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Peter Orszag, OMB chief and sex symbol

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The Washington Post's Dana Milbank asks the press corps, before a budget press conference, why they think Peter Orszag is so sexy.

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This presented Orszag with a budgetary problem: Three families, but only one government salary. On the other hand, it raised Washington's Orszag-as-sexpot puzzle to a whole new level.

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Before and after Orszag's briefing Monday, journalists puzzled over his mystique. "It's what Henry Kissinger said: Power is a great aphrodisiac," surmised Jonathan Weisman of the Wall Street Journal.

"It's the male equivalent of Tina Fey, the geeky guy with the hidden fire you want to unleash," offered Katherine Lewis from the Fiscal Times.

The subject of so much interest entered through the curtains, flashed a grin and walked to the lectern. It was before noon, but he had a manly hint of five-o'clock shadow. Under his suit, he wore a dress shirt with a button-down collar (naturally). The stage lights reflected in his glasses, and his every gesture caused camera shutters to click.

The heartthrob did humor. When his colleague noted that her economic growth forecast had been "remarkably accurate" and others weren't, Orszag added: "That's an economist's version of 'told you so.' "

The hunk ranged freely across the broad expanse of the federal government ("We believe in the future of human spaceflight") and wasn't afraid to talk tough, saying, "Let me be clear," and "We're going to fight" and "We are at war."

But mostly he did what budget directors do, employing phrases such as "locking down" and "fiscally sustainable path." He cautioned one questioner: "That's not completely apples to apples with regard to our $100 billion placeholder, so be careful about jumping to conclusions about relative magnitudes."

His technique on the deficit was equally smooth. "That economic and budget outlook showed an increase in spending as a share of the economy from 20.9 percent in fiscal year 2008 to 24.9 percent in 2009," he said, but "the reality actually came in slightly lower than that, 24.7."

No doubt about it: Orszag has some amazing figures.


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