As a reporter, editor, editorial writer and columnist at The Washington Post, Ruth Marcus has developed a keen understanding of the folklores and byways of the national political scene. Marcus writes with the practiced eye of a veteran reporter, the incisive analysis of a lawyer, and the amused affection of someone who loves the political game even as she perceives—and pierces—its artifice.
Marcus has covered every institution in Washington, from the Supreme Court to the White House to Congress; she has reported on every major Washington story of the last two decades, from contested Supreme Court nominations to contested elections, from hard-fought political campaigns to a hard-fought presidential impeachment. She can dissect a Supreme Court opinion; unearth—and explain—a fundraising scandal; and write, always in a down-to-earth manner, about the details of the federal budget or the intricacies of health care reform.
A boots-on-the-ground columnist who likes to report first and opine later, Marcus is happiest out of the office, whether on the campaign trail or at a congressional hearing. Although she leans to the left, she is not captive to any party or orthodoxy. As much as Marcus captures for readers the inner workings of Washington and its money culture, she writes with equal ease about social issues and the real world concerns of modern parents. She does not shy away from the fact that she is a woman but does not let that define her columns; she brings gender to the table when it is relevant to the discussion.
Marcus was born in Philadelphia, Pa., and raised in Livingston, N.J., where the local passion tended toward shopping rather than politics. She studied history at Yale, and became hooked on journalism from the moment she received her first assignment from the college newspaper, a story about where to buy firewood. She took a brief detour to graduate from Harvard Law School, where her writing ability somehow survived the footnote-intensive process of serving on the Harvard Law Review.
Marcus joined The Post as a staff writer in 1984 and has covered the Justice Department, the Supreme Court, the White House, and national politics, with a particular expertise in campaign finance and lobbying. After serving as a deputy national editor, a stint that included supervising coverage of the messy aftermath of the 2000 election, Marcus became a member of the Post editorial board in 2003, where she discovered what no one else who knew her doubted: that she was full of sharp opinions and not shy about expressing them. Her occasional op-ed columns developed into a weekly column in late 2005. In 2007, after her first full year of column-writing, Marcus was a nominated finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for commentary. The Pulitzer board cited “her intelligent and incisive commentary on a range of subjects, using a voice that can be serious or playful.”
Marcus met her husband in the classic Washington way: She was covering the Supreme Court nomination of Clarence Thomas and he was working for a senator on the Judiciary Committee. They have two daughters who are, for the most part, tolerant about being used as column fodder and sometimes even read what their mother writes.