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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6:03am

Sun January 20, 2013
It's All Politics

Obama So Far: Making History, Inspiring An Opposition

Originally published on Sun January 20, 2013 9:17 am

President Obama walks outside the Oval Office on May 3.
Carolyn Kaster AP

Any American president hoping to stake a claim to being viewed by future generations as great and transformative — or at least very good and effective — would be wise to choose his predecessor well.

To that end, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan probably couldn't have done better than to follow, respectively, James Buchanan, Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter.

Similarly, President Obama no doubt benefited from comparisons to George W. Bush, who's unlikely to make many historians' lists of the presidential greats.

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4:52pm

Tue January 15, 2013
It's All Politics

Don't Be Fooled By New York; Gun Control Faces Long Odds In States, Too

Originally published on Tue January 15, 2013 6:41 pm

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs New York's new gun-control law Tuesday in Albany, N.Y.
Mike Groll AP

If you didn't know any better, you might think that even if new gun control proposals from President Obama become stalled in Washington's gridlock, the states will rush in to fill the void.

After all, under its Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York has responded to December's Newtown tragedy by passing legislation banning assault weapons and making it harder for seriously mentally ill individuals to legally obtain firearms.

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5:39pm

Mon January 14, 2013
It's All Politics

Obama's Woman Problem Is A Problem Of His Own Making

Originally published on Mon March 25, 2013 2:45 pm

President Obama holds a news conference Monday in the East Room of the White House.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Does President Obama have a problem with women?

On the level of appearances, he certainly does. Which is why at his Monday news conference, he found himself responding to criticisms about the lack of diversity in his picks so far for his second-term Cabinet — State, Treasury, Defense and CIA — who have all been white men.

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4:20pm

Thu January 10, 2013
It's All Politics

Experience Trumps Hope In Obama's Second-Term Cabinet Selections

Originally published on Fri January 11, 2013 12:34 pm

President Obama nominates Jacob Lew to be his second-term Treasury secretary on Thursday at the White House.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

A re-elected president who gets to choose a second-term Cabinet has much more knowledge of the kind of team he needs than he did the first time around.

That's one simple way to understand President Obama's decisions as he creates his Cabinet 2.0.

The choices are not those of a president-elect who hasn't moved into the White House, or of a green president who hasn't watched his first international crisis unfold from his leather seat in the White House Situation Room.

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5:42pm

Mon January 7, 2013
It's All Politics

Why Hagel? Let Us Count The Reasons

Originally published on Sun January 13, 2013 9:02 am

President Obama nominates former Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., to be defense secretary Monday at the White House.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

So why did President Obama choose Chuck Hagel to be his new defense secretary?

First, Hagel is Obama's kind of Republican. The former senator from Nebraska is a realist and pragmatist who hasn't been afraid to buck the orthodoxy of his chosen party, for instance when Hagel opposed the Iraq War.

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4:00pm

Sat January 5, 2013
It's All Politics

What Happens When The Speaker Isn't Talking?

Originally published on Wed January 9, 2013 10:13 am

President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner at the White House in November.
Carolyn Kaster AP

The last thing Washington policymakers need is another obstacle to reaching agreements in the next two months on mandatory spending cuts and raising the nation's debt limit.

But the start of the new 113th Congress brought word that House Speaker John Boehner had sworn off future one-on-one negotiations with President Obama.

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6:45am

Thu January 3, 2013
It's All Politics

Was Boehner's Fiscal Cliff End Run Past GOP The New Normal?

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio (right), and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., enter a Republican caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday.
Jacquelyn Martin AP

By letting the House take up the Senate's fiscal cliff-dodging legislation that raises income tax rates on the wealthiest earners, Speaker John Boehner answered affirmatively a question that had been on many minds: Would he allow an up-or-down floor vote on a bill opposed by most fellow House Republicans?

Until the New Year's Day vote, Boehner had generally operated the House under what was known as the Hastert Rule. Named for former Speaker Dennis Hastert, it required a "majority of the majority" to support legislation before the speaker approved a floor vote.

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1:27pm

Fri December 21, 2012
It's All Politics

Boehner's Power Outage Dimming Obama's Options As Well

Originally published on Fri December 21, 2012 1:53 pm

House Speaker John Boehner speaks at a press conference Friday on Capitol Hill.
Win McNamee Getty Images

The most important measure of power on Capitol Hill can be summed up with a question: "Do you have the votes?"

For House Speaker John Boehner, the answer once again appears to be "no." In a move that's hard to view as anything short of humiliating for the speaker, Boehner had to shelve his own "Plan B" fiscal-cliff-avoidance proposal Thursday evening after it became clear he couldn't get enough fellow Republicans to support it.

