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
1:34 am
Wed January 29, 2014

5 Things We Learned From The President's Speech

President Obama delivers his State of the Union speech on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.
Larry Downing Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Wed January 29, 2014 8:21 am

Much of what was in President Obama's fifth State of the Union address was expected — it was signaled for days leading into the speech. Even so, there were a few revealing moments.

Here are five that stood out:

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It's All Politics
6:49 am
Tue January 28, 2014

5 Things To Expect In Obama's State Of The Union Address

President Obama gestures to Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner before giving his 2013 State of the Union address.
Charles Dharapak AP

Originally published on Tue January 28, 2014 1:35 pm

As President Obama prepares to deliver his State of the Union speech Tuesday evening, he does it against a backdrop of some of the lowest voter-approval ratings of his presidency, with a divided Congress that has largely stalled his second-term agenda and with Washington's collective focus starting to shift toward the midterm elections and beyond.

Here are five things to expect from the president in his fifth State of the Union speech:

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It's All Politics
3:13 pm
Tue January 21, 2014

Obama's Marijuana Remarks Light Up Legalization Debate

President Obama graces the cover of Cannabis Now magazine at the HempCon medical marijuana show, May 24, 2013, in Los Angeles.
Robyn Beck AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue January 21, 2014 4:50 pm

That President Obama could openly speculate about marijuana being less dangerous than alcohol — and embrace the state-level legalization of the drug — is a measure of just how far the nation has moved since the 1980s.

Back then, the Reagan administration's approach was absolute: "Just Say No." It's more complicated today.

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It's All Politics
5:01 pm
Fri January 17, 2014

Congress Vows To Step Up To Surveillance Policy Challenge

National Security Agency Director Gen. Keith Alexander and Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., after President Obama's speech.
Charles Dharapak AP

If there was a consensus emanating from Congress Friday after President Obama's NSA reform speech, it was — not surprisingly — that Congress itself has a major role to play in the ultimate fix.

Whether from strong NSA supporters or agency critics, the reactions sounded similar: Congress intends to do much of the steering in the drive to overhaul the NSA's gathering of certain non-public information, especially consumer phone records, in the nation's counterterrorism efforts.

Even so, if you listened closely, you could hear the sound of politics in some of the reaction.

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It's All Politics
3:36 pm
Thu January 16, 2014

For Obama And Senate Democrats, The Goal Is Mutual Protection

Senate Democrats at the White House last fall during the government shutdown fight.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

For President Obama and Senate Democrats, who gathered in a White House meeting Wednesday, it's all about mutual aid at this point.

If Obama is to maintain any leverage in Congress, he needs Democrats to keep control of the Senate since the House appears likely to remain in Republican hands. And if his second term agenda has any hope of being achieved — such as tackling income inequality, overhauling immigration or reaching a durable nuclear deal with Iran — he'll need a Democratic Senate majority working side-by-side with him.

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It's All Politics
10:16 am
Tue January 14, 2014

Bridge Scandal Creates Unique Hurdles For Christie

Democratic New Jersey Assemblymen (from left) Lou Greenwald, John S. Wisniewski and Vincent Prieto take questions at a news conference announcing a renewed investigation into the George Washington Bridge scandal.
Mel Evans AP

Originally published on Tue January 14, 2014 11:23 am

By most accounts, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie passed the leadership challenge posed by Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

But the political storm created by the George Washington Bridge scandal is testing him in different ways, fueled by a combination of factors that make it difficult even for a politician as manifestly self-assured as Christie.

Christie will have a promising opportunity Tuesday to move beyond the mess caused by the politically inspired closing of toll lanes on the nation's busiest bridge in his State of the State speech.

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It's All Politics
4:16 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

Gates Memoir Could Prove Helpful To Hillary Clinton In 2016

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates writes in his new memoir that Hillary Clinton "is a superb representative of the United States all over the world."
Charles Dharapak AP

Originally published on Fri January 10, 2014 5:34 pm

In his new memoir, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates made a fairly serious charge against Hillary Clinton that likely will hound her if she decides to run for president in 2016: that she admitted in his presence that there were political considerations in her opposition to the U.S. military surge in Iraq.

As soon as the first excerpts of Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War surfaced, many Republicans pounced on Gates' recollection of the Obama-Clinton Iraq surge conversation.

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It's All Politics
2:07 pm
Tue January 7, 2014

GOP's 2014 Resolution: Keep Pounding Democrats On Obamacare

Reince Priebus, Republican National Committee chairman, said Tuesday the GOP will continue to point the finger of blame for the Affordable Care Act at vulnerable Democrats.
Damian Dovarganes AP

When a reporter asked Reince Priebus Tuesday if Republicans would respond to a question about any issue by somehow directing the conversation back to the Affordable Care Act, the Republican National Committee chairman answered tongue-in-cheek.

"The answer is Obamacare," he said. "No, I'm just kidding."

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It's All Politics
4:09 pm
Mon January 6, 2014

4 Lessons From Liz Cheney's Ill-Fated Senate Run

Liz Cheney campaigns in Casper, Wyo., on July 17, one day after announcing her GOP primary challenge to Sen. Mike Enzi.
Matt Young AP

Originally published on Tue January 7, 2014 6:26 am

Liz Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, ended her Wyoming Senate primary challenge Monday, saying in a statement that a family health situation is responsible for her decision. (ABC News reports that sources close to Cheney said one of her daughters has diabetes.)

Even before family health issues arose, Cheney's apparently dimming prospects against GOP Sen. Mike Enzi would have been enough to give pause to many candidates.

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It's All Politics
4:08 pm
Fri January 3, 2014

House GOP Puts Another 'Target' On Obamacare

House Republicans plan to start the new year with a vote on HealthCare.gov that will place Democrats in a politically tough spot.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Fri January 3, 2014 7:32 pm

Updated at 7:55 p.m. ET

When Congress returns next week, House Republicans will welcome their Democratic colleagues with a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't vote.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., has let it be known that the House will vote on legislation ostensibly meant to protect Americans from HealthCare.gov data breaches. Several Republicans have introduced HealthCare.gov-related security bills, so Cantor has plenty of material to work with.

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It's All Politics
12:22 pm
Fri January 3, 2014

7 Political Dates To Watch In 2014

Vice President Biden and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio applaud President Obama as he gives his State of the Union address during a joint session of Congress on Feb. 12, 2013.
Charles Dharapak AP

Originally published on Fri January 3, 2014 5:01 pm

With November midterm elections looming, 2014 promises much more political catnip than 2013.

It's a year with a full roster of House, Senate and gubernatorial races, but 2014 is also likely to prove to be another critical period for the Affordable Care Act as an important deadline comes early and the Supreme Court takes up another aspect of the health law.

Here are some of the most important dates to watch:

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It's All Politics
11:30 am
Tue December 31, 2013

2013: The Year In Political Screw-Ups

The partial federal government shutdown was a political misstep that will be remembered for years to come.
Carolyn Kaster AP

Originally published on Tue December 31, 2013 1:34 pm

If anything defined 2013, it was the political misstep. There were so many gaffes, flaps, scandals and ill-advised moves that voters were often left scratching their heads at the political class's uncanny knack for diminishing its profession.

Here are eight of the more memorable screw-ups:

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It's All Politics
2:06 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
10:32 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 4:08 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
2:47 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 4:17 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
5:02 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 6:00 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
5:18 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
1:14 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 2:46 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
5:09 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
4:27 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 10:35 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
4:22 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

Originally published on Thu December 5, 2013 5:27 pm

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
1:31 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 5:06 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
1:38 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
3:30 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 7:49 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
4:13 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 5:06 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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