Frank James

Frank James joined NPR News in April 2009 to launch the blog, "The Two-Way," with co-blogger Mark Memmott.

"The Two-Way" is the place where NPR.org gives readers breaking news and analysis — and engages users in conversations ("two-ways") about the most compelling stories being reported by NPR News and other news media.

James came to NPR from the Chicago Tribune, where he worked for 20 years. In 2006, James created "The Swamp," the paper's successful politics and policy news blog whose readership climbed to a peak of 3 million page-views a month.

Before that, James covered homeland security, technology and privacy and economics in the Tribune's Washington Bureau. He also reported for the Tribune from South Africa and covered politics and higher education.

James also reported for The Wall Street Journal for nearly 10 years.

James received a bachelor of arts degree in English from Dickinson College and now serves on its board of trustees.

Pages

It's All Politics
1:47 pm
Tue December 17, 2013

Bridge Controversy Could Take Toll On Chris Christie's Future

The George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, N.J., on Sept. 2, just days before lanes were closed under mysterious circumstances.
Mel Evans AP

Originally published on Tue December 17, 2013 3:17 pm

Were access lanes to the George Washington Bridge, the nation's busiest span, closed as political retribution against a mayor who didn't publicly endorse New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's re-election?

The governor denies that politics played a role in the traffic-snarling decision, but the controversy has put an ever-growing stain on Christie's glossy November re-election victory. And the episode could have an impact on Christie's White House ambitions.

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It's All Politics
4:02 pm
Mon December 16, 2013

New Year Likely To Ring In Old Debt Ceiling Fight

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis. (right), accompanied by House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, takes reporters' questions during a Dec. 11 news conference.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Mon December 16, 2013 5:00 pm

At the moment, Washington fiscal policy is a good news, bad news story.

The good news is that the budget agreement, overwhelmingly passed by the House last week in a bipartisan vote, is likely to be approved by the Senate this week. That takes another costly government shutdown off the table.

The bad news? Another debt ceiling fight, with all the attendant risks of a U.S. government default, appears to be right around the corner.

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It's All Politics
5:03 pm
Fri December 13, 2013

Newtown Anniversary Marked By Gun Control Stalemate

Former Rep. Gabby Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, at a gun show in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., in October. Giffords was shot in the head in a 2011 mass shooting in Tucson. She and Kelly have since founded a political action committee to push for tougher gun laws.
Tim Roske AP

Originally published on Fri December 13, 2013 5:44 pm

In the wrenching days and weeks after the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, many on both sides of the gun control debate thought that horror had so shifted the political winds that stricter federal gun laws would surely result.

That, of course, didn't happen.

On the surface, it may look like the gun lobby ultimately won the political battles that mattered in the past year. After all, Congress failed to pass tougher gun laws. But the reality is more mixed; the result was more of a stalemate.

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It's All Politics
4:18 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Boehner Blasts Tea Party Groups Over Budget Deal Criticism

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio rebukes conservative groups who oppose the pending bipartisan budget compromise during a Thursday news conference on Capitol Hill.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Some moments feel like turning points. Speaker John Boehner's rhetorical takedown of his party's Tea Party faction seems like one such moment.

For two days running, Boehner, R-Ohio, has made clear that he's heard just about enough from conservative advocacy groups such as the Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity and Freedomworks.

On Wednesday, he called them "ridiculous." On Thursday, he said "they've lost all credibility."

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It's All Politics
5:25 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

Mary Landrieu Wrestles An (Obamacare) Alligator

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., is facing a tough re-election bid.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 6:37 am

In any conversation about vulnerable Senate Democrats, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana rises straight to the top of the list.

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It's All Politics
12:21 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

6 Things Missing From The Budget Agreement

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., left, and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., walk to announce a tentative agreement Tuesday between Republican and Democratic negotiators on a government spending plan.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Wed December 11, 2013 1:46 pm

The essence of the budget deal reached by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is better understood by looking at what's missing, rather than what's included in it.

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It's All Politics
4:39 pm
Tue December 10, 2013

Is Economic Populism A Problem Or A Solution For Democrats?

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., at a November hearing of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. A recent op-ed critical of Warren's brand of economic populism sparked an intraparty dispute among Democrats.
Jacquelyn Martin AP

Originally published on Tue December 10, 2013 6:09 pm

The fight over taxes, entitlements and income inequality has clearly been reignited in the Democratic Party, sparking questions about whether, and how hard, to push economic populism as the party approaches the 2014 midterm elections and beyond.

The latest flare-up came between centrist Democrats at the Third Way think tank and liberals who view Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., as their champion.