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3:18pm

Thu December 20, 2012
It's All Politics

Cory Booker Eyes (Chris Christie-Free) Path To His Political Future

Originally published on Thu December 20, 2012 3:25 pm

Newark Mayor Cory Booker greets a 13-year-old at a relief center for those affected by Superstorm Sandy, in November.
Julio Cortez AP

Here was the choice facing Newark Mayor Cory Booker: Run next year against New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose popularity would have made the Republican exceedingly difficult to beat; or fix his gaze on the Senate seat now occupied by an 88-year-old fellow Democrat, Sen.

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6:07pm

Wed December 19, 2012
It's All Politics

With Nation's Eyes On Newtown, Washington Distracted By Fiscal Cliff

Originally published on Wed December 19, 2012 6:34 pm

President Obama, with Vice President Biden at his side on Wednesday, at a news conference about gun violence that became dominated by questions of the fiscal cliff.
Mandel Ngan AFP/Getty Images

Anyone hoping that the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre might change dynamics in the nation's capital when it comes to the issue of guns met some level of Washington reality on Wednesday.

President Obama held a news conference to announce his response to the Connecticut killings of 26 grade-schoolers and educators, including his naming of Vice President Joe Biden to head a team that will recommend in a month actions that might help prevent future Sandy Hooks.

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5:50pm

Tue December 18, 2012
It's All Politics

Obama Finding Gun Control Voice, Which Had Gone Quiet In White House

Originally published on Tue December 18, 2012 6:23 pm

President Obama attends a vigil for the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims on Sunday in Newtown, Conn.
Getty Images

If President Obama takes the lead in a movement for more effective gun control now that he's been stirred to action by the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, it would mark a significant break from his pattern so far as chief executive.

For while Obama has dutifully served as the nation's consoler in chief in localities where the all-too-frequent mass shootings have occurred, that has seemed the extent of the official response observable to White House outsiders.

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12:29pm

Mon December 17, 2012
It's All Politics

Open-Government Watchdogs OK With Closed-Door Fiscal Cliff Talks

Originally published on Tue December 18, 2012 12:48 pm

House Speaker John Boehner arrives at the White House on Thursday for a meeting with President Obama. The two men met again in private on Monday in an effort to reach a deal to avoid the "fiscal cliff."
Jacquelyn Martin AP

If President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner's closed-door meetings aimed at solving the fiscal cliff crisis trouble anyone, you'd expect it to be the open-government watchdogs who routinely bark their outrage at public officials who work overtime to avoid public scrutiny.

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6:06pm

Fri December 14, 2012
It's All Politics

Obama Remembers 'Beautiful Little Kids,' Calls For 'Meaningful Action'

Originally published on Fri December 14, 2012 7:22 pm

President Obama pauses as he speaks at the White House about Friday's school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
Charles Dharapak AP

Horrible acts of violence have forced President Obama to speak to a shocked nation after several mass shootings — at a shopping center in Arizona, a Colorado movie theater, a Sikh temple in Wisconsin and, on Friday, a Connecticut elementary school.

Each time his sadness has been readily visible, mirroring the feelings of millions of Americans.

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3:12pm

Wed December 12, 2012
It's All Politics

When It Comes To Entitlements, Obama Feels Heat From Left And Right

A protester at a fiscal cliff rally on Monday in Doral, Fla.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Despite his re-election and more Democratic seats in Congress, President Obama has far from a free hand to make the kind of comprehensive deal House Speaker John Boehner and other Republicans are demanding — one that includes cuts to entitlement programs.

Strong resistance to that notion is coming from the political left, including warnings that while Obama won't have another re-election, most of his allies on Capitol Hill will be facing voters again.

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5:27am

Sat December 8, 2012
It's All Politics

Once Boxed-In, Boehner May Finally Be Master Of The House

Originally published on Mon December 10, 2012 12:42 pm

Not long ago, it seemed to many observers that the House of Representatives was a case of the tail wagging the dog, with Speaker John Boehner unable to keep in line many of his fellow Republicans, especially freshmen who came to Congress riding the 2010 Tea Party wave.

Now, however, the big dog seems back in control.

Some of the signs are subtle, some not. But as he faces off with President Obama during fiscal cliff negotiations, Boehner enjoys a stronger position with House Republicans than he had during earlier showdowns with the White House.

