle against the Islamic State group militants by saying there is only one way to defeat the militants: "You go over there and you fight them so they don't come here." Texas Sen. Ted Cruz suggested an aggressive approach as well. "The way to defeat ISIS is a simple and clear military objective," he said. "We will destroy them." Businesswoman Carly Fiorina offered a similar outlook. "The world is a more dangerous and more tragic place when America is not leading. And America has not led for quite some time," she said. Under Obama, a U.S.-led coalition of Western and Arab countries is conducting regular airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. also has hundreds of military advisers in Iraq helping Iraqi security forces plan operations against the Islamic State, which occupies large chunks of northern and western Iraq. Paul didn't totally reject the use of military force, noting that he recently introduced a declaration of war against the Islamic State group. But in an interview with The Associated Press, he emphasized the importance of diplomacy. He singled out Russia and China, which have complicated relationships with the U.S., as countries that could contribute to U.S. foreign policy interests. "I think the Russians and the Chinese have great potential to help make the world a better place," he said. "I don't say that naively that they're going to, but they have the potential to." Paul suggested the Russians could help by getting Syrian President Bashar Assad to leave power. "Maybe he goes to Russia," Paul said. Despite tensions with the U.S., Russia and China negotiated alongside Washington in nuclear talks with Iran. Paul has said he is keeping an open mind about the nuclear negotiations. "The people who already are very skeptical, very doubtful, may not like the president for partisan reasons," he said, and "just may want war instead of negotiations."
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First Lady Pat Nixon meeting with Big Bird from Sesame Street in the White House on Dec. 20, 1970.

Neal Shapiro is President and CEO of New York City's WNET, America's flagship public media outlet, bringing quality arts, education and public affairs programming to over 5 million viewers each week. The parent company of public television stations THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV, WNET produces such acclaimed PBS series as Great Performances, American Masters, Nature, Need to Know, Charlie Rose, and a range of documentaries, children's programs, and local news and cultural offerings available on air and online. 

Shapiro is an award-winning producer and media executive with a 25-year career spanning print, broadcast, cable and online. At the helm of WNET, Shapiro has revitalized programming, nearly doubled arts and culture programming, placed a new emphasis on local programming and community engagement, set new fundraising records and inaugurated a new, state-of-the-art studio at Lincoln Center.

In addition to WNET's signature national series, Shapiro has overseen the launch of a number of innovative local programs (including American Graduate, MetroFocus, NYC-Arts, Need To Know and Women, War & Peace) which make the most of New York City's rich resources and vibrant community.

Before joining WNET in 2007, Shapiro was President of NBC News, leading its top-rated news programs, including Today, NBC Nightly News and Meet the Press, as well as Dateline NBC.  Shapiro was executive producer of Dateline NBC when it was a mainstay of NBC's schedule. And in his 13 years at ABC News, he was a writer and producer for PrimeTime Live and World News Tonight.

Shapiro has won numerous awards, including 32 Emmys, 31 Edward R. Murrow Awards and 3 Columbia DuPont awards. He serves on the Boards of Tufts University, Gannett Company, the Investigative News Network and the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Neal lives in New York City with his wife, ABC News Correspondent Juju Chang, and their three sons.

Kam Williams: Hi Neal, thanks for the interview.

Neal Shapiro: My pleasure, Kam.

KW: I feel like I already know you from watching you introduce movies every Saturday night.  

NS: [Chuckles] I have to admit that of all the things I do that's actually the most fun.

KW: What is your favorite genre of film?

NS: Film noir. I'm especially a big fan of Humphrey Bogart.

KW: Congratulations on PBS' 50th anniversary! What special programming do you have planned?

NS: This is not only a great way to look back and celebrate what we've accomplished, but also a great way to think about the challenges for the next 50 years. Digging through our archives, we found some amazing, early footage we didn't know we had of icons like Dr. Martin Luther King, Andy Warhol and Muhammad Ali. So, we're going to do a whole series of specials on news, art and culture. Last month, we led a 7-hour national telethon about the dropout crisis, not to raise money, but to raise awareness and tell people how they can get involved through The United Way, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, The Boys and Girls Clubs, and other organizations. I see part of our role for the next 50 years is to become even more engaged with our community through programs that enable good things to happen.  

KW: Fixing the educational system is a really urgent priority, because we'll lose another generation if nothing is done.

