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
5:40 pm
Fri August 9, 2013

Obama's Challenge: Answer Snowden Without Seeming To

President Obama sought to address concerns over NSA surveillance measures at a White House news conference on Friday.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Heading into Friday's news conference, President Obama had a delicate balancing act before him: how to acknowledge widespread concerns about National Security Agency surveillance without in any way legitimizing the actions of leaker Edward Snowden.

The best course, the president decided, was to acknowledge that Snowden's revelations to some degree forced his administration to accelerate and expand a review of the federal government's surveillance activities.

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It's All Politics
4:58 pm
Wed August 7, 2013

Hubbub Over Hillary Clinton Movies: A Dress Rehearsal For 2016

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appears at the Women in Public Service Project leadership symposium in Bryn Mawr, Pa., on July 9.
Matt Rourke AP

Originally published on Wed August 7, 2013 5:33 pm

Commotion over a pair of movies that haven't even been made proves, if anything, that the Clintons need not lift a finger to inspire a controversy.

That said, the hubbub over a planned CNN documentary and a proposed NBC Entertainment miniseries on Hillary Clinton, the former first lady and secretary of state, does feel somewhat premature. Clinton hasn't said whether she intends to run for president in 2016.

But it's never too early to take a Democratic Party titan down a few pegs, especially one who polls well ahead of all Republican presidential possibilities.

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It's All Politics
2:49 pm
Tue August 6, 2013

With 'Post' Purchase, High-Tech Continues Its March On D.C.

Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Amazon.
Reed Saxon AP

Originally published on Tue August 6, 2013 3:44 pm

It's kind of an obvious thought: Jeff Bezos' purchase of The Washington Post is Richard Nixon's revenge.

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It's All Politics
4:03 am
Tue August 6, 2013

Virginia Governor's Race: Negative And Getting More So

The increasingly negative campaign that is the Virginia race for governor between Republican Ken Cuccinelli (left) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe could keep some voters home.
Steve Helber AP

Originally published on Tue August 6, 2013 9:16 am

If you like your gubernatorial campaigns negative and nasty, then Virginia's race for governor is for you, and will likely remain so until Election Day in November.

How could it not be with such good raw material for attack ads?

The Republican standard-bearer is controversial Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who has acknowledged receiving vacations and other gifts valued at $18,000 from the same businessman who plied GOP Gov. Robert McDonnell and his family with money and gifts valued at more than $145,000.

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It's All Politics
4:07 pm
Fri August 2, 2013

Congressional Recess Isn't A Cease-Fire; It's A Chance To Reload

Bill O'Leary The Washington Post via Getty Images

Originally published on Fri August 2, 2013 4:32 pm

As Congress heads off for its 2013 summer recess, who could blame a citizen for thinking that maybe the slogan above the House dais should be changed from "In God We Trust" to "Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here."

Experts in government like Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann have repeatedly warned that compromise, the lubricant that makes the U.S. system work, has been a missing ingredient in recent Congresses, especially in the House. And there were no signs Friday that anything will be different when Congress returns in September from its five-week break.

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It's All Politics
5:25 pm
Thu August 1, 2013

What Chris Christie And Rand Paul Share, Despite Their Clash

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey
Julio Cortez AP

Originally published on Thu August 1, 2013 5:54 pm

Now that the dust has settled somewhat on the rhetorical skirmish between Rand Paul and Chris Christie over NSA data-gathering, it's easier to see the irony of the confrontation.

We witnessed not just the punching and counterpunching of politicians considered likely contenders for the 2016 GOP nomination. It was also a clash between men who each possess a key to winning the White House.

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It's All Politics
4:32 pm
Tue July 30, 2013

Immigration Issue Shows Big Money Doesn't Always Win In D.C.

The crowd cheers speaker Glenn Beck (not pictured) during a Tea Party rally to "Audit the IRS" in front of the U.S. Capitol on June 19.
Gary Cameron Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Tue July 30, 2013 5:17 pm

Big Money often gets what it wants in Washington. But not always.

In few policy debates is that more true than in the proposed overhaul of the nation's immigration laws.

The big donors and corporate leaders of the Republican establishment mostly favor remaking U.S. immigration laws to give those now here illegally an eventual door to citizenship and to increase the annual quota for guest workers.

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It's All Politics
4:33 am
Tue July 30, 2013

Abortion Drives Bigger Wedge Between Red And Blue States

Texas, where abortion-rights battles took place in July at the state capitol, is part of an eight-state region that has gotten more conservative on the issue.
Eric Gay AP

Regional disparities over the abortion issue have grown during the past two decades, leading to an ever widening gulf between the nation's most conservative and most liberal regions.

