Marcus: Obama lets down his guard in provocative podcast

By Ruth Marcus June 26, 2015 6 a.m.

Forget all the focus on the one ugly word President Obama used. Pay attention, instead, to the rest of the words in his podcast interview. They offer a remarkable self-portrait of a president in the second half of his second term, both chastened and liberated.

Marcus: Ride on Clinton roller coaster sure to be a bumpy one

By Ruth Marcus June 19, 2015 6 a.m.

On Saturday, I was impressed with Hillary Clinton. On Sunday, I was disappointed. Something tells me that the rest of this presidential campaign is going to be more of the same roller coaster.

Marcus: Hillary Clinton's leap to the left rooted in rhetoric

By Ruth Marcus June 12, 2015 6 a.m.

Warning to readers: Reports of Hillary Clinton's supposed lurch to the left have been greatly exaggerated, and there's more to come. Certainly, her campaign has supplied bullet points for a tale of leftward tilt:

Marcus: Presidential candidates must choose a budget plan

By Ruth Marcus May 29, 2015 6 a.m.

It's far too early in the campaign season to bemoan the absence of serious policy proposals from the presidential candidates — but not too soon to set out some parameters of what those proposals, whatever the candidate's ideology, should be expected to address.

Marcus: Secrecy accusations against trade deal are bogus

By Ruth Marcus May 22, 2015 6 a.m.

One of the most seemingly compelling arguments against the free trade legislation now before Congress turns out to be largely bogus.

Marcus: It's not sexist to criticize woefully unqualified Fiorina

By Ruth Marcus May 15, 2015 6 a.m.

How depressing is it that, out of the more than a dozen announced or prospective Republican candidates for president in 2016, only one, Carly Fiorina, is a woman. Even more depressing: that Fiorina, as long-shot as her candidacy is, would not be taken even semi-seriously were it not for her gender.

Marcus: Bill Clinton is still singing that same tone-deaf tune

By Ruth Marcus May 8, 2015 6 a.m.

Oh, Bill. There you go again. We knew you were going to pop off, but did it have to be so soon — and so tone-deaf? The Clinton deal is "two for the price of one," as Bill Clinton famously promised in 1992. But 23 years later, that bargain comes with different baggage attached.

Marcus: Three key takeaways as justices mull same-sex marriage

By Ruth Marcus May 1, 2015 6 a.m.

My takeaways from Tuesday's Supreme Court arguments on same-sex marriage involve the justices' reasonable anxiety about overstepping their constitutional roles; the ridiculous argument that same-sex marriage would harm the state's interest in marriage as a vehicle for procreation; and the irrelevance of Roe v. Wade as historical precedent.

Marcus: Does the Boston Marathon bomber deserve to die?

By Ruth Marcus April 24, 2015 6 a.m.

How should we think about whether Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev deserves the death penalty?

Marcus: Debunking myths about Hillary Clinton's candidacy

By Ruth Marcus April 17, 2015 6 a.m.

She's in! She's given up the private jet to schlep across America (albeit being driven by the Secret Service) and stroll, incognito, into Chipotle. Herewith, two myths about Hillary Clinton and two challenges for her on the campaign trail:

Marcus: Clinton trades 'convenience' for heated controversy

By Ruth Marcus March 13, 2015 6 a.m.

For what she says is the sake of "convenience" — who wants to have to fiddle with two hand-held devices when one will do nicely? — Hillary Clinton bought herself a heap of trouble.

Marcus: Clinton's lack of transparency shockingly familiar

By Ruth Marcus March 6, 2015 6 a.m.

Hillary Clinton might not have a serious opponent for the Democratic nomination — except herself.

Marcus: Afghan first lady delicately broaches women's issues

By Ruth Marcus February 27, 2015 6 a.m.

The most striking thing about interviewing Rula Ghani, the first lady of Afghanistan, may be that the interview is taking place at all.

Marcus: Obama foes got judge they wanted in immigration case

By Ruth Marcus February 20, 2015 6 a.m.

One thing that is certain about Monday's ruling by a federal judge in Texas blocking implementation of President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration reform — it won't be the last word.

Marcus: Mission not accomplished when it comes to U.S. debt

By Ruth Marcus January 30, 2015 6 a.m.

Oh, the debt. Yawn. How passé. How 2009. Once, President Obama held a summit on fiscal responsibility (2009). Once, he gave an entire speech devoted to the subject (2011). Once, his State of the Union addresses (2010, 2011, 2013) were studded with double-digit references to the problem of sky-high deficits and lingering mountains of debt. Now, the topic receives just glancing mention, a clause ("shrinking deficits") in a series of presidential back-pats, and a refutation of warnings of Apocalypse Soon.

Marcus: Exposing CIA's stain on America a necessary action

By Ruth Marcus December 12, 2014 6 a.m.

Releasing the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on torture wasn't even close to a close call. It was a necessary, if infuriatingly belated, corollary to the choice not to prosecute those who relied on faulty legal advice in engaging in such repugnant practices.

Marcus: Ferguson decision the second-worst possible outcome

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

The grand jury's decision not to indict Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of teenager Michael Brown was the worst possible outcome — except for one in which passion overwhelmed facts and Wilson was forced to stand trial despite a lack of adequate evidence.

Marcus: Obama treads a slippery slope on immigration policy

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

Every Democrat should be nervous about President Barack Obama's plan for unilateral action on immigration reform. Not because of the impact on an already gridlocked Congress, or because it risks inflaming an increasingly hostile public. Democrats should be nervous about the implications for presidential power, and the ability of a future Republican president to act on his or her own.

