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.

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It's All Politics
6:17 pm
Fri March 28, 2014

In Politics, Hog Castration Cuts Through The Ad Clutter

A lot more people now know who Iowa Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst is, which was the point of the hog-castration line in her campaign ad.
YouTube screen shot Joni Ernst for Senate YouTube channel

Originally published on Fri March 28, 2014 9:14 pm

One candidate talks fondly about castrating hogs in her youth and suggests that could be a useful skill in Washington.

Another fires semi-automatic weapons at a 2-foot-high stack of paper representing the Affordable Care Act before feeding it through a wood chipper.

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It's All Politics
5:01 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

The Pope And The President: Common Ground But A Clear Divide

Despite some differences, President Obama and Pope Francis shared a laugh during their Thursday meeting at the Vatican. Obama called himself a "great admirer" of the pope.
Gabriel Bouys AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri March 28, 2014 11:04 am

President Obama's Vatican meeting with Pope Francis wasn't without a dose of irony.

The U.S. president, once the world leader whose vow of "hope" and "change" excited millions, seemed eclipsed Thursday in that department by the pope.

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It's All Politics
6:14 pm
Wed March 26, 2014

For Senate Candidates, It's Gaffe Season

U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Braley talks to supporters Karen and Dennis Swallow during a barbecue lunch in October 2013 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa.
Scott Morgan AP

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It's All Politics
4:50 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

The Political Winner From The Proposed NSA Changes? Rand Paul

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul could catch a political updraft from President Obama's decision to restrict NSA telephone data collection efforts.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

Originally published on Tue March 25, 2014 6:17 pm

It's too early to gauge the political impact of President Obama's plans to tame the NSA's data-gathering effort. The full details of the proposal haven't been made public yet.

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It's All Politics
5:32 pm
Mon March 24, 2014

Why The Democrats' Koch Brothers Fixation?

Democrats say they're focused on the Koch brothers because, they allege, Republican candidates are doing the billionaires' bidding. Republicans say Democrats are desperate. David Koch (above) is chairman of Americans for Prosperity.
Phelan M. Ebenhack AP

Another day, another wave of Democratic attacks on the Koch brothers and their Republican allies.

Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader, took to the Senate floor Monday to bash the Koch brothers and the GOP, as has become his habit in recent weeks.

In his latest criticism, he accused Republicans of stalling aid to beleaguered Ukraine until Democrats agreed to delay new Internal Revenue Service rules that would affect the political activities of nonprofit groups.

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It's All Politics
5:01 pm
Thu March 20, 2014

With Wind At Its Back, GOP Expands 2014 Senate Map

Colorado Republican Rep. Cory Gardner officially announces his candidacy for the U.S. Senate at Denver Lumber Co. on March 1. Gardner will run against Democratic incumbent Mark Udall.
Chris Schneider AP

Originally published on Fri March 21, 2014 6:49 am

Republicans seem to have all the momentum lately when it comes to the battle for control of the U.S. Senate.

GOP chances were already looking brighter because of the drag on Democrats from the Affordable Care Act and President Obama's low approval ratings. Then came two developments that suddenly expanded the playing field: Former GOP Sen. Scott Brown recently announced his intent to run against New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, and GOP Rep. Cory Gardner jumped in against Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall.

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It's All Politics
4:47 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

Obama's Foreign Policy: More Second-Term Misses Than Hits

Russian President Vladimir Putin's actions are beyond President Obama's control, something that holds true for most of the foreign policy issues vexing the U.S. president's second term.
Sergei Ilnitsky AP

Originally published on Tue March 18, 2014 5:43 pm

Second-term presidents who find their ability to shape domestic affairs limited by congressional constraints often view foreign policy as the arena in which they can post some successes.

Ronald Reagan had his second-term breakthrough with Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union's general secretary. Bill Clinton had the U.S. lead its NATO allies into taking military action against the Serbian government of Slobodan Milosevic. Much further back in time, Woodrow Wilson successfully negotiated the League of Nations Treaty (though he couldn't win Senate passage for it).

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It's All Politics
6:22 pm
Mon March 17, 2014

GOP's Health Law Alternative Could Be Messy As Obamacare

First lady Michelle Obama at an Affordable Care Act event in March.
Luis M. Alvarez AP

Ever since Republicans began using the words "repeal and replace" back in 2010 to describe their intentions for the Affordable Care Act, they've faced a question: What, exactly, would they replace it with?

