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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7:24pm

Mon June 10, 2013
It's All Politics

Lawmakers Work To Gauge Public Mood On NSA And Leaker

Originally published on Mon June 10, 2013 8:17 pm

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

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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3:00pm

Mon June 10, 2013
It's All Politics

Partisan Feuds Roll On In IRS Investigation

Originally published on Mon June 10, 2013 3:09 pm

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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4:36pm

Fri June 7, 2013
It's All Politics

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

Originally published on Fri June 7, 2013 8:14 pm

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

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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6:58pm

Thu June 6, 2013
It's All Politics

On National Security, Obama Follows Bush's Lead

Originally published on Thu June 6, 2013 7:44 pm

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

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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2:56pm

Wed June 5, 2013
It's All Politics

5 Takeaways From Obama's Susan Rice Appointment

Originally published on Wed June 5, 2013 3:42 pm

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

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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6:46pm

Tue June 4, 2013
It's All Politics

Christie Finesses Challenge Created By Senate Vacancy

Originally published on Tue June 4, 2013 7:12 pm

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

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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4:10pm

Fri May 31, 2013
It's All Politics

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

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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6:51pm

Thu May 30, 2013
It's All Politics

War Zone Visit A McCain Trademark

Originally published on Thu May 30, 2013 7:02 pm

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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6:36pm

Tue May 28, 2013
It's All Politics

Why Bob Dole's Advice To His Party Fell Flat

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 8:26 pm

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

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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7:05pm

Fri May 24, 2013
It's All Politics

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

Originally published on Fri May 24, 2013 7:15 pm

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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5:51pm

Thu May 23, 2013
It's All Politics

Black Caucus Leader: We Disagree With Presidents, Even Obama

Originally published on Thu May 23, 2013 7:20 pm

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

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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5:44pm

Tue May 21, 2013
It's All Politics

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

Originally published on Tue May 21, 2013 6:13 pm

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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7:31pm

Fri May 17, 2013
It's All Politics

Why The IRS Scandal Is Built To Last

Originally published on Fri May 17, 2013 8:41 pm

Ousted IRS chief Steve Miller (right) and J. Russell George, a Treasury inspector general, take the oath before testifying on before the House Ways and Means Committee on Friday.
Charles Dharapak AP

Of all the controversies swirling around the Obama White House, the Internal Revenue Service scandal seems likeliest to have the longest shelf life.

While the Benghazi affair has long been in the news, it's never really taken off as an issue beyond the Republican base.

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6:48pm

Thu May 16, 2013
It's All Politics

A New Front In The War On Obamacare: Twitter

Few things likely please the Obama White House as a political battle fought on social media. Above, President Obama participates in a "Twitter Town Hall" in 2011.
Charles Dharapak AP

A simple idea: attack Obamacare tersely.

On the same day House Republicans scheduled their latest symbolic vote to repeal Obamacare, as part of their full-court press against the law they also took to Twitter to say, in three words, why they oppose the legislation.

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5:19pm

Wed May 15, 2013
It's All Politics

10 Things We Learned From the IRS Inspector General Report

Originally published on Wed May 15, 2013 6:29 pm

The John Weld Peck Federal Building in Cincinnati, where many of the missteps by IRS workers who targeted conservative groups occurred.
Al Behrman AP

Scintillating isn't how you'd describe the report issued by the Treasury inspector general's report on the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative groups.

It was written, after all, by government bureaucrats for government bureaucrats. Enough said.

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3:53pm

Tue May 14, 2013
It's All Politics

Controversies Risk Starving Obama's Agenda Of Air

Originally published on Tue May 14, 2013 4:55 pm

The controversies facing his administration could be creating a stiff headwind for President Obama's second-term agenda.
Jack Plunkett AP

This was the critical moment, the brief time between his inaugural and when the nation's collective focus turns to whom his successor will be, when President Obama had to make real progress on his second-term agenda and thus forge his legacy.

Instead, the president finds his administration, the public, Congress and the news media distracted by controversies over Benghazi, the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative groups and a leak investigation in which the Justice Department secretly obtained months of phone records of Associated Press journalists.

