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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

You thought things were bad in the Senate before? Well, they might have just gotten worse after Thursday's vote by Democrats to significantly defang the filibuster on presidential nominations — the so-called nuclear option.

Senate Democrats took the historic step of voting to diminish the minority's power to stall most presidential nominations. By changing the Senate rules to require a simple majority instead of a supermajority for most nominations to get the green light for a full floor vote, Democrats acted on a threat each party has aimed at the other for nearly a decade.

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.

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.

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.

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 site and the poor first-month enrollment numbers released Wednesday are bad enough.

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.

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.

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:

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.

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.

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.

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.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie won re-election to a second term.

The Associated Press projected Christie, a Republican, the winner over Democrat Barbara Buono shortly after the polls closed in New Jersey at 8 pm ET.

While a big win by Christie was expected for months with polls showing him with a commanding lead, the victory nevertheless provides a springboard for a potential 2016 presidential run.

Democrat Bill de Blasio won the New York City mayor's race, defeating Republican Joseph Lhota. He became the first Democrat to win the office since 1989.

The Associated Press declared de Blasio the winner about 45 minutes after the city's polls closed at 9 pm ET. De Blasio had what appeared to be an insurmountable lead in polls heading into Election Day.

The election of de Blasio, an unabashed liberal, marked a definitive end of the Mayor Michael Bloomberg era.

Democrat Terry McAuliffe won the hotly contested Virginia governor's race, defeating Republican Ken Cuccinelli, who was supported by the Tea Party.

The race turned out to be far closer than polls heading into Election Day indicated. That suggested that voter turnout may have failed to reach the levels Democrats had hoped to achieve and that the Affordable Care Act may have hurt the Democratic effort.

The battle between the business and Tea Party wings of the Republican Party for Alabama's 1st Congressional District was won by Bradley Byrne, the choice of Chamber of Commerce types.

Byrne defeated Dean Young in the primary election Tuesday, getting 53 percent of the vote versus 47 percent for Young. Winning the GOP primary in the reliably Republican district is seen as tantamount to winning the special election.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.