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Peter Orszag strays from President Obama's prescription for responsible fatherhood

By Colbert I. King
Saturday, January 16, 2010; A17

If it became known that a Cabinet-level official in George W. Bush's administration -- a divorced father of two -- was the father of a baby born out of wedlock to an ex-girlfriend, and that the official had announced his engagement to a woman he met while the ex-girlfriend was pregnant, do you believe for one second that reporters, and not just gossip columnists, wouldn't be having a field day?

Of course they would. Especially if Bush had moralized about family and the need for men to be present in the lives of their children. Opinion writers would be all over Bush if they thought he was deliberately ignoring the aide's behavior.

Let, however, the absentee daddy of a love child turn out to be an Obama administration official with close ties to Washington's political and intellectual elite and the media, and the affair is treated as a source of brief amusement and no big deal.

Thus Peter Orszag -- 41-year-old director of the Office of Management and Budget, former director of the Congressional Budget Office, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, Clinton administration economist, graduate of Princeton and the London School of Economics, father of Claire Milonas's 3-month-old girl, recently betrothed to Bianna Golodryga, 31, and sharer of joint custody of two children with ex-wife Cameron Hamill is regaled as a nerdy stud gone wild and all-around good fellow . . . now, let's move on.

I have a problem, as I said in a Post Partisan blog entry, squaring Orszag's behavior with his boss's views on family and the duties of fatherhood.

In a speech at the Apostolic Church of God in Chicago on Father's Day in 2008, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama told the congregation: "Of all the rocks upon which we build our lives, we are reminded today that family is the most important. And we . . . recognize and honor how critical every father is to that foundation."

Obama didn't mince words. "If we are honest with ourselves, we'll admit that what too many fathers also are is missing -- missing from too many lives and too many homes. They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it."

He continued: "We need fathers to realize that responsibility does not end at conception. We need them to realize that what makes a man is not the ability to have a child -- it's the courage to raise one."

On that Father's Day, Obama was in a black church talking to men in the African American community.

Do those views also apply to Peter Orszag, I asked?

Reader reaction varied, but I was struck by the apologists for Orszag.

"They didn't have an abortion," said one. "Milonas probably tried to get pregnant -- a wealthy woman, unmarried, no children," said another. "It's . . . probable that Orszag and Milonas came to an agreement on how their child would be raised, and what level of involvement he would have," asserted a third.

A couple more: "So a divorced guy is not supposed to have sex?" And this: Orszag and Milonas "can financially take responsibility for their child; the problems are compounded when irresponsible men and women (mostly children themselves) have children that I and other taxpayers have to take care of."

Obama, of course, wasn't talking only about mothers abandoned to welfare by irresponsible men. His focus was on fathers who leave mothers to raise kids by themselves. "They need another parent," asserted Obama. "Their children need another parent. That's what keeps their foundation strong."

It's not a matter of money, the president was trying to say. "I know what it means to have an absent father," Obama told the church.

He said he saw the toll it took on his mother as she played all the roles that both parents are supposed to play. That's why, Obama said, he resolved "that if I could be anything in life, I would be a good father to my children . . . I would give them that rock -- that foundation -- on which to build their lives," a father there when needed.

Obama, most importantly, widened the fatherhood perspective by declaring that "there are still certain lessons we must strive to live and learn as fathers -- whether we are black or white; rich or poor; from the South Side or the wealthiest suburb."

So, what about Peter Orszag? Is he held to a different standard, or perhaps none at all, because he's within Washington's privileged?

This week, I contacted the White House for Obama's views. I'm still waiting for a response.

kingc@washpost.com

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