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6:55pm

Mon May 13, 2013
It's All Politics

Clinton White House Crisis Manager Dings Obama's Message Team

Originally published on Tue May 14, 2013 11:07 am

President Obama listens as British Prime Minister David Cameron speaks during their joint news conference Monday.
Jacquelyn Martin AP

Lanny J. Davis, a former special counsel for President Clinton, is a man who knows something about managing a White House crisis. And he isn't exactly impressed by how President Obama's aides have handled the fallout from numerous crises, from Solyndra to Benghazi and now with the Internal Revenue Service controversy.

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7:09pm

Fri May 10, 2013
It's All Politics

IRS's Tea Party Scrutiny Adds To Conservatives' Case Against Obama

An Internal Revenue Service official apologized for workers who targeted certain conservative groups. But that did little to defuse the situation.
Susan Walsh AP

Benghazi move over, make room for IRS-gate.

As if the Obama administration's conservative critics didn't have enough fodder with last year's attacks on a U.S. Consulate that killed four Americans, now comes Friday's startling revelation that Internal Revenue Service workers between 2010 and 2012 singled out groups with "Tea Party" and "Patriots" in their name for extra scrutiny of their applications for tax-exempt status.

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5:30pm

Tue May 7, 2013
It's All Politics

Both Sides Hopeful In Last Hours Of Sanford, Colbert Busch Race

Originally published on Tue May 7, 2013 9:58 pm

Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch and her Republican opponent, former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, debate in Charleston, S.C., on April 29.
Randall Hill Reuters/Landov

Updated at 9:29 pm ET --- Former South Carolina Republican governor Mark Sanford easily beat Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch to regain the House seat he once held.

For Sanford, the victory in the strongly Republican 1st Congressional District was sure to be widely viewed as a personal redemption. Sanford left the governor's mansion in 2009 after an extramarital affair with an Argentinian woman who is now his fiancee led to the breakup of his marriage.

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6:51pm

Mon May 6, 2013
It's All Politics

DeMint's Departure: A Onetime Ally Spurns Rubio

Originally published on Tue May 7, 2013 11:28 am

There was a time when Jim DeMint was committed to helping Sen. Marco Rubio achieve his goals.

Not anymore.

At least not when it comes to remaking the nation's immigration laws.

DeMint is president of the conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation, which on Monday released a report contending that an immigration overhaul would cost U.S. taxpayers $6.3 trillion over 13 years in direct and indirect spending like welfare and public schools.

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5:41pm

Thu May 2, 2013
It's All Politics

Ayotte Becoming Gun Control Lightning Rod

Originally published on Thu May 2, 2013 6:37 pm

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., has drawn the focus of gun control proponents for voting against a bid to expand criminal background checks for gun buyers.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Of the senators who have become lightning rods for voting against expanded criminal background checks for gun buyers, New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte is drawing the most bolts.

Video of Ayotte being questioned by the daughter of the principal killed during the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn., has gone viral.

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6:36pm

Thu April 25, 2013
It's All Politics

Obama's Bush Library Speech Leaves Iraq And More Unspoken

President Obama and former President George W. Bush at the dedication of the George W. Bush library in Dallas.
Alex Wong Getty Images

Imagine having to deliver a tribute for someone you've openly excoriated for years.

That was essentially the task President Obama had before him Thursday in his speech at the dedication ceremony for former President George W. Bush's Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas.

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5:33pm

Wed April 24, 2013
It's All Politics

Giffords Group's Radio Ads Hit McConnell, Ayotte On Gun Vote

Originally published on Wed April 24, 2013 5:58 pm

Former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, at an April 16 ceremony naming a Capitol Hill conference room for her aide Gabe Zimmerman. Zimmerman died in the same Tucson, Ariz., shootings that Giffords wounded.
Saul Loeb AFP/Getty Images

After the Senate failed to pass bipartisan legislation to expand background checks for gun purchases, the superPAC created by shooting victim and former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, onetime astronaut Mark Kelly, vowed to remind voters of which lawmakers voted against the plan.

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6:45pm

Tue April 23, 2013
It's All Politics

Budget Cuts Delay Flights But Not Fingerpointing

Originally published on Wed April 24, 2013 11:02 am

Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, and fellow GOP senators accused the Obama administration of creating a "manufactured crisis" by furloughing FAA air traffic controllers and causing delayed flights.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Blame shifting was in high gear Tuesday on Capitol Hill and at the White House as the first air traffic delays tied to the furloughs of Federal Aviation Administration controllers began to get attention.

