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.

Pages

12:25pm

Tue September 10, 2013
It's All Politics

A Viewer's Guide To Obama's Syria Speech

Originally published on Tue September 10, 2013 1:14 pm

President Obama walks toward the Oval Office of the White House on Tuesday.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

If ever a speech seemed to be President Obama's last, best chance to win public and congressional support for his plan to launch military strikes against Syria, it's his prime-time talk to the nation Tuesday.

With polls indicating that 60 percent of Americans oppose action against Syria for using sarin gas and congressional approval looking ever more like a long shot, Obama's speech is a high-stakes endeavor.

Read more

6:14pm

Fri September 6, 2013
It's All Politics

Opponents of Syria Strikes Gain Edge In Lobbying Fight

Originally published on Sat September 7, 2013 6:35 am

President Obama answers a question regarding the situation in Syria during his news conference at the G-20 Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Friday.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

The interest groups opposed to U.S. military strikes against Syria had a very good week. That made it a very bad week for President Obama and those who support his plans.

Anna Galland, executive director of the liberal MoveOn.org — which opposes military action in Syria — said that by midweek, her group's members reported making 10,000 calls to Congress, contributing to an avalanche of calls from citizens opposed to military strikes.

Read more

6:52pm

Tue September 3, 2013
It's All Politics

What If Congress Votes 'No' On Syria?

Originally published on Tue September 3, 2013 7:30 pm

President Obama attends a White House meeting on Syria Tuesday with congressional leaders.
Carolyn Kaster AP

With Republican House leaders lining up behind President Obama's planned U.S. military strike on Syria, the chances for congressional authorization seemed higher on Tuesday than they did over the weekend.

Read more

7:52pm

Fri August 30, 2013
It's All Politics

6 Things To Keep In Mind As Obama Confronts Syria

Originally published on Fri August 30, 2013 8:07 pm

President Obama pauses after answering questions from the news media during his meeting with Baltic leaders at the White House on Friday.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

As President Obama attempts to make good on his threats to punish Syrian officials for crossing a "red line" by allegedly using deadly chemical weapons, he's being buffeted by political crosscurrents.

Some arise from the structure of U.S. democracy itself, and the balance of powers between the branches. Others emerge from the nation's particular state of mind after more than a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Here are six points to keep in mind as Obama considers how best to demonstrate American resolve to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Read more

4:56pm

Tue August 27, 2013
It's All Politics

Impeach Obama! (And FDR, Eisenhower, Carter, Reagan, Etc.)

Originally published on Tue August 27, 2013 5:35 pm

Michigan Rep. Kerry Bentivolio listens at a Nov. 4, 2012, rally in Livonia, Mich. The suburban Detroit congressman has said it would be a "dream come true" to seek the impeachment of President Obama.
Paul Sancya AP

Based on what we know now, President Obama is as likely to be impeached as he is to be a lottery pick in next year's NBA draft.

Yet it's equally unlikely that calls for his impeachment will end anytime soon. Adding fuel to the fire recently was Obama's old friend from his Senate days, Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who suggested Obama had come "perilously close" to meeting the impeachment threshold.

Read more

6:23pm

Mon August 26, 2013
It's All Politics

For Obama, Outrage Over Syria Is The Easy Part

Originally published on Mon August 26, 2013 6:25 pm

A young girl receives treatment at a makeshift hospital in Damascus, Syria, after a suspected chemical weapons attack by the military.
AP

The present Syrian crisis ranks among the most vexing moments of President Obama's presidency.

The recent heart-rending images of Syrian civilians, many of them young children apparently killed by chemical weapons used by the government of Bashar Assad, have raised the volume on calls for the president to act.

But while there's a clarity to the outrage itself, for Obama things quickly get murky.

Read more

6:29pm

Fri August 23, 2013
It's All Politics

Is This The Beginning Of Obama Unbound?

President Obama speaks at a town hall-style meeting at SUNY Binghamton on Friday.
Jacquelyn Martin AP

Are we seeing the beginning of a trend from the occupant of the Oval Office — a President Obama unbound?

