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
5:08 pm
Mon March 10, 2014

Gas Exports Debate Makes Better Domestic Politics Than Geopolitics

Lawmakers and others are calling on the Obama administration to increase natural gas exports to Europe in an attempt to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin for his Ukraine incursion.
Alexei Nikolsky AP

Originally published on Mon March 10, 2014 6:35 pm

Russia's intervention in Ukraine has sparked another debate over the Obama administration's energy policy.

Russia is a major provider of natural gas to Western Europe. That's caused some U.S. policymakers — largely but not exclusively congressional Republicans — to call on the Obama administration to clear the way for increased exports of U.S. natural gas to Europe. That's a two-fer, they argue: It would diminish Russia while helping the domestic energy industry.

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It's All Politics
5:03 pm
Fri March 7, 2014

CPAC's Conservative-Libertarian Split Could Be Hard To Bridge

Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky speaks at the Conservative Political Action Committee annual conference in National Harbor, Md., on Friday.
Susan Walsh AP

If any two issues illustrate how difficult it could be for the part of the Republican Party represented by the social and national security conservatives to bridge their differences with libertarians, same-sex marriage and National Security Agency intelligence are good candidates

Discussions at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference got testy Friday, when libertarians defended positions out of synch with the more traditional stances that have defined the Republican Party for decades.

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It's All Politics
10:30 am
Thu March 6, 2014

CPAC 2014: Reading The Tea (Party) Leaves

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida is likely to be popular at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference, but the Tea Party might not be getting all of the attention.
Brendan Smialowski AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu March 6, 2014 1:00 pm

The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the annual gathering of conservatives which is part pep rally, part trade show, part revival meeting and part political cattle call, rolls into Washington this week.

As the 2014 version gets underway, one of the major questions hanging over the event is this: how much juice does the Tea Party still have?

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It's All Politics
4:59 pm
Wed March 5, 2014

Bill Clinton, Party-Builder In Chief

Former President Clinton was the one modern Democratic president who focused on building up his party, an effort he continues today.
Luke Sharrett Getty Images

President Obama may be the standard bearer of the Democratic Party, but his unpopularity in some parts of the country means there are certain places on the campaign trail where it's best for him to stay away.

Enter former President Clinton, who can go where Obama fears to tread.

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It's All Politics
3:03 pm
Mon March 3, 2014

Ukraine Is The Latest Overseas Crisis To Blur DC's Partisan Lines

Though some conservatives said President Obama's alleged weakness led to Russian President Vladimir Putin's Ukraine invasion, reaction didn't follow the usual partisan lines.
Mikhail Klimentyev AP

To the list of political issues with which we began this mid-term election year, which had the Affordable Care Act and the economy at the top, we can now add Russia's involvement in Ukraine.

But while the domestic issues divide along fairly clear blue and red lines, the political question of what the U.S. should do about Russian President Vladimir Putin's deployment of the Russian military into Ukraine's Crimea is scrambling Washington's normal partisan lines.

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It's All Politics
4:56 pm
Fri February 28, 2014

Hillary Clinton's Political Acumen And Other Tidbits From New Docs

Newly released documents by the Clinton Presidential Library shed light on Hillary Clinton's time as first lady.
Mark Wilson Associated Press

Did we learn anything new about Hillary Clinton from the documents released Friday by the Clinton Presidential Library? Was there anything that could matter if she decides to run for president?

The answer so far appears to be no. That said, there were still aspects of the documents that were singled out as interesting flashbacks to Clinton's time as first lady.

Against Individual Mandate Before She Was For It

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It's All Politics
12:18 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

Pentagon Cuts Promise Political Pain

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel briefs reporters at the Pentagon on Monday. Hagel and President Obama will need to fight through a wall of resistance to their proposed defense budget cuts, say former members of a defense base closing commission.
Carolyn Kaster AP

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 1:17 pm

Cutting defense spending in Washington is about as popular as proposing Social Security cuts. In other words, not very.

Which explains why, following Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's announcement Monday that the Obama administration's new budget would propose shrinking the Army, closing bases and ditching weapons systems, the responses from Capitol Hill lawmakers have been some version of "over my dead body."

