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
10:38 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 1:16 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
4:23 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 6:07 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
2:56 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 3:55 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
5:13 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 6:23 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
5:21 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
6:47 pm
Mon July 1, 2013

Texas Abortion Fight Follows Familiar Pattern

Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis at an abortion-rights rally in Austin on Monday.
Eric Gay AP

For many watching the abortion fight in Texas, it's deja vu all over again.

Abortion-rights protesters once again gathered Monday at the state capitol building to express their outrage at the Legislature's attempt to further restrict abortions in the state. The images from Austin looked a lot like the previous week's when state Sen. Wendy Davis famously filibustered to stop the legislation from passing.

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It's All Politics
5:49 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

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
6:50 pm
Thu June 27, 2013

Senate's Immigration Joy Could Turn To Ashes In House

Originally published on Thu June 27, 2013 6:52 pm

The Senate's "Gang of Eight" on the immigration overhaul legislation became a gang of 68 when all was said and done Thursday.

And that number is important, especially to the senators. Supporters of the immigration bill in the Democratic-controlled Senate have said a strong bipartisan Senate vote for the legislation would put enough pressure on the House to force it to take up comprehensive legislation.

If the Senate couldn't get to 70 votes, the thinking went, nearing that mark could give an immigration overhaul unstoppable momentum in Congress.

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It's All Politics
5:33 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

Originally published on Thu June 27, 2013 5:40 pm

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
5:15 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
5:50 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 9:29 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
3:26 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

Originally published on Tue June 18, 2013 3:58 pm

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
6:15 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
3:42 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 4:32 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
5:55 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 7:12 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
2:25 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 2:34 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
6:24 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 7:17 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
2:09 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

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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It's All Politics
3:10 pm
Fri June 7, 2013

United States Of Outrage: NSA, IRS Overreaches Spark Bipartisan Ire

President Obama speaks at Mooresville Middle School in Mooresville, N.C., on Thursday.
Evan Vucci AP

Originally published on Fri June 7, 2013 7:14 pm

Even in an era of stark political polarization, there are still some issues that can draw Americans together and scramble the normal ideological fault lines.

Recent revelations about the Internal Revenue Service and the National Security Agency are among them.

Unlike the debates over Obamacare or President Obama himself, which tend to be more litmus tests for party affiliation than anything else, the reactions to reports about overreach by the Internal Revenue Service and the National Security Agency have brought normally warring partisans together.

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It's All Politics
5:31 pm
Thu June 6, 2013

On National Security, Obama Follows Bush's Lead

President Obama and former President George W. Bush are joined by more than a handshake. Their national security policies link them, too.
Charles Dharapak AP

Originally published on Thu June 6, 2013 6:44 pm

It's an overstatement to say that it's beginning to look like President George W. Bush's fourth term.

Still, that characterization by former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer carried the ring of truth Thursday with the report that a National Security Agency telecommunications program that Americans first became aware of under Bush has continued under Obama.

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It's All Politics
1:31 pm
Wed June 5, 2013

5 Takeaways From Obama's Susan Rice Appointment

President Obama's choice of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice as his next national security adviser is one way of reminding his conservative foes he can still confound them.
Bebeto Matthews AP

Originally published on Wed June 5, 2013 2:42 pm

It wasn't exactly a surprise to hear that President Obama named U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice as his next national security adviser.

Almost as soon as it became clear that her role in the administration's Benghazi talking-points snafu meant Senate Republicans would never let her be confirmed as secretary of state if Obama nominated her, the possibility of her taking over from Tom Donilon as Obama's top national security aide was frequently mentioned.

Still, speculation is one thing; an actual appointment, another. So what to make of Rice's appointment?

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It's All Politics
6:05 pm
Tue June 4, 2013

Christie Finesses Challenge Created By Senate Vacancy

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie listens to a question during his news conference Tuesday in Trenton, N.J.
Mel Evans AP

Originally published on Tue June 4, 2013 6:12 pm

Only time will tell how well New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie finessed a decision that seemed to pit his personal interests against those of the broader public.

But by calling an Oct. 16 special election to replace the late Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg, it appears the governor took the most politically advantageous option available to him.

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It's All Politics
5:31 pm
Mon June 3, 2013

White House-Issa Fight: Nasty But Normal In Washington

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, is just doing what Congress does at times of divided government.
Carolyn Kaster AP

Originally published on Mon June 3, 2013 6:35 pm

Anyone searching for the place where the friction between the Obama White House and congressional Republicans is throwing off the most angry sparks need look no further than the clashes between the administration and Rep. Darrell Issa.