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It's All Politics
3:42 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

Senate GOP Could Taste Sweet Revenge In Supreme Court Case

Miguel Estrada, whose 2002 nomination to a federal judgeship was filibustered by Senate Democrats, will represent Senate Republicans in their recess appointments case against President Obama.
Kiichiro Sato AP

Originally published on Mon December 9, 2013 4:09 pm

If revenge is a dish best served cold, in Washington it can also be served with a heaping side of irony.

The Supreme Court agreed Monday to Sen. Mitch McConnell's request to let Senate Republicans participate in the high-profile case Noel Canning v. National Labor Relations Board.

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It's All Politics
3:27 am
Sat December 7, 2013

How Mandela Expanded The Art Of The Possible

President-elect Nelson Mandela and President F.W. de Klerk outside the South African Parliament in Cape Town, May 9, 1994.
Frank James

Originally published on Mon December 9, 2013 9:35 am

When I was coming of age in the late 1970s, as an African-American high-schooler and college student, I had two certainties: Nelson Mandela would die in prison in apartheid South Africa and no black person would become U.S. president in my lifetime.

So much for my youthful powers of prediction.

Little could I have known then that I would become a journalist who would one day get to cover events I once thought would never happen, at least not during my time on Earth.

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It's All Politics
3:22 pm
Thu December 5, 2013

For Biden, All The World's A Stage For Possible 2016 Run

Vice President Biden chats with his Chinese counterpart Li Yuanchao before heading to their luncheon at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on Thursday.
Andy Wong AP

Originally published on Thu December 5, 2013 4:27 pm

Vice President Biden hasn't announced his 2016 presidential plans. It's far too early for that; we haven't even hit the first anniversary of President Obama's second inaugural, after all.

But as Biden traveled this week to Japan, China and South Korea where he met top leaders, he certainly gave the impression of a man doing a full dress rehearsal for the presidency.

Of course, if Hillary Clinton decides to run for president, rehearsing for the presidency may be as close as Biden gets to the Democratic nomination.

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It's All Politics
12:31 pm
Mon December 2, 2013

A Poorly Worded RNC Tweet On Rosa Parks Backfires

Schoolchildren tour the bus that civil rights icon Rosa Parks made famous when she refused to give up her seat.
Bill Pugliano Getty Images

Originally published on Mon December 2, 2013 4:06 pm

If nothing else, the Republican National Committee has gotten people thinking about Rosa Parks.

Of course, the RNC also gave its political opponents a chance to mock the GOP with its poorly worded tweet Saturday marking the 58th anniversary of the African-American civil rights activist's refusal to give up her bus seat to a white person, an event that sparked the Montgomery bus boycott.

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It's All Politics
12:38 pm
Wed November 27, 2013

Conservative Groups Would Take Hit From New IRS Rules

Conservatives have criticized the new Internal Revenue Service rules for political dark money as an Obama administration attempt to gain political advantage.
Susan Walsh AP

The new U.S. Treasury/Internal Revenue Service rules aimed at clarifying what constitutes political activity for tax-exempt "social welfare" organizations are likely to give more heartburn to conservative groups than their liberal counterparts.

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It's All Politics
2:30 pm
Mon November 25, 2013

5 Ways The Iran Nuclear Deal Collides With U.S. Politics

Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif shake hands Sunday at the United Nations Palais in Geneva.
Carolyn Kaster AP

Originally published on Sun December 1, 2013 6:49 am

The historic nuclear deal with Iran marks the first time in three decades that the Persian nation has agreed to slow its work toward a nuclear weapon and allow international monitors in to verify.

It's a significant accomplishment, but the accord is about to become entangled in U.S. politics for months to come, complicating the pact's future on both sides of the Atlantic.

Here are five reasons why:

1. President Obama's Credibility

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It's All Politics
2:19 pm
Fri November 22, 2013

5 Ways JFK Still Influences Presidential Politics

Then-Sen. John F. Kennedy showed some of the charisma that powered his presidential bid as he greeted college students in Charleston, W.Va., in April 1960.
AP

Originally published on Mon November 25, 2013 4:06 pm

The 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's death in Dallas is a time when much attention is aptly focused on the abrupt and tragic end to his presidency.

But it's also a moment to consider the beginning of JFK's presidential story, since he redefined the art of campaigning for the White House.

