Marcus: Good reasons to oppose the Paycheck Fairness Act

By Ruth Marcus April 18, 2014 6 a.m.

Here's a radical notion: It is simultaneously possible to believe that women are entitled to equal pay and to not support the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Marcus: An emotional double standard permeates politics

By Ruth Marcus April 11, 2014 6 a.m.

Let's have a rational discussion about the word "emotional."

Marcus: It's finally time to free convicted spy Jonathan Pollard

By Ruth Marcus April 4, 2014 6 a.m.

"A Dupont Circle neighbor said he seemed ‘more like a nerd than a spy.’ ” “The rabbi of the South Bend, Ind., temple where he was bar mitzvahed described him as an ‘outstanding scholar and your prototype all-American boy.’ ” Those were my words as a young reporter at The Washington Post, writing 28 years ago about the arrest of Navy intelligence analyst Jonathan Pollard outside the Israeli Embassy.

Marcus: Rand Paul youth movement gets to crust of the matter

By Ruth Marcus March 28, 2014 6 a.m.

Rand Paul is the most intriguing — and for Democrats, perhaps the most frightening — figure in today's Republican Party. The Kentucky senator, who is more than flirting with a 2016 presidential run, is making a smart play for the millennial generation that was key to President Obama's twin victories and that his own party has convincingly repelled.

Marcus: Era of law-stopping leads to big changes in Congress

By Ruth Marcus February 28, 2014 6 a.m.

In his more than 58 years in Congress, John Dingell has never been known to mince words. So it was no surprise that the 87-year-old Michigan Democrat announced his departure with a characteristically acerbic bang.

Marcus: Demonizing stimulus could be harmful the next time

By Ruth Marcus February 21, 2014 6 a.m.

The treatment helped. The patient is recovering. The doctor is still being accused of malpractice.

Marcus: Time to tame rhetoric about presidential lawlessness

By Ruth Marcus February 7, 2014 6 a.m.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan calls President Obama's tenure "an increasingly lawless presidency." Texas Sen. Ted Cruz cites "the president's persistent pattern of lawlessness." House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte called a hearing to examine how Obama "has blatantly disregarded the Constitution's mandate to faithfully execute the laws."

Marcus: Self-accountability is a rare trait in the political realm

By Ruth Marcus January 24, 2014 6 a.m.

In the narrative of every political scandal comes the accountability moment. New facts slow to a trickle, and the next, insistent demand becomes: Who is being held accountable? This is often a dumb question, asked for lack of a more fruitful topic and fueled by partisans more interested in point-scoring than problem-fixing.

Marcus: Two shades of loyalty bring duty into sharp relief

By Ruth Marcus January 17, 2014 6 a.m.

Loyalty is a quality that requires careful calibration. Too much can be dangerous; too little, demoralizing.

Marcus: If you aren't nervous, you must be smoking something

By Ruth Marcus January 6, 2014 6 a.m.

Marijuana legalization may be the same-sex marriage of 2014 — a trend that reveals itself in the course of the year as obvious and inexorable. At the risk of exposing myself as the fuddy-duddy I seem to have become, I hope not.

Marcus: A nation in a muddle over metadata and precedent

By Ruth Marcus December 30, 2013 6 a.m.

In policymaking, as in life, there is an important difference between can and should. Whether or not a particular practice is constitutional does not make it sound. Whether the government is permitted to do something or not does not mean that it ought to.

Marcus: Report reveals a mother both tragic and infuriating

By Ruth Marcus November 29, 2013 6 a.m.

'The mother did the shooter's laundry on a daily basis as the shooter often changed clothing during the day."

Marcus: Despite flaws, Obamaton could be near-perfect leader

By Ruth Marcus November 8, 2013 6 a.m.

If only some mad (political?) scientist could build a creature combining Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Frankenstein, meet Obamaton, except this version would be an improvement on the originals. With the best attributes of each, you could create the near-perfect president.

Marcus: Serious series of missteps has White House in a swirl

By Ruth Marcus November 1, 2013 6 a.m.

