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Federal Eye
Posted at 02:22 PM ET, 04/11/2011

Peter Orszag: ‘I didn’t want’ to be head of OMB


Peter R. Orszag, now a vice chairman at Citigroup, spoke March 16 at the Council on Foreign Relations World Economic Update in New York. (MIKE SEGAR - REUTERS)
Former White House budget director Peter R. Orszag is the subject of a lengthy New York magazine profile that explains (or perhaps justifies?) his decision to join Citigroup after a lengthy career in public service.

“Orszag’s comfort in his new job may have something to do with the relief he feels at being out of the White House,” writes author Gabriel Sherman . “By last summer, Orszag’s relations with Rahm Emanuel and others had soured — badly.”

“Depending on whose spin you believe, Orszag quit over principle,” Sherman writes, or he “was marginalized by Emanuel and David Axelrod.”

Officials blindly quoted in the piece repeat oft-heard criticisms of Orszag — that he was supremely confident and arrogant and that others at the White House resented his favorable press coverage.

“Looking back, Orszag now says he didn’t even want the job. ‘I didn’t want to do it,’” he told Sherman. “‘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 is quoted as saying.

Orszag took the OMB job after Emanuel and Obama lobbied him personally. The attention he earned allowed him to transform “the wonky Office of Management and Budget into a power center on the West Wing’s fiercely competitive economics team.” That led to turf battles with other White House economic officials.

Now, Orszag is living in New York with his new wife, ABC News reporter Bianna Golodryga, and serving as a senior official at Citigroup.

He told Sherman that joining the company meant he was “stepping into a white-hot center of populist animus.”

“Look, I faced a fundamental choice,” Orszag told the magazine. “I could have been totally comfortable doing something easy, going back to academe or a think tank, giving speeches, having a cushy consulting thing—ironically, which would have played off my White House experience much more than what I chose to do. Or I could have done something new, which would be harder.”

Read the full piece here and leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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