Here are five ways Kennedy's influence is still being felt in presidential politics:

1. The Self-Selected Candidate

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It's All Politics
11:29 am
Wed November 20, 2013

Education Secretary Loses Some Of His Luster

Education Secretary Arne Duncan tours a Wheeling, Ill., high school nanotechnology lab on Oct. 24.
Charles Rex Arbogast AP

Originally published on Wed November 20, 2013 11:45 am

If Americans know Education Secretary Arne Duncan for anything at this point, it would be as that guy who claimed last week that opposition to the Common Core national K-12 educational standards sprang from "white suburban moms" who feared that tougher requirements would reveal their children to be as not "brilliant" as they thought.

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It's All Politics
6:46 am
Mon November 18, 2013

Monday Political Mix: Bitcoins In Congress' Spotlight

Bitcoins have gone from an Internet oddity to much more and Congress wants to understand them and other virtual currencies better.
Rick Bowmer AP

Originally published on Mon November 18, 2013 7:15 am

Good morning, fellow political junkies.

This week contains major anniversaries of events that involved the first and last presidents killed in office, a tragic link captured in a famous newspaper editorial cartoon. Friday is the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's assassination, Tuesday is the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

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It's All Politics
3:54 pm
Fri November 15, 2013

Obama And Health Insurers Eye Each Other Warily

President Obama makes a statement in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Friday, before the start of a meeting with representatives of health insurance companies. The president said he brought health insurance CEOs to the White House to brainstorm ways to make sure Americans know what their coverage options are under the law.
Evan Vucci AP

Originally published on Fri November 15, 2013 6:14 pm

In "The Defiant Ones," a classic film directed by Stanley Kramer, two escapees from a Southern chain gang hated each other but were handcuffed together, meaning they could survive only by working together.

Which is pretty much a metaphor for where President Obama and insurance company executives have found themselves all along with the Affordable Care Act.

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It's All Politics
11:15 am
Thu November 14, 2013

Democrats Try To Stanch Political Bleeding From Obamacare

President Obama speaks about his signature health care law Thursday at the White House.
Charles Dharapak AP

Originally published on Thu November 14, 2013 1:21 pm

Among the Affordable Care Act's accomplishments is that it took the remarkable Democratic Party unity that existed during the government shutdown and smashed it to smithereens in near record time.

In sharp contrast to the image of Democrats standing shoulder to shoulder with President Obama during the recent fiscal fight, it's distance from Obama, not proximity to the president, that many Democrats are now seeking.

The problems of the HealthCare.gov site and the poor first-month enrollment numbers released Wednesday are bad enough.

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It's All Politics
7:19 am
Thu November 14, 2013

Thursday Political Mix: Obamacare's Data Dump Fallout

Insurance agents in Miami, Fla. help people with information about policies that are available to them under the Affordable Care Act on Nov. 5, 2013.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Thu November 14, 2013 8:25 am

Good morning, fellow political junkies.

Well, the Obama administration warned us that the enrollment numbers for the Affordable Care Act would be low and (surprise!) they were.

Still, it's one thing to get an abstract, data-free warning, another to see actual numbers, 27,000 people enrolling for private insurance through the federal portal, 106,185 overall if you throw in the states.

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It's All Politics
6:49 am
Wed November 13, 2013

Wednesday Political Mix: Obamacare IT Officials Face Issa

On Wednesday, Republican Rep. Darrell Issa's House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, finally got its turn to pummel the Obamacare rollout. The photo is from a Benghazi hearing in September 2013.
Drew Angerer Getty Images

Originally published on Wed November 13, 2013 7:12 am

Good morning, fellow political junkies.

Pressure continues to rise on congressional Democrats with every new story about someone whose health plan was cancelled as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

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It's All Politics
10:42 am
Tue November 12, 2013

Chris Christie's Surprising Role Model For Minority Outreach

Ronald Reagan walks over rubble in a South Bronx lot in August 1980.
Pickoff AP

Originally published on Tue November 12, 2013 2:06 pm

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he can teach national Republicans an important lesson: If they want to appeal to voters beyond their traditional conservative base, they need to go to where those voters are.

As he made the rounds of Sunday's Washington talk shows, Christie explained his rationale to Fox News' Chris Wallace:

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It's All Politics
6:40 am
Mon November 11, 2013

Monday Political Mix: GOP To Keep Obamacare Fans On Defensive

Veterans are often found at Washington's war memorials, like the one to U.S. service members who died in Vietnam, recalling lost buddies and lost youth.
J. David Ake AP

Originally published on Mon November 11, 2013 7:44 am

Good morning, fellow political junkies.

It's Veteran's Day 2013. Our deepest thanks to those who've worn the nation's uniform both home and abroad and made countless sacrifices to serve it with courage and integrity.