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It's All Politics
1:43 pm
Fri July 26, 2013

McConnell's Kentucky Challenger Gets Her Act Together

Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes raises her game in a video about her challenge to GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell.
Grimes For Senate

Originally published on Fri July 26, 2013 1:52 pm

Maybe the Democrat who hopes to unseat Sen. Mitch McConnell is ready for prime time after all.

That's one way to view the highly polished Web video in which Alison Lundergan Grimes, Kentucky's secretary of state, appears, employing humor, pathos, earnestness and her grandmothers to skewer the leader of the Senate Republicans.

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It's All Politics
5:23 pm
Mon July 22, 2013

McConnell's Challenge: Deal-Making Without Fingerprints

Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate minority leader, may have previewed his below-the-radar approach to future negotiations with Democrats during the recent filibuster fight.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Mon July 22, 2013 7:14 pm

It appears that it's just a matter of days before it becomes official that Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate's top Republican, will be forced into a primary by a Louisville businessman with Tea Party backing.

The news that Matthew Bevin, owner of a bell-manufacturing company and an investment company executive, intends to soon announce his effort to oust McConnell is interesting because it appears to place McConnell in something of a bind.

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It's All Politics
4:42 pm
Fri July 19, 2013

Obama Explains Black America To White America

President Obama tackled race head-on in his first on-camera response to George Zimmerman's acquittal in the shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.
Carolyn Kaster AP

Originally published on Fri July 19, 2013 6:08 pm

The days are few and far between when President Obama has intentionally reminded us that he is the first African-American president.

Friday was one.

The president did something no other holder of his office has ever had the life experience to do: He used the bully pulpit to, as an African-American, explain black America to white America in the wake of last week's acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin.

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It's All Politics
9:38 am
Fri July 19, 2013

'Worst Governors' List Has Suspicious Deep Red Tinge

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (left) and Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, both Republicans, made a watchdog group's list of bad governors that has a very disproportionate GOP skew.
Ronda Churchill AP

Originally published on Fri July 19, 2013 12:16 pm

Of the 50 state governors in the U.S., 30 are Republicans and 20 are Democrats, a ratio of 3 to 2.

So when Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonprofit watchdog group, issued a report this week listing 18 governors it alleged are the "worst in America," it immediately raised eyebrows and partisan ire for the notable party tilt of its examples — only two were Democrats.

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It's All Politics
3:23 pm
Wed July 17, 2013

Obama Could Declare An Immigration Amnesty, But ...

President Obama has enough problems with Congress without waving the red cape of a presidential amnesty to immigrants in the U.S. illegally.
Univision screen shot

Originally published on Wed July 17, 2013 5:07 pm

In an interview this week, Univision's Adriana Vargas asked President Obama if, in the event Congress failed to pass immigration legislation, he could simply use his presidential power to give amnesty to the estimated 11 million people currently in the U.S. illegally.

The president didn't exactly shut the door on that possibility, though he did strongly suggest it was a portal he'd rather not go through.

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It's All Politics
1:56 pm
Tue July 16, 2013

3 Reasons The Senate Didn't Go Nuclear

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain was credited by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid with playing a crucial role in the filibuster pact.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Tue July 16, 2013 2:55 pm

With Tuesday's bipartisan agreement to let senators vote on seven of President Obama's previously stalled nominations, the Senate proved that the art of compromise isn't dead in Washington, even if it might be severely wounded.

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It's All Politics
4:13 pm
Mon July 15, 2013

Reid's Limited Senate Options Lead To 'Nuclear' Threat

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid warns that if Republicans don't relent on filibusters, they will leave him no choice but to change the chamber's rules.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Originally published on Mon July 15, 2013 5:23 pm

Sen. Harry Reid may sound a tad hypocritical to some for saying he now supports changing Senate rules in order to end the one that says 60 senators must approve before presidential nominations can get up or down votes. This comes only several years after he indicated he opposed changing the requirement to a simple 51-vote majority.

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It's All Politics
7:32 am
Sun July 7, 2013

Egypt Confronts Obama With Yet Another Limit To His Power

Egyptian supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood hold pictures of deposed President Mohammed Morsi in Cairo on Friday.
AFP AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu July 11, 2013 1:28 pm

As if President Obama's presidency hadn't been humbled enough by the limitations placed on him by the partly GOP-controlled Congress, there's always the recurring problem of Egypt.