Marcus: Campus sexual assault also carries dangers for boys

By Ruth Marcus November 14, 2014 6 a.m.

The line between consensual sex and sexual assault is not always comfortably clear. Especially when alcohol is involved. Especially in the context of the college hook-up culture.

Marcus: A case can be made for compulsory voting in U.S.

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

A thought experiment in the election's aftermath: What if, instead of focusing on making it harder for people to vote, we made voting mandatory?

Marcus: Pros and cons of a Jeb Bush presidential candidacy

By Ruth Marcus October 31, 2014 6 a.m.

Run, Jeb, run. I mean it, despite two powerful arguments against a presidential run by Jeb Bush — one specific to the former Florida governor, one more generic.

Marcus: The nonsense of candidates is disrespectful to voters

By Ruth Marcus October 20, 2014 6 a.m.

The closing days of a closely fought election rarely offer uplifting moments, but the 2014 season has been particularly dreary, nearly devoid of content and high on unedifying spectacle.

Marcus: U.S. not condemned to two more years of gridlock

By Ruth Marcus September 26, 2014 6 a.m.

Is the country condemned to another two years, at least, of gridlock? The world-weary take on the midterm elections is an indifferent shrug. Whether Democrats control the Senate or Republicans, nothing will be accomplished anyway, this apathetic argument goes.

Marcus: Portrayal of Rice's wife as anything but victim is villainous

By Ruth Marcus September 12, 2014 6 a.m.

Reader, she married him. The day after he was indicted on a charge of aggravated assault for knocking her unconscious. I would say allegedly knocking her unconscious, but there's no doubt: Janay Palmer — now Janay Rice — was out cold after Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice unleashed his left hook on her.

Marcus: Obama's erratic leadership stalls immigration debate

By Ruth Marcus September 5, 2014 6 a.m.

The word of the day is herky-jerky, which is a polite way of saying erratic. And which, I regret to report, is a fitting description of President Obama's handling of immigration. And, I regret even more, a metaphor for his stumbling stewardship.

Marcus: Journalist's beheading can draw lines for social media

By Ruth Marcus August 29, 2014 6 a.m.

"Don't watch the video. Don't share it. That's not how life should be."

Marcus: If Watergate happened today, how would nation react?

By Ruth Marcus August 8, 2014 6 a.m.

Forty years after he slunk out of office, Richard M. Nixon retains the capacity to astonish and disgust. Just when you thought you could no longer be shocked by Nixon's willingness to abuse power, his seething resentments and paranoia, and his florid anti-Semitism, another round of tapes emerges.

Marcus: Ted Cruz has some nerve for putting blame on Dems

By Ruth Marcus August 1, 2014 6 a.m.

Ted Cruz must be Texan for chutzpah.

Marcus: Palin, not Boehner, follows her convictions on Obama

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

Sarah Palin is right about impeaching President Obama.

Marcus: Don't blame Clinton for doing her job as a lawyer

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

It should not be necessary to write this column. Lawyers represent clients. Criminal defense lawyers represent clients accused of crimes — sometimes horrible, evil clients accused of heinous crimes. It is the ethical and professional responsibility of these lawyers to defend those clients as vigorously as possible.

Marcus: Expert says legal pot a risky social experiment

By Ruth Marcus June 27, 2014 6 a.m.

BETHESDA, Md. — From her perch as head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Nora Volkow watches anxiously as the country embarks on what she sees as a risky social experiment in legalizing marijuana.

Marcus: Obama misreads history at peril of himself, his nation

By Ruth Marcus June 20, 2014 6 a.m.

WASHINGTON — Two instincts — one predictable, the other surprising — help explain the arc of Barack Obama's presidency. The predictable instinct is Obama's tendency to overlearn the lessons of history. The second, more surprising but related to the first, is Obama's frequent audacity deficit.

Marcus: Hillary Clinton can learn from 'dead broke' comment

By Ruth Marcus June 12, 2014 6 a.m.

Hillary Clinton's tone-deaf comments about being "dead broke" after she and her husband left the White House were unfortunate, revealing and — if Clinton chooses to learn from them — instructive for the likely presidential campaign ahead.

Marcus: Tiananmen Square has little meaning for China's youth

By Ruth Marcus May 30, 2014 6 a.m.

The young man approached with an air of furtive urgency, covering his mouth with his hand. "Please can you tell me," he asked, "what happened in 1989?"

Marcus: As climate evolves, Rubio's attitude toward it devolves

By Ruth Marcus May 16, 2014 6 a.m.

'I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it," said Sen. Marco Rubio. Thus did the Florida Republican undermine his other assertion, to ABC's Jonathan Karl: that he is prepared to be president.

Marcus: NBA racist, gold-digger girlfriend deserve each other

By Ruth Marcus May 2, 2014 6 a.m.

Race is, hands down, the most repulsive aspect of the Donald Sterling scandal. But sex is a close second. To listen to the taped conversation between the octogenarian owner of the Los Angeles Clippers and the 30-something V. Stiviano is to glimpse the tawdry and inherently unequal arrangement between — well, let's put it primly, benefactor and recipient.

Marcus: Trying to keep politics out of a political institution

By Ruth Marcus April 25, 2014 6 a.m.

The law operates with bright-line rules but also with balancing tests and concerns over image. The appearance of impropriety. The appearance of corruption. And so it is with lawyers, starting at the top.

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.