In thermodynamics, entropy is a measure of the energy unavailable for useful work. It is (and, yes, I had to look it up) both a reflection of disorder and a trend line; an isolated system proceeds in the direction of maximum entropy. The description feels disconcertingly apt for the chaotic reality of the Obama administration's second term.

Marcus: Voice of experience: Washington governing by crisis

By Ruth Marcus October 18, 2013 6 a.m.

Leon Panetta served in Washington with nine presidents, starting with Lyndon Johnson. He has been a member of Congress, Office of Management and Budget director, White House chief of staff, director of Central Intelligence, and secretary of defense — the last two under President Obama. He is a man who knows Washington and knows how to choose his words. So Panetta's implicit rebuke of the president's hands-off approach to the budget crisis at a breakfast Monday was striking.

Marcus: Obama, Republicans both try to balance on tightrope

By Ruth Marcus October 11, 2013 6 a.m.

In summer 2011, as the debt ceiling loomed, Barack Obama saw his predicament in Solomonic terms. He was the president, charged with safeguarding the national economy. Republicans threatening default therefore had the leverage. They might have been prepared to split the baby. Obama was not willing to let that happen.

Marcus: Obama's fumbling on Syria diminishes his power

By Ruth Marcus September 20, 2013 6 a.m.

Style points? Seriously? Style points? That's what President Barack Obama thinks the criticism of his zigzag Syria policy amounts to? As presidential spin, this is insulting. As presidential conviction -- if this is what he really believes -- it's scary.

Marcus: Hillary Clinton finds comfort in the political arena

By Ruth Marcus September 13, 2013 6:01 a.m.

PHILADELPHIA — If you're still wondering — despite the coy tweets, the impending avalanche of speeches, the assiduous fundraising for the renamed Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation — whether Hillary Clinton is running for president, consider her reference Tuesday night to Teddy Roosevelt's man in the arena.

Marcus: Obama's enters dangerous territory with Syria move

By Ruth Marcus September 6, 2013 6:01 a.m.

President Obama is betting his presidency on the hope of cooperation from an institution that he disdains and has proved incapable of taming. His roll-the-dice gamble for a congressional go-ahead in Syria may well succeed. Still, the risk is enormous for Obama's fraying credibility, and the implications are significant, not only for the power of this president but for his successors.

Marcus: Justice Ginsburg puts court critics, colleagues on notice

By Ruth Marcus August 30, 2013 6:01 a.m.

Maybe it's good that the justices have another month off before the Supreme Court starts up again. The wounds from last term don't seem fully healed.

Marcus: Common-sense justice requires balance of discretion

By Ruth Marcus August 17, 2013 6:01 a.m.

A healthy criminal justice system — one that is simultaneously effective and fair — demands neither too much discretion nor too little. Monday's welcome news about stop-and-frisk searches and mandatory minimum drug sentences illuminates both aspects of that moral imperative.

Marcus: Weiner's wife can forgive him but we don't have to

By Ruth Marcus July 26, 2013 6:01 a.m.

She had the ghastly, frozen look of a prisoner in a hostage video.

Marcus: Don't sweat over delay to health law's employer rules

By Ruth Marcus July 12, 2013 6:01 a.m.

Maybe it was the too-cute way the Obama administration let slip the news about delaying the requirement that employers provide health care -- policymaking by early evening blog post. Any announcement so deliberately low-key had to signal bad news. Maybe it was wishful thinking on the part of the health care law's legions of enemies.

Marcus: Can Justice Roberts hold back tide of same-sex marriage?

By Ruth Marcus June 28, 2013 6:01 a.m.

Ten years ago to the day, dissenting in the case of Lawrence v. Texas, Justice Antonin Scalia played the role of Cassandra, warning darkly -- and at the time, it seemed, hyperbolically -- that the ruling invalidating laws against homosexual conduct would lead inexorably to creation of a constitutionally protected right to same-sex marriage.

Marcus: Women have come a long way, but hurdles still remain

By Ruth Marcus June 14, 2013 6:01 a.m.

