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
11:50 am
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 12:45 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
7:36 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 8:15 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
4:54 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 7:14 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
12:15 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 2:21 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
8:01 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 9:25 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
7:49 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 8:12 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
11:42 am
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 3:06 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
8:14 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 8:44 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
11:59 am
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 1:31 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
7:35 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 3:58 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
3:56 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 5:16 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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It's All Politics
7:57 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 7:59 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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It's All Politics
4:43 pm
Mon November 4, 2013

Biden, A Man Of Many Words, Omits One At Va. Rally: 'Obama'

Vice President Biden is greeted by Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va., before speaking at a backyard rally for Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe on Monday.
Jacquelyn Martin AP

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.

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It's All Politics
7:56 am
Mon November 4, 2013

Monday Political Mix: A Congressman Comes Out

Originally published on Mon November 4, 2013 8:15 am

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.

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It's All Politics
6:24 pm
Fri November 1, 2013

3 Lessons For Future Presidents From Obamacare's Ills

President Obama speaks about the Affordable Care Act on Wednesday in Boston.
Jewel Samad AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri November 1, 2013 7:04 pm

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.

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It's All Politics
8:01 am
Fri November 1, 2013

Senate Judicial Fights Become As Much About Obama As His Picks

On June 4, President Obama introduces his nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit: from right, Patricia Ann Millett, Cornelia T. L. Pillard and Robert L. Wilkins.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

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.

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It's All Politics
7:34 am
Fri November 1, 2013

Friday Political Mix: Democratic Jitters Over Obamacare's Woes

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough after anxious Senate Democrats met privately on Capitol Hill with Obama administration officials about Obamacare, Oct. 31, 2013.
J. Scott Applewhite - AP Photos J. Scott Applewhite AP

Good morning, fellow political junkies.

It's one month since the Affordable Care Act's health-exchange website went live and many Democrats would clearly love a do-over.

While that won't be forthcoming, they did get some handholding from Obama administration officials Thursday. But it will take more than that to quell the jitters as Democrats see what they had hoped would be a political asset in 2014, their signature healthcare legislation, threaten to become a liability.

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It's All Politics
8:18 am
Thu October 31, 2013

Thursday Political Mix: For Obama, Halloween Comes Everyday

Pumpkins with likenesses of President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama on display at Madame Tussauds in New York, October 22, 2013.
EMMANUEL DUNAND AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu October 31, 2013 8:35 am

Happy Halloween, fellow political junkies.

It was predictable that President Obama would face more political tricks than treats as a re-elected president than he did as a new one if only because, unlike his first term, he started his second with a Republican House largely hostile to him and his agenda.

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It's All Politics
10:08 am
Wed October 30, 2013

Tale Of The Tape: Comparing The Budget Committee Heads

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., differ in style and ideology but show signs of having a good working relationship.
Win McNamee Getty Images

Originally published on Wed October 30, 2013 1:17 pm

Two wily veterans of Congress' fiscal wars will lead the budget talks scheduled to start Wednesday: Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the heads of the House and Senate budget committees.

As the 29 lawmakers on the budget conference committee — 22 from the Senate and seven from the House — sit down to begin negotiations, they'll have in Ryan and Murray two lawmakers who from most accounts get along well despite their many differences.

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It's All Politics
6:37 am
Wed October 30, 2013

Wednesday Political Mix: Obama's 'Read My Lips' ACA Problem

President Obama would like you to remember that Obamacare was based on Massachusetts legislation signed in 2006 by then governor and Republican Mitt Romney, pictured at the signing ceremony. And that rollout started slowly, too.
Elise Amendola AP

Originally published on Wed October 30, 2013 10:40 am

Good morning, fellow political junkies.

The Affordable Care Act should dominate Wednesday's news cycle thanks to scheduled high-profile appearances by President Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to defend the law.

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It's All Politics
7:38 am
Tue October 29, 2013

Tuesday Political Mix: Obamacare Official In The Batter's Box

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, (who we're sure was not intentionally making the "choke" sign) and Marilyn Tavenner, head of the HHS agency that oversaw the Obamacare website project.
Manuel Balce Ceneta AP

Originally published on Tue October 29, 2013 8:39 am

Good Tuesday morning, fellow political junkies.

As you go through your day, keep this in mind: at least you're not Marilyn Tavenner. When critics of the Obama administration's botched launch of the Affordable Care Act call for heads to metaphorically roll, Tavenner, the top official of the Health and Human Services agency that oversaw the ill-fated website project, is high on that list.

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It's All Politics
7:37 am
Mon October 28, 2013

Monday Morning Political Mix: Obamacare Site Hits Another Snag

President Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr in Russia in September in happier times before revelations that the NSA electronically eavesdropped on U.S. allies.
Ivan Sekretarev AP

Originally published on Mon October 28, 2013 9:54 am

Good morning, fellow political junkies.

It's the last week of October. That means the administration has just a month to meet its self-imposed deadline to have the Affordable Care Act website running as efficiently as it and millions of Americans had originally envisioned.

But the first item in our Monday political mix of some of the more interesting tidbits that caught my eye this morning indicates why setting such a deadline might be easier than meeting it.

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It's All Politics
3:59 pm
Wed October 23, 2013

White House Turns To 'Rock Star' Manager For Obamacare Fix

Jeffrey Zients was tapped to help fix problems with the Obama administration's heath care website.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Wed October 23, 2013 5:58 pm

Jeffrey Zients isn't exactly a household name. But if he can cure what ails the Affordable Care Act website, he'll be one of the best-known figures in the Obama administration.

Zients (rhymes with Heinz) is the professional manager President Obama turned to in order to solve the by-now-infamous problems with the federal government's health care exchange website.

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It's All Politics
6:30 pm
Tue October 22, 2013

For Democrats, Obamacare Web Woes Create 2014 Headache

Glitches in the HealthCare.gov website, shown here, are making the White House and its allies very nervous.
Uncredited AP

Originally published on Tue October 22, 2013 7:11 pm

President Obama radiated confidence when he took to the Rose Garden earlier this week to convince Americans that the flaws in the Affordable Care Act website would be fixed.

It's understandable that the president himself might be upbeat about the prospects of resolving the problems currently plaguing the technology behind the law.

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It's All Politics
5:03 pm
Mon October 21, 2013

5 Questions Kathleen Sebelius Must Answer

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is likely to have a very long day when she testifies before Congress about the Affordable Care Act website problems.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Originally published on Mon October 21, 2013 6:12 pm

The hottest hot seat in Washington is the one occupied by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, whose office confirmed Monday she'll testify about the Internet disaster that is HealthCare.gov, the Affordable Care Act website.

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