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It's All Politics
2:39 pm
Fri May 31, 2013

Romney Not Done With Politics

Former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks at the 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md., in March.
Jacquelyn Martin AP

Originally published on Fri May 31, 2013 3:10 pm

Mitt Romney may have lost the biggest prize in American politics last year, but that doesn't mean he's left the game for good.

While there's no evidence to suggest he's interested in a third consecutive run for the White House, the man who topped the 2012 Republican national ticket is signaling his intent to play a role in the 2014 midterm election.

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It's All Politics
6:02 pm
Thu May 30, 2013

War Zone Visit A McCain Trademark

In this photo provided by Mouaz Moustafa and the Syrian Emergency Task Force, Sen. John McCain, accompanied by Moustafa (right) visits rebels in Syria on Monday. McCain, who slipped into the country for a surprise visit, favors providing arms to rebel forces in Syria.
Mouaz Moustafa AP

There are risks aplenty for a U.S. lawmaker who makes a surprise visit to a war zone, as Sen. John McCain recently did when he crossed the border from Turkey into Syria.

The perils to life and limb go without saying. But there are also other risks: trying to tell the good guys from the bad guys; or being victimized by disinformation from unfriendly Middle Eastern interests.

While McCain got out unscathed from Syria, where he visited rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces, he may have had less success navigating the other risks.

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It's All Politics
5:36 pm
Tue May 28, 2013

Why Bob Dole's Advice To His Party Fell Flat

Bob Dole, the former U.S. senator and Republican Party leader from Kansas, during his Fox News Sunday interview.
Fox News Sunday screenshot

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 7:26 pm

The reaction was predictably negative: When former Sen. Bob Dole on Sunday criticized how far the current party has shifted right and advised fellow Republicans to take a timeout for a party self-examination, conservatives almost immediately dismissed him as an anachronism.

One of the few — if not the only — Republicans who seemed willing to openly support the 1996 GOP presidential nominee and former Senate party leader Tuesday was another marginalized former senator, Republican Olympia Snowe of Maine.

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It's All Politics
6:15 pm
Fri May 24, 2013

Obama's Terrorism Fight Is Colored Gray, Not Black And White

Protests like this one in 2010 in Pakistan in part led President Obama to recalibrate when U.S. officials will order drone strikes, as part of a nuanced policy.
B.K. Bangash AP

It's difficult for an American president to govern through nuance, especially when it's necessary to persuade a majority of the people that certain actions are essential for national security. And effective persuasion usually requires clarity.

That's how you arrive at President George W. Bush's stark formulation "You're either with us, or you're with the terrorists" after Sept. 11, and much of what sprang from it.

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It's All Politics
4:51 pm
Thu May 23, 2013

Black Caucus Leader: We Disagree With Presidents, Even Obama

Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, says her group fears an immigration overhaul that greatly expands high-tech visas could have an adverse impact on blacks aspiring to such jobs.
Susan Walsh AP

Originally published on Thu May 23, 2013 6:20 pm

During his time as the first black president in the White House, President Obama has occasionally been criticized by a group he once belonged to as a U.S. senator — the Congressional Black Caucus — for not doing more to ameliorate the difficult lives of many African-Americans.

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It's All Politics
6:25 pm
Wed May 22, 2013

Lois Lerner's Brief And Awful Day On Capitol Hill

Lois Lerner, head of the IRS unit that decides whether to grant tax-exempt status to groups, leaves after being dismissed from a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on Wednesday.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Thu May 23, 2013 10:11 am

The public got its first look Thursday at Lois Lerner, who has gone from faceless IRS bureaucrat to the face that launched what feels like 1,000 congressional hearings and conspiracy theories.

But it was only a brief sighting since she didn't stay long at a House hearing to further probe her role in how some IRS workers came to target conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.

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It's All Politics
5:13 pm
Tue May 21, 2013

Former IRS Head To Senate: It Wasn't My Fault

Former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman testifies Tuesday on Capitol Hill, before a Senate Finance Committee hearing.
Charles Dharapak AP

It was the Senate's turn Tuesday to grill the Internal Revenue Service, or more accurately, former agency officials, about its handling of the scandal involving the targeting of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.

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