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

7:35pm

Tue June 25, 2013
It's All Politics

Voting Rights Ruling Could Open Lawsuit Floodgates

Originally published on Wed June 26, 2013 4:14 pm

Rep. John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat who as a 1960s civil rights activist risked his life for voting rights, expressed disappointment with the Supreme Court VRA decision.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

It didn't take long after the news broke about the Supreme Court's 5-to-4 decision tossing out a key piece of the Voting Rights Act for the fears of voting advocates, or the hopes of VRA critics, to be realized.

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6:35pm

Fri June 21, 2013
It's All Politics

Marco Rubio's Big Problem: Explaining His Immigration Shift

Originally published on Fri June 21, 2013 9:23 pm

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is a member of the so-called Gang of Eight, a bipartisan group of lawmakers working on immigration reform.
Drew Angerer Getty Images

Sen. Marco Rubio has a problem. He has transformed from conservative hero to suspect in the eyes of many on the political right because he now supports "a path to citizenship" for people unlawfully in the U.S. after forcefully opposing it in 2010 when he was running for U.S. Senate.

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6:57pm

Thu June 20, 2013
It's All Politics

Why The Immigration Fight Seems Like The NBA Finals

The final outcome of the congressional fight over immigration will be as unpredictable as the result of Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
Lynne Sladky AP

Maybe Game 6 of the NBA Finals has something to teach us about how to watch the immigration debate now taking place in Congress.

Game 6, of course, was the instant sports classic in which the defending champion Miami Heat made an improbable comeback to tie their series with the San Antonio Spurs, three games apiece.

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6:15pm

Wed June 19, 2013
It's All Politics

Capitol Hill's Partisan And Racial Divide Cast In Bronze

Vice President Biden joined congressional leaders at the Capitol Hill dedication ceremony for a statue of abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
Carolyn Kaster AP

A 7-foot-tall statue of famed, lion-maned abolitionist Frederick Douglass that was dedicated Wednesday on Capitol Hill is perhaps best understood as a bronze symbol of the partisan divide in Washington and of racial politics.

The ex-slave, who later became a friend of President Abraham Lincoln, was a federal official and an important journalist of his day. It took years for a statue of him to land a spot because it became a proxy in the fight over voting rights and statehood for Washington, D.C.

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6:50pm

Tue June 18, 2013
It's All Politics

Boehner Seeks To Reassure House GOP On Immigration

Originally published on Tue June 18, 2013 10:29 pm

House Speaker John Boehner is getting flak from fellow Republicans over immigration legislation.
Susan Walsh AP

Faced with the threat of mutiny for what seems like the umpteenth time during his speakership, John Boehner moved to mollify fellow Republicans on Tuesday, saying immigration legislation would need the support of a majority of the House GOP before it could be brought to a floor vote.

After emerging from a meeting with House Republicans, following days of warnings by conservatives that the Ohio Republican had better not try to pass an immigration bill with mostly Democratic votes, Boehner sought to calm the roiling Republican waters.

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4:26pm

Tue June 18, 2013
It's All Politics

Obama's Unplanned NSA Discussion

Originally published on Tue June 18, 2013 4:58 pm

President Obama listens to French President Francois Hollande during the G-8 summit at the Lough Erne golf resort in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, on Tuesday.
Evan Vucci AP

You have to wonder if President Obama ever thought, when he first ran for the White House, that he would need to defend himself from accusations his presidency would be a mere extension of his Republican predecessor.

But there he was with journalist Charlie Rose having to explain why his approach to national security wasn't really like that of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

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7:15pm

Mon June 17, 2013
It's All Politics

Voting Rights Groups Get High Court Win As Bigger Case Looms

Election Day volunteer Vicki Groff places a sign to direct voters to a polling station at Kenilworth School in Phoenix in 2012.
Jonathan Gibby Getty Images

Advocates of tougher voter registration standards have racked up wins in recent years — voter ID laws have taken hold across the nation, for example.

But those who believe that government should make voting as easy as possible just gained a significant victory with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision slapping down an Arizona law that required potential voters to prove their citizenship.

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4:42pm

Fri June 14, 2013
It's All Politics

Think Your Job's Hard? Try Being A Congressional Spy Watcher

Originally published on Fri June 14, 2013 5:32 pm

Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky arrives in Chicago with President Obama in March.
Paul Beaty AP

As the controversy over the National Security Agency's phone and Internet data gathering reminds us, one of Congress' most challenging assignments is oversight of the nation's intelligence community.

Keeping tabs on the part of the federal government that constantly invokes national security to justify its opaqueness has its obvious difficulties and frustrations.

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6:42pm

Wed June 12, 2013
It's All Politics

Mass. Senate Race May Be Feeling Washington Scandal Fallout

Originally published on Wed June 12, 2013 8:12 pm

Recent polls suggest Massachusetts Republican Gabriel Gomez (left) is within striking distance of Rep. Ed Markey (right) in a contest for a U.S. Senate seat.
AP

With two weeks until the Massachusetts special Senate election, the obvious question is: Can Republicans pull off another stunning upset like they did three years ago?

Back then, in the very blue Bay State, Republican Scott Brown won the seat left vacant by Ted Kennedy's death by riding a Tea Party and anti-Obamacare wave amplified by voter distress over a sour economy.

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7:32pm

Tue June 11, 2013
It's All Politics

Senate's New GOP Stars Show Party's Range On Immigration

Originally published on Tue June 11, 2013 7:40 pm

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
Charlie Neibergall AP

Forget, for a moment, about the bipartisan Gang of Eight, whose members crafted the original version of the immigration bill being taken up by the Senate this week.

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2:55pm

Tue June 11, 2013
It's All Politics

Obama's Immigration Dilemma: Leading While Following

Originally published on Tue June 11, 2013 3:34 pm

A White House event on Tuesday, where President Obama was aware that his support for immigration legislation could be the kiss of death.
Charles Dharapak AP

If you want to observe one of Washington's most delicate balancing acts, look no further than President Obama's effort to assert leadership on immigration legislation without its coming to be identified as a new Obamalaw.

Because they're keenly aware of how nearly any legislative effort that becomes known as the president's baby almost immediately makes his political foes hellbent on stopping it and denying him a victory, Obama and other White House officials have been committed to letting Congress take the lead on major legislation like immigration reform.

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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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