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5:04pm

Thu December 6, 2012
It's All Politics

DeMint's Exit Creates Political Ripples, Raises Questions For Tea Party

Originally published on Fri December 7, 2012 8:51 am

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., speaks to the media after a Republican caucus luncheon last year. He's joined by (from left): Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.; Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
Alex Brandon AP

When Thursday dawned in Washington, some things seemed certain: The fiscal cliff fight would continue; the National Christmas Tree would be aglow by evening, and Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina would continue to be the Senate's most important Tea Party voice.

So much for Washington certainties.

With his surprise announcement that he was exiting the Senate to head the Heritage Foundation think tank, a job that paid his predecessor $1 million annually, DeMint brought to an end his role as the Tea Party's godfather in the Senate.

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12:39pm

Sat December 1, 2012
It's All Politics

Think Congressional Gridlock Is Bad? If Reid Changes Filibuster Rules, Look Out

Originally published on Mon December 3, 2012 12:44 pm

Jimmy Stewart in a scene from the 1939 film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
AP

Sen. Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, was clearly frustrated with the tactics some of his colleagues were using to gum up the legislative process.

The mere threat of a filibuster of a procedural motion to allow the defense authorization bill to be considered on the floor caused the Senate's leadership to balk at scheduling the legislation at all.

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5:06pm

Wed November 28, 2012
It's All Politics

In Fiscal Cliff PR War, Obama Seeks Help From A Public Already Leaning His Way

Originally published on Tue December 4, 2012 7:18 pm

President Obama speaks Wednesday while meeting with citizens at the White House. Obama called on Republicans to halt an automatic tax hike for middle-class Americans.
Jewel Samad AFP/Getty Images

In Washington's latest game of chicken, President Obama is counting on voters who see things his way to give him the edge in his quest to get congressional Republicans to accept tax increases on the nation's wealthiest as part of any fiscal cliff deal.

To energize those voters, the president is ramping up a series of campaign-style events meant to educate the public about the stakes, as he sees them, of letting the Bush-era tax cuts for middle-class Americans expire if no agreement is reached by year's end.

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4:56pm

Mon November 26, 2012
It's All Politics

New 'War On Christmas' Takes A Fiscal-Cliff Twist

Originally published on Tue December 4, 2012 7:19 pm

The Christmas shopping season could be harmed if the fiscal cliff fight depresses consumer confidence, according to a new report from Obama administration economists.
Andrew Kelly Getty Images

In past years, conservatives have used the phrase "war on Christmas" to liberally accuse liberals of trying to ruin the holiday through political correctness and anti-religiousness.

This year, it's the Obama White House warning that Republicans are a threat to Christmas or, more precisely, the part of the economy that relies on the holiday shopping season — retail sales.

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6:36pm

Wed November 21, 2012
It's All Politics

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s Bad End Is Just The Latest For A Snake-Bit District

Originally published on Tue December 4, 2012 7:20 pm

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois, seen here in October 2011, resigned from Congress on Wednesday.
Charles Dharapak AP

Talk about your snake-bitten congressional districts.

The Thanksgiving-eve news that Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. was resigning from Congress after reports that he has bipolar disorder and is the subject of a criminal probe of his spending of campaign funds, is just the latest in a series of bad endings for those who have represented Illinois' 2nd Congressional District in Washington.

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6:19pm

Tue November 20, 2012
It's All Politics

Obama Campaign Machine May Be Turned Loose On Fiscal Cliff Climbing Congress

Jim Messina, President Obama's 2012 campaign manager
Charles Rex Arbogast AP

The 2012 general election may be slipping into the past, but elements of President Obama's successful campaign aren't likely to go away anytime soon.

Just as it did after the president's 2008 election, the Obama campaign appears very likely to keep alive parts of the grass-roots effort that contributed to victory. And, just like four years ago, the idea would be to use the corps of Obama organizers and volunteers to push for the president's second-term agenda.

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3:18pm

Mon November 19, 2012
It's All Politics

Rubio Dodges Question On Earth's Age

Originally published on Tue December 4, 2012 7:25 pm

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in Iowa on Saturday.
Charlie Neibergall AP

According to scientists, the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old. Most of the people who vote in presidential primaries aren't scientists, however.

Indeed, a Gallup poll this year reported that 46 percent of Americans (58 percent of Republicans, 41 percent of Democrats and 39 percent of independents) held a nonscientific belief in creationism, the religious-based view that humans were divinely created within the past 10,000 years.

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5:28am

Sat November 17, 2012
It's All Politics

Obama And Lawmakers' Confidence About Avoiding Cliff Isn't Universal

Congressional leaders after their meeting with President Obama Friday. From left: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D), House Speaker John Boehner (R) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R).
Jacquelyn Martin AP

As President Obama and congressional leaders started negotiations Friday to find a way to avoid the nation's going over the fiscal cliff, it was fairly plain that even some of those who are wisest in the ways of Washington couldn't agree on whether policymakers would actually be able to prevent the federal government from becoming a cliff diver.

