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
3:06 pm
Fri December 27, 2013

5 Achievements Of The 113th Congress (So Far)

Congress managed to get a few things accomplished in 2013, with an emphasis on "few."
T.J. Kirkpatrick Getty Images

The 113th Congress, which just ended its first year, has come to be defined more by what it hasn't done than what it has. With two warring and ideologically polarized parties controlling either end of Capitol Hill, Congress has more or less become a quagmire for policy.

Still, one of the least productive Congresses of the modern era was able to accomplish a few things in 2013. Here are five of them:

1. Going Nuclear

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It's All Politics
11:32 am
Wed December 18, 2013

5 Things We Learned From The Budget Debate

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., takes a break from the Senate floor Tuesday after a bipartisan budget compromise cleared a procedural hurdle.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 5:08 pm

Now that the bipartisan budget agreement has passed the Senate and is headed for the president's desk, it's a good time to consider some of the takeaways from the past two weeks of congressional Sturm und Drang.

Here are five:

Congress still works, sort of.

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It's All Politics
3:47 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 5:17 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
6:02 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 7:00 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
6:18 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
1:41 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 3:46 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
6:09 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

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
5:27 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 11:35 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
6:27 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

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
6:44 pm
Tue December 3, 2013

Lawmakers In Name Only? Congress Reaches Productivity Lows

Speaker John Boehner told reporters Tuesday that if a productivity problem existed in Congress, it was in the Senate, not his House.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Tue December 3, 2013 7:00 pm

Here's a variation of the does-a-falling-tree-make-a-sound-if-no-one-hears-it riddle: Can the House be considered productive if it passes bills the Senate won't ever take up and the president won't ever sign?

According to Speaker John Boehner, the answer is yes — the House can be judged as very productive under such circumstances.

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It's All Politics
3:10 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 6:06 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
2:38 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
6:48 pm
Tue November 26, 2013

Obama Helps 2014 Democrats One Way He Still Can — With Cash

Marine One, with President Obama aboard, lands at a Los Angeles park on Monday as part of Obama's three-day West Coast trip that combined fundraising and official business.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Originally published on Tue November 26, 2013 6:50 pm

Should President Obama be as unpopular once the 2014 midterm campaign is in full swing as he is now, there are likely to be more than a few vulnerable Democrats who'd prefer that he stay as far away from their districts as possible.

But the money he's raising for their campaigns is an entirely different matter.

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It's All Politics
4:30 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 8:49 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
4:19 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 6:06 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
12:07 pm
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 1:45 pm

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
8:15 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 9:15 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
5:54 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 8:14 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
1:15 pm
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 3:21 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
9:01 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 10:25 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
8:42 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 9:12 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
8:14 pm
Tue November 12, 2013

With Pressure From All Sides, Obamacare Vise Tightens On Dems

Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., the second-highest-ranking House Democrat, didn't close the door to supporting a Republican bill that would allow people to keep policies canceled under Obamacare.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Tue November 12, 2013 7:23 pm

Democrats at the White House and in Congress find themselves in an ever-tightening vise over all those canceled health insurance policies.

House Republicans plan a vote as soon as Friday on a bill that would allow people to keep health plans they like, just as President Obama said they'd be able to (until it became clear they couldn't) under the Affordable Care Act.

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It's All Politics
12:42 pm
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 4:06 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
8:45 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 9:44 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
12:59 pm
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 2:31 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
8:59 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 4:58 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
5:13 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 6:16 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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New York
9:42 pm
Tue November 5, 2013

Bill De Blasio Wins New York City Mayoral Election

Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio with his daughter Chiara and son Dante as he talks to the media in Brooklyn after voting, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013.
Mark Lennihan AP

Originally published on Tue November 5, 2013 11:17 pm

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.

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New Jersey
8:23 pm
Tue November 5, 2013

Gov. Chris Christie Wins Re-Election In N.J.

Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie with wife, Mary Pat Christie, after they voted.
Mel Evans AP

Originally published on Tue November 5, 2013 11:16 pm

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.

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It's All Politics
8:41 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

Originally published on Tue November 5, 2013 8:59 am

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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