NS: You're exactly right! In New York, we have the biggest school system in the country and therefore we have some of the biggest problem schools in the country. We want to do everything we can to let people know how critical an issue this is. If we don't get this right, we'll lose an entire generation. Nobody wins when a generation can't contribute to society.  

KW: When I attended the Wharton Business School, one of your predecessors, John Jay Iselin, was a guest lecturer in Arts Management. One thing he emphasized stuck with me, namely, that the bottom line was not profit at PBS, but the quality of the art. Was that a hard thing for you to adjust to in coming over from a commercial television network?

NS: He's absolutely right. What's hard to adjust to is being unable to measure your bottom line like you can in the commercial world. How do you measure the ability to touch someone's heart, to give someone comfort or a meaningful experience they might cherish for the rest of their lives?  Those are hard to quantify. So, public television doesn't have the same sort of metrics, which is why, as part of the 50th anniversary, we've been reaching out and asking people, "What has been the importance of the programs we've brought you over the years?" And we've received some inspiring responses, like the one from a woman who grew up in very humble circumstances in the Bronx. Her parents didn't have the means to take her to see live performances in the theater. But thanks to PBS, she still had a front row seat, and today she's a professional dancer. Another person credits the show Nature for the inspiration to become a marine biologist. It's hard to put a price tag on stories like that, but they have real meaning. 

KW: Earlier this year, you ran a fascinating documentary about the late Daisy Bates, the only female to speak at the March on Washington. It was hard for me, as a Black Studies major, to believe that I had never even heard of such an important civil rights figure before.

NS: We have plenty of examples like that which we chronicle in such a way that they can also exist forever in classrooms. Most people don't know that we have an education department and what a huge impact it makes because we offer the content for free to teachers and students all over the country. Nowadays, kids are quite comfortable learning from video in a way that you and I weren't, since we didn't have much of an opportunity to watch them in school.

KW: Harriet Pakula Teweles says: I never thought WQXR--The Radio Station of the NYTIMES-- would sell its frequency to a pop music station and move classical music to a less strong frequency with classical music reaching far fewer people. Is bringing The Arts to public media always going to be about raising enough money? How can we best protect public access to the arts from the whim of the financial marketplace and from political encroachment because of censorship issues?

NS: That's a very good question. When you look at The Arts, there is not a great commercial model for it. And there never has been one. The Fine Arts have always been supported by philanthropy and thereby made available to everyone. I don't think that model's about to change. In fact, there are likely to be even more stresses on it, because there are more demands for the very valuable radio and TV frequencies. So, I think we'll always be reliant upon the kindness of strangers to keep The Arts alive. 

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

NS: That's another very good question. I'll have to think about that. I don't just want to come up with a self-serving question.

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?

NS: I'm delighted. I love doing the work of the angels. I get to do programs of lasting import, even if they might not reach a lot of people sort term.  

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

NS: "The Passage of Power," Robert Caro's latest book about LBJ.

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

NS: Anything that I can barbecue. I love barbecuing. It must be that primal thing about being around a fire. I also enjoy the math involved in cooking on the grill, figuring out the space and what will need more time. 

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

NS: I see a happy guy who's been incredibly lucky. So much has gone right for me. And given how hard I work, I figure I'm aging alright.

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

NS: Two-part answer. On the grand scale, I would like to find a way for our representatives to have reasonable political dialogue, so we could actually find some solutions for all our problems. I think the country is paralyzed. Second, my wish for me, personally, is I'd like to be manager of the Yankees. That's no reflection on Joe Girardi, who's doing a fine job.

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

NS: Being pushed into the deep end of a swimming pool before I learned how to swim, and sinking deeper and deeper in until my father's big giant hand reached down and pulled me out.

KW: Dante Lee, author of "Black Business Secrets," asks: What was the best business decision you ever made, and what was the worst?

NS: Good question. I would say my best was launching the local programming we're doing here at Channel 13. My worst decision was doing a show called World Focus which didn't work out because of unfortunate timing.

KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share? 

NS: Curiosity.

KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?

NS: As someone who treated people fairly, and who brought out the best in them.

KW: Last chance, can you think of a question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

NS: Yeah, if you could live at another time, what period would you pick?

KW: That'll be the Neal Shapiro question. Which era would you pick?

NS: I think I'd like to live in New York in the Twenties. It was a period of great literature and great art. My favorite author is F. Scott Fitzgerald.

KW: Thanks again for the time, Neal, and best of luck with PBS.

NS: Thank you, Kam. And don't hesitate to call, if you need anything. 


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