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5:46pm

Thu November 15, 2012
It's All Politics

Geography, Not Gerrymandering, May Explain GOP's Hold On House

Originally published on Thu November 15, 2012 6:10 pm

A man votes on Nov. 6 in Chicago.
AFP AFP/Getty Images

Some Democrats complain that Republicans in recent decades have had the edge in House races because GOP state legislatures have been better at the gerrymandering game. Except that may not be true.

Some political experts believe there's an easier explanation, and perhaps a tougher one for Democrats to overcome: Voters supporting Republican House candidates, they say, are spread over more congressional districts than those who support Democrats. It's that simple. It's merely a matter of geography.

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6:04pm

Wed November 14, 2012
It's All Politics

Obama Says He Has One Mandate: To Help The Middle Class

Originally published on Wed November 14, 2012 6:49 pm

President Obama acknowledges reporters after his White House news conference on Wednesday.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

A president just re-elected has arguably the most political capital he's likely to have during his entire second term.

And President Obama clearly has some capital, though he didn't overtly refer to it or vow to "spend it," as his predecessor George W. Bush famously said upon his 2004 re-election.

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12:15pm

Wed November 14, 2012
It's All Politics

Obama's Political Moneyball Could Be The Shape Of Campaigns To Come

Originally published on Wed November 14, 2012 2:36 pm

Democratic party volunteer Matt Lattanzi worked door to door for the Obama campaign while canvassing in a Youngstown, Ohio, apartment building on Oct. 28.
John Moore Getty Images

A good deal of credit for President Obama's re-election has gone to his campaign's sophistication at interpreting data about potential voters and its use of behavioral research to get supporters to actually vote.

And because success in politics spawns imitators, the approach could well shape how future campaigns are run.

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5:23pm

Fri November 9, 2012
It's All Politics

Deja Vu All Over Again: Obama And Boehner Clash On Fiscal Cliff And Taxes

Originally published on Fri November 9, 2012 5:52 pm

President Obama speaks about the economy and the deficit Friday in the East Room of the White House.
Carolyn Kaster AP

If you fell asleep Rip Van Winkle-like earlier in the year only to wake up Friday, you might be forgiven for thinking no time had passed.

Because on Friday, President Obama called for higher taxes on the wealthy to be part of any agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff, while House Speaker John Boehner strongly indicated that proposal was a non-starter with House Republicans.

But, of course, we just had an election in which the president won a second term and, through that, some political capital. Exactly how much remains to be seen.

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4:27pm

Wed November 7, 2012
It's All Politics

Senate Democrats Add To Majority: Caucus Now 54 Plus One

Originally published on Wed November 7, 2012 5:33 pm

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., receives a kiss from his grandson Wednesday in Great Falls, Mont. Tester won re-election in a tight contest with Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg.
Michael Albans AP

A very good general election for Democrats got even better on Wednesday when they retained U.S. Senate seats in Montana and North Dakota, both of which had looked ripe for Republicans throughout much of the campaign.

Victories by Sen. Jon Tester of Montana and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, in contests so close that concessions from the losing Republican candidates didn't occur until Wednesday, helped Senate Democrats reach 54 seats in the next Congress. That was a net increase of one seat from their current majority.

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5:41am

Wed November 7, 2012
It's All Politics

Republican Response Likely To Be Tactical, Not Transformative

Mitt Romney concedes the presidency early Wednesday in Boston.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

With President Obama's defeat of Mitt Romney, the Republican Party finds itself in the same place it was four years ago — once again coming up short in its attempt to win the most powerful office in American democracy.

It faces the inevitable soul-searching the losing party undergoes, to greater or lesser degrees, after every contest for the one office whose occupant represents the entire nation.

And how the GOP reacts could help determine its fortunes in 2016.

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12:59pm

Mon November 5, 2012
It's All Politics

On Election Eve, Obama And Romney Try Blazing A Path To 270

Originally published on Mon November 5, 2012 9:44 pm

A citizen votes on a paper ballot during the final day of early voting Monday in Lancaster, Ohio.
Brendan Smialowski AFP/Getty Images

(Revised at 5:46 pm ET)

On the final day of the 2012 campaign for the White House, President Obama and Mitt Romney are making the last push for votes in states each believes critical to achieving the 270 Electoral College votes needed for victory.

Obama was scheduled to campaign in three swing states, while Romney had events planned in four. The only overlap was in Ohio, considered the linchpin of the election.

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