Peter Orszag's Snippy Post-White House Profile Is Beltway Catnip

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The persistent problem of the revolving door--and the resulting groupthink--between Wall Street and Washington is the subject of Gabriel Sherman's latest story for New York. But that's subject is not catnip for Washington bloggers the way a relatively small part of Sherman's story is: the juicy catfight between Peter Orszag, the hunky-for-Washington former head of President Obama's Office of Management and Budget, and the rest of the White House.

By last summer, Orszag’s relations with Rahm Emanuel and others had soured--badly. Depending on whose spin you believe, Orszag quit over principle, telling friends he was upset by Washington’s refusal to get serious about the deficit. A less favorable view is that Orszag was marginalized by Emanuel and David Axelrod. "He was accused of leaking and being disloyal," said one Democrat close to the players. "The press loved Peter, which was part of the reason why the White House didn’t love him." ...

Looking back, Orszag now says he didn’t even want the job. "I didn’t want to do it," he told me. "Having worked in a White House before, I knew how the infighting can become all-­consuming, and I didn't want to fall into that trap again. Many of my mentors warned me that despite the 'no drama' Obama campaign, once in office this White House would inevitably be like others--and possibly worse. And unfortunately that’s exactly what happened."

Orszag left the White House last summer and quickly took a job at Citigroup, one of the biggest recipients of the Wall Street bailout. The White House, looking to distance itself from the financial industry, was displeased, but it was even more displeased just before the midterm elections, when Orszag went against administration talking points and wrote an op-ed in The New York Times urging Obama to let all the Bush tax cuts stand. For Washington, that's conflict on a Jersey Shore level.

  • Politico's Mike Allen led Playbook with "Peter Orszag, former White House budget director, goes public with his West Wing beefs "
  • USA Today's David Jackson also noted the spat, saying, "It should be noted that Orszag has long-time relationships with many reporters, dating back to his days as a budget analyst and head of the Congressional Budget Office. ... It's also a good example of how tensions within the White House--suppressed publicly in the heat of battle--get put on the record after people leave office."
  • Business Insider's Courtney Comstock observed, "Now Orszag is employed at Citi and living the sweet life. His meal of choice: a grilled-chicken salad. Woman of choice: ABC News correspondent Bianna Golodryga, after impregnating and ditching Claire Milonas, a Greek shipping heiress. Wardrobe: at the White House, he wore cowboy boots under his navy suits (is that flying with Vikram Pandit at Citi? We don't know.)"
  • But Hot Air's Ed Morrissey says it could be worse. "Every President has a few gossipy high-ranking advisers who offer a few moments of embarrassment for the administration; for George W. Bush, it was Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, whose sniping was decidedly more personal than Orszag's.  If this is as bad as it gets for Obama, he can count himself lucky.  But if the economy doesn’t improve, more advisers will start heading for the door, and Orszag's criticisms might end up being the high point.  Moral of the story: when a prospective appointee says he doesn’t want the job, believe him."

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