That's the question after Obama cast aside his usual caution while speaking at a town hall-style meeting in Binghamton, N.Y., on Friday. Asked about his proposals for attacking soaring higher education costs, Obama said:

Read more

6:00pm

Thu August 22, 2013
It's All Politics

Polite Reception For Obama College Cost Plan Belies Hurdles

Originally published on Thu August 22, 2013 6:47 pm

President Obama takes the stage at the University at Buffalo on Thursday.
Jacquelyn Martin AP

The big idea in President Obama's new proposal for tackling the growing crisis in college affordability can be boiled down to this: linking federal higher education aid to a new grading system that would rate colleges and universities on the "value" they provide students.

Read more

6:17pm

Wed August 21, 2013
It's All Politics

Gender Gap Doesn't Budge In Virginia Governor's Race

Originally published on Wed August 21, 2013 7:05 pm

Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican nominee for Virginia governor, (left), is trailing Democratic opponent Terry McAuliffe (right) among female voters.
Steve Helber AP

Here's one takeaway from a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday: Republicans have their hands full if they hope to close the gender gap in the Virginia governor's race.

The poll of likely voters reports that Democrat Terry McAuliffe has a 6-percentage-point overall lead in his contest with Republican Ken Cuccinelli.

Read more

5:54pm

Tue August 20, 2013
It's All Politics

A Defense For Ted Cruz: Founders Weren't U.S. Born Either

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) speaks during the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, on Aug. 10.
Justin Hayworth AP

If Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) really wanted to put some positive spin on his birth in Canada, he could point out that none of the first seven presidents were born in the United States either.

Of course, that was because the U.S. didn't exist when presidents from George Washington through Andrew Jackson were born. They were all technically British subjects at birth. Martin Van Buren, born in 1782 in Kinderhook, N.Y., was the first president actually born in the U.S.

Read more

11:05am

Tue August 20, 2013
It's All Politics

Obama's College-Cost Tour Is A Chance To Get Past Climbing Walls

Originally published on Tue August 20, 2013 12:34 pm

The climbing wall at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Such amenities have been cited as evidence of wasteful spending on college campuses.
AP

President Obama, back from his vacation, is scheduled to address the college affordability crisis in a campaign-style bus tour that will take him to New York and Pennsylvania.

The tour, which takes place Thursday and Friday, is part of the president's overarching effort to highlight his agenda for middle-class Americans and to raise pressure on congressional Republicans to act on his second-term priorities.

Read more

7:40pm

Fri August 9, 2013
It's All Politics

Obama's Challenge: Answer Snowden Without Seeming To

President Obama sought to address concerns over NSA surveillance measures at a White House news conference on Friday.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Heading into Friday's news conference, President Obama had a delicate balancing act before him: how to acknowledge widespread concerns about National Security Agency surveillance without in any way legitimizing the actions of leaker Edward Snowden.

The best course, the president decided, was to acknowledge that Snowden's revelations to some degree forced his administration to accelerate and expand a review of the federal government's surveillance activities.

Read more

6:58pm

Wed August 7, 2013
It's All Politics

Hubbub Over Hillary Clinton Movies: A Dress Rehearsal For 2016

Originally published on Wed August 7, 2013 7:33 pm

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appears at the Women in Public Service Project leadership symposium in Bryn Mawr, Pa., on July 9.
Matt Rourke AP

Commotion over a pair of movies that haven't even been made proves, if anything, that the Clintons need not lift a finger to inspire a controversy.

That said, the hubbub over a planned CNN documentary and a proposed NBC Entertainment miniseries on Hillary Clinton, the former first lady and secretary of state, does feel somewhat premature. Clinton hasn't said whether she intends to run for president in 2016.

But it's never too early to take a Democratic Party titan down a few pegs, especially one who polls well ahead of all Republican presidential possibilities.

Read more

5:08pm

Tue August 6, 2013
It's All Politics

With 'Post' Purchase, High-Tech Continues Its March On D.C.

Originally published on Tue August 6, 2013 5:44 pm

Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Amazon.
Reed Saxon AP

It's kind of an obvious thought: Jeff Bezos' purchase of The Washington Post is Richard Nixon's revenge.

Read more

6:03am

Tue August 6, 2013
It's All Politics

Virginia Governor's Race: Negative And Getting More So

Originally published on Tue August 6, 2013 11:16 am

The increasingly negative campaign that is the Virginia race for governor between Republican Ken Cuccinelli (left) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe could keep some voters home.
Steve Helber AP

If you like your gubernatorial campaigns negative and nasty, then Virginia's race for governor is for you, and will likely remain so until Election Day in November.

How could it not be with such good raw material for attack ads?