The House returns this week from a recess. Its Republican leaders will waste little time placing Democrats on the defensive and positioning the GOP as coming to the rescue of those beleaguered individuals who have received notices that their health plans were cancelled. The GOP-controlled House plans to vote this week on the Keep Your Health Plan Act of 2013.

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It's All Politics
10:59 am
Fri November 8, 2013

Presidential Apologies: Regrets, They Have A Few

President Obama walks from the White House to Marine One on Friday. In an interview Thursday with NBC News, he apologized for breaking a promise regarding the Affordable Care Act.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Fri November 8, 2013 12:31 pm

Now that President Obama has apologized to those who've seen their health care plans canceled due to the Affordable Care Act, losses he pledged beforehand wouldn't happen, he joins the line of modern presidents who have had to look the American people in the eye and give their regrets.

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It's All Politics
6:44 am
Thu November 7, 2013

Thursday Political Mix: Obama, Insurers Need Each Other

President Obama visited Dallas Wednesday partly to cheer up volunteers who help people enroll in Obamacare.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Originally published on Thu November 7, 2013 2:58 pm

Good morning, fellow political junkies.

The assessments of the meaning of the 2013 off-year elections continue, with both parties trying to draw lessons from Election Day's outcomes, with the likely overinterpretation of some of them, though it wasn't always clear which.

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It's All Politics
3:07 pm
Wed November 6, 2013

How Long Must Rand Paul Stay In 'Detention' For Plagiarism?

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is sorry for the plagiarized material in his speeches and op-eds. And he thinks some journalists are just plain sorry.
Jose Luis Magana AP

Originally published on Wed November 6, 2013 4:16 pm

If you were a high-profile politician caught plagiarizing, would you:

  • A) Say something like "my bad," apologize profusely, promise to sin no more and quietly move on, hoping reporters would do likewise? Or ...
  • B) Acknowledge that mistakes were made, then lash out at the news media?

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has been going with the second option lately.

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It's All Politics
6:59 am
Tue November 5, 2013

Tuesday Political Mix: The Young Skip Obamacare, For Now

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie greets supporters on the eve of the election in a race that looks like a launchpad for a 2016 presidential run.
Mel Evans AP

Election Day 2013 is finally here, fellow political junkies!

Tuesday may be an off-year election, but that doesn't mean those whose job it is to explain the implications of elections won't attempt to wring every last bit of plausible and implausible meaning from it.

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It's All Politics
3:43 pm
Mon November 4, 2013

Biden, A Man Of Many Words, Omits One At Va. Rally: 'Obama'

Vice President Biden is greeted by Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va., before speaking at a backyard rally for Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe on Monday.
Jacquelyn Martin AP

Anyone waiting expectantly for Vice President Biden to name check President Obama at an election eve rally Monday went away disappointed.

Besides singing the praises of Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe at the Northern Virginia event, Biden mentioned Democratic Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner (favorably) and Republican Sen. Ted Cruz (unfavorably). He singled out McAuliffe's Republican opponent, Ken Cuccinelli, by name. Biden even referred to his own wife and his father.

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It's All Politics
6:58 am
Mon November 4, 2013

Monday Political Mix: A Congressman Comes Out

Originally published on Mon November 4, 2013 7:15 am

Good morning, fellow political junkies.

This week, the political headlines are expected to be dominated by several important off-year elections whose outcomes seem a foregone conclusion, if you believe the polls.

Democrat Terry McAulliffe in Virginia and Republican Chris Christie in New Jersey have significant polling leads in their governor's races. In New York City, Democrat and mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio appears poised to win in a blowout.

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It's All Politics
5:24 pm
Fri November 1, 2013

3 Lessons For Future Presidents From Obamacare's Ills

President Obama speaks about the Affordable Care Act on Wednesday in Boston.
Jewel Samad AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri November 1, 2013 6:04 pm

The Affordable Care Act's early travails are yielding some lessons for future presidents and lawmakers. Here are three:

1) Presidents can't be too careful about making high-profile promises.
President Obama dented his credibility significantly by repeatedly promising that the Affordable Care Act would allow Americans with insurance they liked to keep those policies.

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It's All Politics
7:01 am
Fri November 1, 2013

Senate Judicial Fights Become As Much About Obama As His Picks

On June 4, President Obama introduces his nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit: from right, Patricia Ann Millett, Cornelia T. L. Pillard and Robert L. Wilkins.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Senate judicial confirmation fights sure have changed over the past decade.

The battles of 2005, particularly the fights over three judges President George W. Bush nominated to federal appeals court positions, were very much about the ideology of the nominees.

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