The crisis of democracy in that country, specifically the military coup that overthrew former President Mohammed Morsi, has left Obama mostly a spectator to events.

Indeed, he is even less free than the average observer of the events in Egypt since he can't even use the word "coup" to describe the change in government there.

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It's All Politics
4:21 pm
Wed July 3, 2013

Partial Delay In Health Law Challenges Obama More Than Foes

The Affordable Care Act's foes have long had a simpler message than its supporters. The postponement of the law's employer mandate continues that trend.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

It's too soon, obviously, to know how the Obama administration's decision to delay by a year the imposition of penalties on large employers that fail to provide health insurance to their workers will ultimately play out, politically.

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It's All Politics
4:21 pm
Fri June 28, 2013

Gun Group Aims To Stop Immigration Bill

Some gun-rights advocates see a threat to the Second Amendment in Congress' immigration overhaul plans.
Brennan Linsley AP

Originally published on Fri June 28, 2013 4:49 pm

What does an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws have to do with the Second Amendment right to own guns?

If you're the Gun Owners of America, everything.

The GOA, a smaller cousin of the National Rifle Association that often takes an even more aggressive approach, is branding the just-passed Senate immigration bill, with its path to citizenship for people in the country illegally, as an "anti-gun amnesty."

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It's All Politics
4:40 pm
Thu June 27, 2013

Rick Perry Co-Stars In Texas Political Drama

The fight over restrictive abortion legislation in Texas has given Gov. Rick Perry a chance to underscore his conservative credentials.
Tony Gutierrez AP

An irony of the recent Texas political theater: Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis' filibuster aimed at stopping anti-abortion legislation raised not only her profile but that of Republican Gov. Rick Perry.

Shortly after Davis' talkathon ran out the clock on a bill that would potentially have made abortions much harder for women in Texas to obtain after 20 weeks of pregnancy, Perry put himself back in the national headlines.

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It's All Politics
4:35 pm
Fri June 21, 2013

Marco Rubio's Big Problem: Explaining His Immigration Shift

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is a member of the so-called Gang of Eight, a bipartisan group of lawmakers working on immigration reform.
Drew Angerer Getty Images

Originally published on Fri June 21, 2013 7:23 pm

Sen. Marco Rubio has a problem. He has transformed from conservative hero to suspect in the eyes of many on the political right because he now supports "a path to citizenship" for people unlawfully in the U.S. after forcefully opposing it in 2010 when he was running for U.S. Senate.

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It's All Politics
3:58 pm
Thu June 20, 2013

Why The Immigration Fight Seems Like The NBA Finals

The final outcome of the congressional fight over immigration will be as unpredictable as the result of Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
Lynne Sladky AP

Originally published on Thu June 20, 2013 4:57 pm

Maybe Game 6 of the NBA Finals has something to teach us about how to watch the immigration debate now taking place in Congress.

Game 6, of course, was the instant sports classic in which the defending champion Miami Heat made an improbable comeback to tie their series with the San Antonio Spurs, three games apiece.

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It's All Politics
4:15 pm
Wed June 19, 2013

Capitol Hill's Partisan And Racial Divide Cast In Bronze

Vice President Biden joined congressional leaders at the Capitol Hill dedication ceremony for a statue of abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
Carolyn Kaster AP

A 7-foot-tall statue of famed, lion-maned abolitionist Frederick Douglass that was dedicated Wednesday on Capitol Hill is perhaps best understood as a bronze symbol of the partisan divide in Washington and of racial politics.

The ex-slave, who later became a friend of President Abraham Lincoln, was a federal official and an important journalist of his day. It took years for a statue of him to land a spot because it became a proxy in the fight over voting rights and statehood for Washington, D.C.

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It's All Politics
4:50 pm
Tue June 18, 2013

Boehner Seeks To Reassure House GOP On Immigration

House Speaker John Boehner is getting flak from fellow Republicans over immigration legislation.
Susan Walsh AP

Originally published on Tue June 18, 2013 8:29 pm

Faced with the threat of mutiny for what seems like the umpteenth time during his speakership, John Boehner moved to mollify fellow Republicans on Tuesday, saying immigration legislation would need the support of a majority of the House GOP before it could be brought to a floor vote.

After emerging from a meeting with House Republicans, following days of warnings by conservatives that the Ohio Republican had better not try to pass an immigration bill with mostly Democratic votes, Boehner sought to calm the roiling Republican waters.