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It's All Politics
5:03 pm
Mon February 24, 2014

The Lessons Of John Dingell's Departure

Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., whose House career stretches nearly 60 years, will retire at the end of his term as the longest-serving member of Congress in history.
Manuel Balce Ceneta AP

Originally published on Mon February 24, 2014 6:23 pm

Nearly every news account Monday of Rep. John Dingell's retirement announcement made mention of his amazing longevity — the Michigan Democrat is the longest-serving member in the history of Congress.

While his durability is the stuff of legend, it's also remarkable that an accomplished, heavyweight legislator like Dingell stayed so long into an era of congressional dysfunction.

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It's All Politics
5:04 pm
Tue February 18, 2014

Democrats Seek Cure For GOP Obamacare Attacks

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., at the House Democrats' recent retreat where much of the discussion was about countering the GOP's messaging against the Affordable Care Act.
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI AFP/Getty Images

House Democrats know they can run but can't hide from Republican attacks on the Affordable Care Act.

So they've decided on a four-pronged counter message as they try to withstand the GOP pummeling.

  • Embrace the parts of the law that are broadly popular like the ban on insurance companies excluding people for pre-existing conditions.
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It's All Politics
3:09 pm
Thu February 13, 2014

Debt Ceiling Vote Relied On GOP's 'Tough Vote' Caucus

House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (left), and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (right) were among the 28 Republicans whose votes made it possible for most other Republicans to vote against the debt ceiling hike.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Fri February 14, 2014 2:08 pm

Within the House Republican Conference, an unofficial "tough vote" caucus is taking shape.

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It's All Politics
4:10 pm
Fri February 7, 2014

House Republicans May Get To Immigration, Just Not Now

House Speaker John Boehner isn't necessarily walking away from an immigration law overhaul this year.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Fri February 7, 2014 7:31 pm

In politics, it always comes down to timing. And right now, it appears the timing just isn't right for congressional Republicans to take up an immigration overhaul.

If you read between the lines, that's what Speaker John Boehner was saying when he talked earlier in the week about how "difficult" the immigration issue is. And it's what GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell was saying when he indicated earlier in the week that he didn't see immigration overhaul happening this year at all.

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It's All Politics
10:48 am
Fri February 7, 2014

What If Hillary Clinton Doesn't Run?

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivers remarks to the National Automobile Dealers Association meeting in New Orleans on Jan. 27.
Gerald Herbert AP

Originally published on Fri February 7, 2014 2:13 pm

The groundwork being laid for a Hillary Clinton presidential run in 2016 overlooks a single, almost unthinkable scenario: What if she doesn't run?

After all, while that might sound like heresy to the various Democratic groups now raising money, locking down political talent and generally acting as a campaign-in-waiting on her behalf, it's not certain she will run.

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It's All Politics
6:22 am
Thu February 6, 2014

Senate Retreats Offer Chance To Bond, Plot Strategy

President Obama's motorcade returns to the White House after visiting with Senate Democrats at their retreat at Washington Nationals Park.
Carolyn Kaster AP

It was annual Senate retreat time in Washington this week, a moment when senators get away from the U.S. Capitol, free themselves of their staffs and daily legislative, office and fundraising chores, and try to gain some fresh perspective.

They didn't go far, mind you. Senate Democrats met Wednesday at Washington Nationals Park about a mile and half away from Capitol Hill, still in sight of the Rotunda. Republicans merely repaired to their usual place across the street from the Capitol, the Library of Congress.

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It's All Politics
4:26 pm
Tue February 4, 2014

RNC's Priebus Insists Minority Outreach Effort Is Built To Last

Patrick Lundy and the Ministers of Music gospel choir perform Tuesday at the Republican National Committee's awards lunch at Washington's Howard Theatre.
Frank James NPR

Originally published on Wed February 5, 2014 10:56 am

Much of politics is about symbols and gestures. And there were plenty of them at the historic Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C., Tuesday.

Under Chairman Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee vows to be much more serious about outreach to African-Americans than ever before.

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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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