I’m waiting to see a picture of Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag, shirtless and pumping iron, on the cover of a magazine like Vanity Fair. That , after all, is what happened to Tiger Woods when we learned about his promiscuous sexual activity. Shouldn’t Orszag experience the same fate now that we know, courtesy of the New York Post, that President Barack Obama’s youngest cabinet-level appointee, who’s currently engaged to a glamorous TV correspondent, fathered a love child with his ex, an Ivy-educated shipping heiress named Claire Milonas?
But, of course, I jest. Buffed-up images of Orszag will never show up on magazine covers like Tiger’s have, because, well, you know why … and it’s not simply a matter of race, though race has plenty to do with it.
Even though Web sites such as Orszagasm.com are obsessed with his bespectacled physiognomy and he was once considered to be one of Washington’s most eligible bachelors, Orszag’s appeal is not rooted in raw, animal magnetism like Tiger’s. Instead, his studliness, if that’s what it is, is based on his power, which Henry Kissinger famously labeled the “ultimate aphrodisiac.” And unlike the parade of cocktail hostesses and porn stars that Woods favored, Orszag’s conquests include lawyer and venture capitalists, all members of the upper ranks of the meritocracy. His ability to shape the $3.6 trillion federal budget makes him irresistible.
So far, the news of Orszag’s love child has been greeted with amusement, amazement and tittering. The general reaction can be summarized by this phrase: Who would have thunk it? The Washington Post didn’t exactly bury the story, reporting it in its well-read gossip column, Reliable Sources, but it didn’t spread it on the front page. Even the moralizers on the religious right have yet to call for Orszag’s resignation.
Nor should they. I think we ought to leave Orszag and his love interests alone. But we ought to be troubled by the double standard the news media employ when they cover the sexual conduct of public figures, pillorying some like Woods, while more or less giving a pass to far more powerful individuals such as Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani . There’s a part of me that longs to see Orszag, shirtless and sweating and bespectacled, on the cover of a magazine—if not Vanity Fair, maybe Policy Review or Congressional Quarterly.
Jack White is a regular contributor to The Root.
is a former columnist for TIME magazine and a regular contributor to The Root.