The two photos serve as powerful visual bookends for any discussion of gender and the Obama White House. The first was worth its thousand words, and sparked even more: the president sitting in the Oval Office with 10 men arrayed in front of him, and Valerie Jarrett's leg barely visible.

Marcus: Obama must do more than just identify problems

By Ruth Marcus May 31, 2013 6:01 a.m.

No doubt: Barack Obama has what it takes to be a terrific law student. It's less clear those are the ingredients of a successful president.

Marcus: IRS scandal overshadows another failure by agency

By Ruth Marcus May 16, 2013 6:01 a.m.

Sputtering adjectives -- outrageous, appalling, intolerable -- can scarcely do justice to the fiasco involving the Internal Revenue Service's reported targeting of conservative groups. But the current scandal obscures -- and, ironically, threatens to prevent action on -- another, equally corrosive failure on the part of the IRS when it comes to scrutinizing political groups.

Marcus: Out and proud NBA player leaves us pining for last 'first'

By Ruth Marcus May 3, 2013 6:01 a.m.

I am so looking forward to the end of firsts.

Marcus: Obama's reasonable budget faces unreasonable GOP

By Ruth Marcus April 19, 2013 6:01 a.m.

The conundrum of President Obama's budget is that he has produced a "come let us reason together" proposal aimed at a Republican Party that has demonstrated no interest in being reasonable.

Marcus: Supreme Court arguments hint at overturning DOMA

By Ruth Marcus April 5, 2013 6:01 a.m.

Supreme Court justices recently seemed tempted to put off deciding the question of a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. But they appear prepared to take the significant step of overturning the Defense of Marriage Act and granting full federal benefits to same-sex couples in states that recognize their marriages. Indeed, the juxtaposition of the two cases may have the beneficial effect, from the perspective of those supporting same-sex marriage, of making the DOMA case look like a relatively easy and modest move.

Marcus: Obama must work with GOP, even if they dislike him

By Ruth Marcus March 22, 2013 6:01 a.m.

When it comes to Republicans, President Obama sees himself as a kind of reverse Sally Field: "They don't like him. They really, really, don't like him."

Marcus: Both sides dig in deep on debt-reduction standoff

By Ruth Marcus March 8, 2013 6:01 a.m.

Paul Ryan says he doesn't spend much time worrying about Republicans being blamed for sequester pain. The bruises, in his view, go with the territory. "We have to get right in our minds that the bully pulpit will always probably get better press than we will," the House Budget Committee chairman and the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee told me recently. "That cannot deter us."

Marcus: Freshman senator crosses line with Hagel criticism

By Ruth Marcus February 22, 2013 6:01 a.m.

Ted Cruz is not going to win Senator Congeniality. Not that he cares. The newly arrived Texas Republican has come out, well, guns blazing -- and not just on guns.

Marcus: Guns, even scary-looking ones, don't make women safer

By Ruth Marcus February 8, 2013 6:01 a.m.

The latest weapon in the war against reasonable restrictions on access to guns is the straw woman. Don't fall for her.

Marcus: Obama looks to get much done in limited time frame

By Ruth Marcus January 25, 2013 6:01 a.m.

President Obama launched his second term with a surprisingly lengthy and bold to-do list, coupled with new recognition of the painful limits of power, politics and time.

Marcus: Obama, GOP on collision course over debt ceiling

By Ruth Marcus January 11, 2013 6:01 a.m.

Recently, I described the "fiscal cliff" deal as a pathetic punt. In light of later developments, I am worried that characterization was overly optimistic.

Sensible gun laws require political will, judicial wisdom

By Ruth Marcus December 28, 2012 6:01 a.m.

Like so many other people these days, I regain my composure only to see it crumble in an instant at the piercing sight of a photograph, Daniel Barden with his impish smile and missing front teeth. At the devastating power of a simple sentence, about Charlotte Bacon's Girl Scout troop: "There were 10 girls in the group. Only five are left."

Marcus: High court + marriage equality = exhilaration, fear

By Ruth Marcus December 14, 2012 6 a.m.

For those who believe in marriage equality, the Supreme Court's decision to tackle the subject of same-sex marriage is both exhilarating and scary.