The Republican standard-bearer is controversial Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who has acknowledged receiving vacations and other gifts valued at $18,000 from the same businessman who plied GOP Gov. Robert McDonnell and his family with money and gifts valued at more than $145,000.

Read more

6:07pm

Fri August 2, 2013
It's All Politics

Congressional Recess Isn't A Cease-Fire; It's A Chance To Reload

Originally published on Fri August 2, 2013 6:32 pm

Bill O'Leary The Washington Post via Getty Images

As Congress heads off for its 2013 summer recess, who could blame a citizen for thinking that maybe the slogan above the House dais should be changed from "In God We Trust" to "Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here."

Experts in government like Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann have repeatedly warned that compromise, the lubricant that makes the U.S. system work, has been a missing ingredient in recent Congresses, especially in the House. And there were no signs Friday that anything will be different when Congress returns in September from its five-week break.

Read more

7:37pm

Thu August 1, 2013
It's All Politics

What Chris Christie And Rand Paul Share, Despite Their Clash

Originally published on Thu August 1, 2013 7:54 pm

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey
Julio Cortez AP

Now that the dust has settled somewhat on the rhetorical skirmish between Rand Paul and Chris Christie over NSA data-gathering, it's easier to see the irony of the confrontation.

We witnessed not just the punching and counterpunching of politicians considered likely contenders for the 2016 GOP nomination. It was also a clash between men who each possess a key to winning the White House.

Read more

6:32pm

Tue July 30, 2013
It's All Politics

Immigration Issue Shows Big Money Doesn't Always Win In D.C.

Originally published on Tue July 30, 2013 7:17 pm

The crowd cheers speaker Glenn Beck (not pictured) during a Tea Party rally to "Audit the IRS" in front of the U.S. Capitol on June 19.
Gary Cameron Reuters/Landov

Big Money often gets what it wants in Washington. But not always.

In few policy debates is that more true than in the proposed overhaul of the nation's immigration laws.

The big donors and corporate leaders of the Republican establishment mostly favor remaking U.S. immigration laws to give those now here illegally an eventual door to citizenship and to increase the annual quota for guest workers.

Read more

6:33am

Tue July 30, 2013
It's All Politics

Abortion Drives Bigger Wedge Between Red And Blue States

Texas, where abortion-rights battles took place in July at the state capitol, is part of an eight-state region that has gotten more conservative on the issue.
Eric Gay AP

Regional disparities over the abortion issue have grown during the past two decades, leading to an ever widening gulf between the nation's most conservative and most liberal regions.

Read more

3:52pm

Fri July 26, 2013
It's All Politics

McConnell's Kentucky Challenger Gets Her Act Together

Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes raises her game in a video about her challenge to GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell.
Grimes For Senate

Maybe the Democrat who hopes to unseat Sen. Mitch McConnell is ready for prime time after all.

That's one way to view the highly polished Web video in which Alison Lundergan Grimes, Kentucky's secretary of state, appears, employing humor, pathos, earnestness and her grandmothers to skewer the leader of the Senate Republicans.

Read more

7:33pm

Mon July 22, 2013
It's All Politics

McConnell's Challenge: Deal-Making Without Fingerprints

Originally published on Mon July 22, 2013 9:14 pm

Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate minority leader, may have previewed his below-the-radar approach to future negotiations with Democrats during the recent filibuster fight.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

It appears that it's just a matter of days before it becomes official that Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate's top Republican, will be forced into a primary by a Louisville businessman with Tea Party backing.

The news that Matthew Bevin, owner of a bell-manufacturing company and an investment company executive, intends to soon announce his effort to oust McConnell is interesting because it appears to place McConnell in something of a bind.

Read more

6:42pm

Fri July 19, 2013
It's All Politics

Obama Explains Black America To White America

Originally published on Fri July 19, 2013 8:08 pm

President Obama tackled race head-on in his first on-camera response to George Zimmerman's acquittal in the shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.
Carolyn Kaster AP

The days are few and far between when President Obama has intentionally reminded us that he is the first African-American president.

Friday was one.

The president did something no other holder of his office has ever had the life experience to do: He used the bully pulpit to, as an African-American, explain black America to white America in the wake of last week's acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin.