The Republicans' message: Delays at some airports this week — a result of automatic spending cuts known as the sequester that took effect in March, but whose resulting furloughs are just kicking in — was a "manufactured crisis," and that the administration wants voters angry enough to force Congress to give President Obama the higher taxes he seeks.

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7:38pm

Mon April 22, 2013
It's All Politics

Immigration Overhaul Seems On Track Despite Boston Tragedy

Originally published on Mon April 22, 2013 9:36 pm

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. (right), talks during a hearing at which he angered Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa (far left). Grassley thought Schumer was accusing him of using the Boston bombings as an excuse to slow or kill the immigration overhaul.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

No sooner did the first reports emerge that the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings were Chechen immigrants than did that fact intrude into Washington's debate on immigration.

Opponents of immigration reform seized on the fact to raise doubts about efforts to change immigration laws to, in part, bring the estimated 12 million people now in the U.S. illegally out of limbo.

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5:49pm

Fri April 19, 2013
It's All Politics

Stubbornly, Manchin Maintains Optimism On Background Checks

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., meets in his office last week with families of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn. A bipartisan plan to expand background checks for gun buyers was defeated Wednesday in the Senate.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Sen. Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat who lent his name to bipartisan legislation that would have extended background checks for gun purchasers to gun shows and online sales, isn't letting go.

At least not yet.

To Manchin, the bipartisan compromise he co-sponsored with Sen. Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican of consistent conservative credentials, fell victim to a steady stream of misinformation spread by some gun rights absolutists, including the National Rifle Association.

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6:31pm

Wed April 17, 2013
It's All Politics

Obama Uses And Loses Political Capital On Gun Control

Originally published on Wed April 17, 2013 6:53 pm

Mark Barden, the father of a young Newtown, Conn., shooting victim, speaks at a White House news conference on Wednesday, with President Obama and former Rep. Gabby Giffords. Obama denounced the Senate's defeat of a measure to expand background checks for gun buyers. "This was a pretty shameful day in Washington," he said.
Carolyn Kaster AP

The Senate's rejection of more robust gun purchase background checks was a stinging blow to President Obama that raised questions about his second-term agenda.

Expanding background checks had become a key part of Obama's post-Newtown push for tougher federal gun control laws. And in recent weeks, the president had campaigned for overall gun control legislation — especially the bipartisan background-check compromise — with a sense of urgency.

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6:40pm

Tue April 16, 2013
It's All Politics

Obama's 'Terrorism' Description Follows Cautious First Words

Originally published on Tue April 16, 2013 7:30 pm

President Obama leaves the White House briefing room Tuesday after making a statement about the bombings at the Boston Marathon.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

On Monday, CNN's Wolf Blitzer and some others made a point of highlighting President Obama's failure to use the words "terror" or "terrorism" in his first remarks following the Boston Marathon bombings.

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5:44pm

Mon April 15, 2013
It's All Politics

Background Checks Bill Gains Backers On And Off Capitol Hill

Originally published on Mon April 15, 2013 6:38 pm

Newly made AR-15 rifles at Stag Arms in New Britain, Conn., last Wednesday.
Charles Krupa AP

The Senate was due on Tuesday to take up legislation embodying the bipartisan compromise reached by two senators, West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin and Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey.

The effort to extend background checks to weapons purchases at gun shows and online received a boost over the weekend when an important gun rights group, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, announced its support for the measure.

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6:11pm

Fri April 12, 2013
It's All Politics

Tiny Group Linked To McConnell Recording Causes Big Stir

Originally published on Sat April 13, 2013 7:19 am

Sen. Mitch McConnell and his wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, at a Republican dinner in Winchester, Ky., last month.
Roger Alford AP

So who exactly comprises Progress Kentucky, the superPAC linked to the surreptitious recording of a meeting at Sen. Mitch McConnell's campaign headquarters? In the recording, an aide is heard disparaging actress Ashley Judd, who was then considering a Senate run to challenge the Senate's top Republican.

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