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It's All Politics
2:58 pm
Tue June 18, 2013

Obama's Unplanned NSA Discussion

President Obama listens to French President Francois Hollande during the G-8 summit at the Lough Erne golf resort in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, on Tuesday.
Evan Vucci AP

You have to wonder if President Obama ever thought, when he first ran for the White House, that he would need to defend himself from accusations his presidency would be a mere extension of his Republican predecessor.

But there he was with journalist Charlie Rose having to explain why his approach to national security wasn't really like that of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

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It's All Politics
5:15 pm
Mon June 17, 2013

Voting Rights Groups Get High Court Win As Bigger Case Looms

Election Day volunteer Vicki Groff places a sign to direct voters to a polling station at Kenilworth School in Phoenix in 2012.
Jonathan Gibby Getty Images

Advocates of tougher voter registration standards have racked up wins in recent years — voter ID laws have taken hold across the nation, for example.

But those who believe that government should make voting as easy as possible just gained a significant victory with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision slapping down an Arizona law that required potential voters to prove their citizenship.

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It's All Politics
3:04 pm
Fri June 14, 2013

Think Your Job's Hard? Try Being A Congressional Spy Watcher

Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky arrives in Chicago with President Obama in March.
Paul Beaty AP

Originally published on Fri June 14, 2013 3:32 pm

As the controversy over the National Security Agency's phone and Internet data gathering reminds us, one of Congress' most challenging assignments is oversight of the nation's intelligence community.

Keeping tabs on the part of the federal government that constantly invokes national security to justify its opaqueness has its obvious difficulties and frustrations.

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It's All Politics
4:42 pm
Wed June 12, 2013

Mass. Senate Race May Be Feeling Washington Scandal Fallout

Recent polls suggest Massachusetts Republican Gabriel Gomez (left) is within striking distance of Rep. Ed Markey (right) in a contest for a U.S. Senate seat.
AP

Originally published on Wed June 12, 2013 6:12 pm

With two weeks until the Massachusetts special Senate election, the obvious question is: Can Republicans pull off another stunning upset like they did three years ago?

Back then, in the very blue Bay State, Republican Scott Brown won the seat left vacant by Ted Kennedy's death by riding a Tea Party and anti-Obamacare wave amplified by voter distress over a sour economy.

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It's All Politics
12:55 pm
Tue June 11, 2013

Obama's Immigration Dilemma: Leading While Following

A White House event on Tuesday, where President Obama was aware that his support for immigration legislation could be the kiss of death.
Charles Dharapak AP

Originally published on Tue June 11, 2013 1:34 pm

If you want to observe one of Washington's most delicate balancing acts, look no further than President Obama's effort to assert leadership on immigration legislation without its coming to be identified as a new Obamalaw.

Because they're keenly aware of how nearly any legislative effort that becomes known as the president's baby almost immediately makes his political foes hellbent on stopping it and denying him a victory, Obama and other White House officials have been committed to letting Congress take the lead on major legislation like immigration reform.

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It's All Politics
5:24 pm
Mon June 10, 2013

Lawmakers Work To Gauge Public Mood On NSA And Leaker

Demonstrators hold signs supporting Edward Snowden in New York's Union Square Park, on Monday. Snowden, who says he worked as a contractor at the National Security Agency and the CIA, gave classified documents to reporters, making public two sweeping U.S. surveillance programs and touching off a national debate on privacy versus security.
Richard Drew AP

Originally published on Mon June 10, 2013 6:17 pm

When it comes to secrets leaker Edward Snowden and the National Security Agency's phone records and Internet snooping, some in Congress face a dilemma.

Namely, how to read public opinion.

Speaking off the record, aides for Republican and Democratic House lawmakers told me they are getting constituent calls on both sides: from those urging that Snowden not be prosecuted and those insisting he should be.

An aide for one congressman told me her boss's staff was holding off on issuing a statement until it had the chance to further gauge the voters' mood.

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It's All Politics
12:39 pm
Mon June 10, 2013

Partisan Feuds Roll On In IRS Investigation

It would be a vast understatement to say that Republican Rep. Darrell Issa (right) of California and Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland don't see eye to eye on the IRS scandal's latest development.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Mon June 10, 2013 1:09 pm

It looks like things may be getting even uglier than usual over in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The panel now headed by Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican, has long been a place to watch partisan tempers fly.

But the assertion by the panel's top Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, that the investigation into the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative groups should be closed appears to have only escalated the bad feelings that already existed.

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