While there's currently no clear Republican alternative for the health care law, President Obama's signature domestic achievement, the House Republican leadership is signaling there will be one this year.

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It's All Politics
5:49 pm
Fri March 14, 2014

Breakthrough On Jobless Benefits May Lead To Blind Alley

Republican senators Rob Portman (left), Dean Heller and Susan Collins worked with a bipartisan group to reach a deal to extend long-term jobless benefits for five months.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

The bipartisan agreement in the Senate over a five-month extension of federal unemployment insurance for the long-term jobless may seem like a breakthrough.

But for Sister Marge Clark, senior lobbyist for NETWORK — a national Catholic social justice lobby that welcomes the news, the fact that the agreement is seen as a progress shows just how far the political situation in Washington has deteriorated.

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It's All Politics
2:46 pm
Thu March 13, 2014

Will Democrats Change Their Health Law Message After Florida Loss?

Democrats may have lost the battle in a Florida special election, which Republican Rep. David Jolly (right) won and in which the Affordable Care Act figured prominently. But they don't think they have lost the health-law messaging war.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Fri March 14, 2014 8:35 am

Congressional Democrats' messaging on the Affordable Care Act obviously didn't work as they had hoped in the Florida special election for a vacant House seat, since Republican David Jolly won the Tuesday vote.

But does that mean Democrats should abandon the "fix it, don't nix" it message delivered by Democrat Alex Sink, who narrowly lost a race that Republicans sought to nationalize and turn into a referendum on the health law?

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., certainly isn't saying so.

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It's All Politics
5:41 pm
Tue March 11, 2014

Feinstein's CIA Outrage Splits Senate

Sen. Dianne Feinstein accused the CIA publicly and at length of hacking Senate computers to spy on Senate aides and remove documents.
Uncredited AP

Originally published on Tue March 11, 2014 11:07 pm

The Senate was a chamber divided in reaction to Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein's diatribe against the CIA for allegedly hacking into Senate computers.

A no-nonsense Feinstein, the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, took to the Senate floor Tuesday to speak at length and publicly for the first time about a dispute with the agency.

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It's All Politics
4:08 pm
Mon March 10, 2014

Gas Exports Debate Makes Better Domestic Politics Than Geopolitics

Lawmakers and others are calling on the Obama administration to increase natural gas exports to Europe in an attempt to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin for his Ukraine incursion.
Alexei Nikolsky AP

Originally published on Mon March 10, 2014 5:35 pm

Russia's intervention in Ukraine has sparked another debate over the Obama administration's energy policy.

Russia is a major provider of natural gas to Western Europe. That's caused some U.S. policymakers — largely but not exclusively congressional Republicans — to call on the Obama administration to clear the way for increased exports of U.S. natural gas to Europe. That's a two-fer, they argue: It would diminish Russia while helping the domestic energy industry.

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It's All Politics
4:03 pm
Fri March 7, 2014

CPAC's Conservative-Libertarian Split Could Be Hard To Bridge

Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky speaks at the Conservative Political Action Committee annual conference in National Harbor, Md., on Friday.
Susan Walsh AP

If any two issues illustrate how difficult it could be for the part of the Republican Party represented by the social and national security conservatives to bridge their differences with libertarians, same-sex marriage and National Security Agency intelligence are good candidates

Discussions at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference got testy Friday, when libertarians defended positions out of synch with the more traditional stances that have defined the Republican Party for decades.

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It's All Politics
5:24 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

3 Lessons From Obama's Failed Justice Department Nomination

The specter of failure is often enough to get the White House and Senate leaders to punt on a nomination. But not in the case of Debo Adegbile.
Evan Vucci AP

Originally published on Fri March 7, 2014 6:13 am

Now that the smoke has cleared from Debo Adegbile's failed nomination Wednesday to head the Justice Department's civil rights division, there are some lessons to draw from that Democratic debacle.

Why was it a disaster? Seven Democrats defected from their party to vote against Obama's nominee. The nomination had been opposed by police groups because of Adegbile's indirect role in the appeals process for Mumia Abu Jamal, a death-row inmate convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer in 1981.

Here are three things we learned from the vote.

