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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

On Election Day 2012, black voters waited on average nearly twice as long to vote as did white voters, while the wait time for Hispanic voters fell in between those two groups.

Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, considered among the most vulnerable of the Senate's red-state Democrats facing 2014 re-election, now has at least one potential Republican opponent, Rep. Bill Cassidy, whose congressional district includes Baton Rouge.

The federal criminal complaint against New York politicians arrested after an FBI sting was a reminder of how often real-life political scandals can read like the imaginings of Hollywood screenwriters.

It's still far too early to know whether Congress will actually be able to achieve a comprehensive overhaul to the nation's immigration laws. All that's certain at this stage is that lawmakers on both sides of the partisan divide, and in both chambers, continue to act as though they think they can.

Vice President Joe Biden told All Things Considered co-host Melissa Block in an interview Wednesday that he and the Obama administration plan to continue to fight for a ban on assault weapons to be included in a larger bill in Congress.

That despite signs that such a ban doesn't have enough support, even from members of Biden's own party, to make it through the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio conservative Republican who recently said he now supports same-sex marriage because he has a gay son, evidently has plenty of company.

A new poll from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press suggests that many Americans have changed their minds — going from opposing to supporting same-sex marriage — because they personally know someone who is gay.

One of the most interesting observations we've seen regarding the Republican National Committee's latest effort to win the hearts and minds of minorities, women and young voters was to be found on a blog that promotes a

The victory of a pro-gun-control candidate in the Illinois Democratic primary race to replace Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. was also a political win for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose superPAC backed the winner over a candidate it linked to the NRA.

But Robin Kelly's victory Tuesday was, for Bloomberg, more than just another achievement on the gun control front. It was one more win in Bloomberg's unique assault on what he views as the public health problems of our time.

The potential Democratic Party contest for a U.S. Senate seat between 89-year-old Sen. Frank Lautenberg and 43-year-old Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker had been shaping up to be a generational battle royale.

Alas, it won't happen now that Lautenberg has announced that he won't run for re-election in New Jersey's 2014 Senate race. In a statement, the octogenarian senator said:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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