Marcus: 'Fiscal cliff' roller coaster stuck in a sickening plunge

By Ruth Marcus November 30, 2012 6 a.m.

Before the fiscal cliff comes the political roller coaster. Agreement will seem unattainable until, suddenly, it isn't. The sickening plunge will feel endless until the car starts to climb again. But at the moment, things are not looking good.

Marcus: Obama's bet on Republican cooperation a risky one

By Ruth Marcus November 16, 2012 6 a.m.

As the debt ceiling loomed last year, President Obama believed Republicans had him over a barrel. They had won the midterm election. More important, calling the GOP's bluff seemed too big a bet: Defaulting on the debt risked plunging the global financial system into chaos.

Marcus: Debates showed candidates' ability to dodge key issues

By Ruth Marcus October 26, 2012 6 a.m.

What we learned — and didn't — from the debates:

Marcus: Facts keep Romney's tax policy from penciling out

By Ruth Marcus September 28, 2012 6 a.m.

Three fallacies and two dangers are at the heart of Mitt Romney's tax policy.

Marcus: Let's try to get some answers from Romney, Obama

By Ruth Marcus September 14, 2012 6 a.m.

Here are some proposed questions, concentrating on budget, taxes and entitlements for the upcoming presidential debates:

Marcus: Ann Romney delivers ham-handed message to women

By Ruth Marcus August 31, 2012 6 a.m.

TAMPA, Fla. — Loved the ironing board. Hated the patronizing pander to women. The most affecting part of Ann Romney's convention speech was — no surprise here — the personal testimonial.

Marcus: Medicare sniping puts new charge in political third rail

By Ruth Marcus August 17, 2012 6 a.m.

The Republican National Committee chairman says President Obama has "blood on (his) hands" for cutting Medicare. Mitt Romney blasts the president for having "robbed" the program of $700 billion. Vice President Biden accuses Romney and running mate Paul Ryan of "gutting" Medicare. And, inevitably, President Obama warned that Romney-Ryan would "end Medicare as we know it." Aren't you glad we're having a sober policy discussion about how to rein in entitlement spending?

Marcus: Fixation on campaign gaffes overshadowing the issues

By Ruth Marcus August 3, 2012 6 a.m.

The 2012 presidential campaign has witnessed the full flowering of the faux gaffe, in which a candidate is skewered, generally out of context, for saying something that he clearly did not mean but that the other side finds immensely useful to misrepresent. Mitt Romney's "I like being able to fire people" and "I'm not concerned about the very poor" fall into this category. So do Barack Obama's "the private sector is doing fine" and "you didn't build that."

Marcus: Today's GOP cannot fix economy with tax cuts alone

By Ruth Marcus July 12, 2012 6 a.m.

Consider the enlightening -- and depressing -- tale of two governors. One is the face of what the Republican Party could, and should, be. The other is the face of what it is and seems determined to remain. The first governor, not coincidentally, has "former" before his name: former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. The second is current and fresh off his recall victory: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Marcus: Huge campaign donations raise troubling questions

By Ruth Marcus June 29, 2012 6 a.m.

In the age of eight-figure checks to super PACs, is it time for a constitutional amendment that could end this dangerous farce? The notion of fiddling with the First Amendment should make anyone nervous -- especially anyone who has spent a career benefiting from it. Then again, so does Sheldon Adelson's $10 million check to Mitt Romney's super PAC. A system that lets one individual pump so much money into supporting a favored candidate threatens to substitute oligarchy for democracy.

Marcus: Bloomberg's super-size soda edict feeds public anxieties

By Ruth Marcus June 15, 2012 6 a.m.

Judging the wisdom of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposed ban on super-size sugary sodas depends on where you draw the line between nudge government and noodge government. Nudge government makes sense. It harnesses human nature to steer citizens to smarter choices.

Marcus: Romney learned from his parents' failed election bids

By Ruth Marcus June 1, 2012 6 a.m.

You have to wonder what George and Lenore Romney would have made of their son the candidate. The last week has brought two insightful profiles of Mitt Romney's parents, offering an implicit, and disappointing, contrast with their more successful son.