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It's All Politics
9:30 am
Thu March 6, 2014

CPAC 2014: Reading The Tea (Party) Leaves

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida is likely to be popular at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference, but the Tea Party might not be getting all of the attention.
Brendan Smialowski AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu March 6, 2014 12:00 pm

The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the annual gathering of conservatives which is part pep rally, part trade show, part revival meeting and part political cattle call, rolls into Washington this week.

As the 2014 version gets underway, one of the major questions hanging over the event is this: how much juice does the Tea Party still have?

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It's All Politics
3:59 pm
Wed March 5, 2014

Bill Clinton, Party-Builder In Chief

Former President Clinton was the one modern Democratic president who focused on building up his party, an effort he continues today.
Luke Sharrett Getty Images

President Obama may be the standard bearer of the Democratic Party, but his unpopularity in some parts of the country means there are certain places on the campaign trail where it's best for him to stay away.

Enter former President Clinton, who can go where Obama fears to tread.

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It's All Politics
2:03 pm
Mon March 3, 2014

Ukraine Is The Latest Overseas Crisis To Blur DC's Partisan Lines

Though some conservatives said President Obama's alleged weakness led to Russian President Vladimir Putin's Ukraine invasion, reaction didn't follow the usual partisan lines.
Mikhail Klimentyev AP

To the list of political issues with which we began this mid-term election year, which had the Affordable Care Act and the economy at the top, we can now add Russia's involvement in Ukraine.

But while the domestic issues divide along fairly clear blue and red lines, the political question of what the U.S. should do about Russian President Vladimir Putin's deployment of the Russian military into Ukraine's Crimea is scrambling Washington's normal partisan lines.

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It's All Politics
3:56 pm
Fri February 28, 2014

Hillary Clinton's Political Acumen And Other Tidbits From New Docs

Newly released documents by the Clinton Presidential Library shed light on Hillary Clinton's time as first lady.
Mark Wilson Associated Press

Did we learn anything new about Hillary Clinton from the documents released Friday by the Clinton Presidential Library? Was there anything that could matter if she decides to run for president?

The answer so far appears to be no. That said, there were still aspects of the documents that were singled out as interesting flashbacks to Clinton's time as first lady.

Against Individual Mandate Before She Was For It

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It's All Politics
4:54 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

Clintons Provide Firepower Behind DNC 'Voter Expansion Project'

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former President Clinton huddle under an umbrella during inaugural ceremonies for Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe in Richmond on Jan. 11.
Patrick Semansky AP

Democrats believe they've discovered a way to play more offense against Republican efforts that have had the effect of making it harder for many voters — especially young, senior and minority citizens — to cast their ballots.

Their answer: a new initiative, announced by the Democratic National Committee at its winter meeting in Washington, aimed at countering voter ID and other laws and practices that can dampen voting.

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It's All Politics
11:18 am
Thu February 27, 2014

Pentagon Cuts Promise Political Pain

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel briefs reporters at the Pentagon on Monday. Hagel and President Obama will need to fight through a wall of resistance to their proposed defense budget cuts, say former members of a defense base closing commission.
Carolyn Kaster AP

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 12:17 pm

Cutting defense spending in Washington is about as popular as proposing Social Security cuts. In other words, not very.

Which explains why, following Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's announcement Monday that the Obama administration's new budget would propose shrinking the Army, closing bases and ditching weapons systems, the responses from Capitol Hill lawmakers have been some version of "over my dead body."

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It's All Politics
5:49 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

Obama And Boehner Relationship Anything But Solid

President Obama and Speaker John Boehner were all smiles at a rare White House meeting Tuesday. But their relationship has more often been marked by angry finger-pointing.
Jacquelyn Martin AP

If more were actually getting done in Washington, there probably would be much less attention focused on how few times President Obama and Speaker John Boehner have met face-to-face, and on their "relationship."

But Congress is testing new lows in terms of legislative productivity, which leaves plenty of time for journalists to muse about the president-speaker relationship, such as it is, on the day of one of their rare meetings.

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It's All Politics
4:03 pm
Mon February 24, 2014

The Lessons Of John Dingell's Departure

Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., whose House career stretches nearly 60 years, will retire at the end of his term as the longest-serving member of Congress in history.
Manuel Balce Ceneta AP

Originally published on Mon February 24, 2014 5:23 pm

Nearly every news account Monday of Rep. John Dingell's retirement announcement made mention of his amazing longevity — the Michigan Democrat is the longest-serving member in the history of Congress.

