The question I've had trouble answering is what I'd have told Orszag to do instead. Life doesn't end at 41. Writing columns isn't for everybody. And what does serving in government -- even high up in government -- prepare you for in the private sector?
And if the answer is "helping firms navigate government," which formulation of that answer wouldn't seem sleazy? Being a lobbyist isn't better than being global VP for Citigroup. If anything, it's worse. Perhaps becoming head of public policy for a company like Google plays better in the media, though it's really not different on a fundamental level, and in its explicit focus on Washington, may be worse. Waiting to take the job might have quieted some of the criticism, but the job might not have been there for him in five years, and at the end of the day, it would've had the same problems.