Read more

11:38am

Fri July 19, 2013
It's All Politics

'Worst Governors' List Has Suspicious Deep Red Tinge

Originally published on Fri July 19, 2013 2:16 pm

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (left) and Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, both Republicans, made a watchdog group's list of bad governors that has a very disproportionate GOP skew.
Ronda Churchill AP

Of the 50 state governors in the U.S., 30 are Republicans and 20 are Democrats, a ratio of 3 to 2.

So when Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonprofit watchdog group, issued a report this week listing 18 governors it alleged are the "worst in America," it immediately raised eyebrows and partisan ire for the notable party tilt of its examples — only two were Democrats.

Read more

5:23pm

Wed July 17, 2013
It's All Politics

Obama Could Declare An Immigration Amnesty, But ...

Originally published on Wed July 17, 2013 7:07 pm

President Obama has enough problems with Congress without waving the red cape of a presidential amnesty to immigrants in the U.S. illegally.
Univision screen shot

In an interview this week, Univision's Adriana Vargas asked President Obama if, in the event Congress failed to pass immigration legislation, he could simply use his presidential power to give amnesty to the estimated 11 million people currently in the U.S. illegally.

The president didn't exactly shut the door on that possibility, though he did strongly suggest it was a portal he'd rather not go through.

Read more

3:56pm

Tue July 16, 2013
It's All Politics

3 Reasons The Senate Didn't Go Nuclear

Originally published on Tue July 16, 2013 4:55 pm

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain was credited by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid with playing a crucial role in the filibuster pact.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

With Tuesday's bipartisan agreement to let senators vote on seven of President Obama's previously stalled nominations, the Senate proved that the art of compromise isn't dead in Washington, even if it might be severely wounded.

Read more

6:13pm

Mon July 15, 2013
It's All Politics

Reid's Limited Senate Options Lead To 'Nuclear' Threat

Originally published on Mon July 15, 2013 7:23 pm

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid warns that if Republicans don't relent on filibusters, they will leave him no choice but to change the chamber's rules.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Sen. Harry Reid may sound a tad hypocritical to some for saying he now supports changing Senate rules in order to end the one that says 60 senators must approve before presidential nominations can get up or down votes. This comes only several years after he indicated he opposed changing the requirement to a simple 51-vote majority.

Read more

6:05pm

Wed July 3, 2013
It's All Politics

Partial Delay In Health Law Challenges Obama More Than Foes

Originally published on Wed July 3, 2013 6:21 pm

The Affordable Care Act's foes have long had a simpler message than its supporters. The postponement of the law's employer mandate continues that trend.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

It's too soon, obviously, to know how the Obama administration's decision to delay by a year the imposition of penalties on large employers that fail to provide health insurance to their workers will ultimately play out, politically.

Read more

7:07pm

Mon July 1, 2013
It's All Politics

Texas Abortion Fight Follows Familiar Pattern

Originally published on Mon July 1, 2013 7:47 pm

Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis at an abortion-rights rally in Austin on Monday.
Eric Gay AP

For many watching the abortion fight in Texas, it's deja vu all over again.

Abortion-rights protesters once again gathered Monday at the state capitol building to express their outrage at the Legislature's attempt to further restrict abortions in the state. The images from Austin looked a lot like the previous week's when state Sen. Wendy Davis famously filibustered to stop the legislation from passing.

Read more

6:41pm

Fri June 28, 2013
It's All Politics

Gun Group Aims To Stop Immigration Bill

Originally published on Fri June 28, 2013 6:49 pm

Some gun-rights advocates see a threat to the Second Amendment in Congress' immigration overhaul plans.
Brennan Linsley AP

What does an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws have to do with the Second Amendment right to own guns?

If you're the Gun Owners of America, everything.

The GOA, a smaller cousin of the National Rifle Association that often takes an even more aggressive approach, is branding the just-passed Senate immigration bill, with its path to citizenship for people in the country illegally, as an "anti-gun amnesty."

Read more

6:40pm

Thu June 27, 2013
It's All Politics

Rick Perry Co-Stars In Texas Political Drama

The fight over restrictive abortion legislation in Texas has given Gov. Rick Perry a chance to underscore his conservative credentials.
Tony Gutierrez AP

An irony of the recent Texas political theater: Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis' filibuster aimed at stopping anti-abortion legislation raised not only her profile but that of Republican Gov. Rick Perry.

Shortly after Davis' talkathon ran out the clock on a bill that would potentially have made abortions much harder for women in Texas to obtain after 20 weeks of pregnancy, Perry put himself back in the national headlines.

Read more

Pages