While his durability is the stuff of legend, it's also remarkable that an accomplished, heavyweight legislator like Dingell stayed so long into an era of congressional dysfunction.

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It's All Politics
7:59 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

FCC Won't Ask Journalists To Explain Themselves After All

Critics told Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler his agency's proposed news media study would threaten press freedom.
Susan Walsh AP

It may not be in full retreat, but the Federal Communications Commission certainly seemed to be in a major strategic withdrawal from a plan that has caused a political firestorm: a study that would have asked journalists and media owners how they decide what is and isn't news.

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It's All Politics
5:14 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

Obama Buoys Democrats By Dropping Social Security Cut Idea

President Obama very likely made Democrats' midterm campaign messaging easier by dropping from his new budget a proposal that would have reduced the size of Social Security checks.
Matt Rourke AP

For a political party already facing a difficult midterm election the way the Democrats are, the fewer internally divisive issues the better.

And few items were more divisive among Democrats than President Obama's previous proposal to reduce Social Security entitlement spending by using a less generous formula to calculate cost-of-living increases, so long as Republicans agreed to raise revenue by ending or reducing loopholes that would raise revenue.

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It's All Politics
5:28 pm
Wed February 19, 2014

How A Remote Alaska Road Became A Political Wedge Issue

The Alaska village of King Cove wants an all-weather road to the outside world. Election-year politics is complicating that wish.
AP

Originally published on Wed February 19, 2014 7:02 pm

Judging from an attack by one of his Republican opponents, you could easily draw the conclusion that Democratic Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska opposes a road that would serve as a lifeline to the remote Aleutian village of King Cove. But you would be wrong.

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It's All Politics
4:04 pm
Tue February 18, 2014

Democrats Seek Cure For GOP Obamacare Attacks

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., at the House Democrats' recent retreat where much of the discussion was about countering the GOP's messaging against the Affordable Care Act.
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI AFP/Getty Images

House Democrats know they can run but can't hide from Republican attacks on the Affordable Care Act.

So they've decided on a four-pronged counter message as they try to withstand the GOP pummeling.

  • Embrace the parts of the law that are broadly popular like the ban on insurance companies excluding people for pre-existing conditions.
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It's All Politics
7:20 pm
Fri February 14, 2014

Authors Of New Hillary Clinton Book: She Never Stopped Running

The question isn't whether former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will run for president in 2016 but whether she will stop, say the authors of a new book.
Gerald Herbert AP

For HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton, their new book about Hillary Clinton's time as the nation's secretary of state, political reporters Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes gained unusual access to Hillaryworld.

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It's All Politics
5:41 pm
Thu February 13, 2014

Rand Paul's NSA Lawsuit Helps Him Lay Claim To A Big Issue

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., in front of the federal district court in Washington, where he filed his lawsuit against the Obama administration and the NSA.
Charles Dharapak AP

Originally published on Thu February 13, 2014 6:26 pm

By filing his lawsuit against the Obama administration, including the National Security Agency, over the intelligence agency's collection of phone call data, Sen. Rand Paul now has ownership of a major issue in a way no other potential 2016 presidential candidate can lay claim.

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It's All Politics
2:09 pm
Thu February 13, 2014

Debt Ceiling Vote Relied On GOP's 'Tough Vote' Caucus

House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (left), and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (right) were among the 28 Republicans whose votes made it possible for most other Republicans to vote against the debt ceiling hike.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Fri February 14, 2014 1:08 pm

Within the House Republican Conference, an unofficial "tough vote" caucus is taking shape.

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It's All Politics
4:18 pm
Mon February 10, 2014

Debt Ceiling Standoff? Not This Time

House Speaker John Boehner and his fellow Republicans could give President Obama the clean debt ceiling increase he wants but not for the reasons the president wants it.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Mon February 10, 2014 6:27 pm

When the federal government hits its debt ceiling at the end of the month, don't expect another big red-on-blue confrontation.

The appetite in the House Republican conference for that kind of debt-defying standoff isn't what it was last fall when the nation was hit by the double whammy of the debt limit and partial federal government shutdown.

And the House GOP can't even agree on what points to negotiate with President Obama — who has said he's not willing to negotiate on the debt ceiling anyway.

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