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Colby King is unfair to Peter Orszag

Colby King derides budget director Peter Orszag as “the absentee daddy of a love child” and says he has a hard time “squaring Orszag's behavior with his boss's views on family and the duties of fatherhood.”

Perhaps I can help. The modern world is a lot messier than King’s easy equivalences acknowledge. Orszag has two children from his former marriage. His former girlfriend got pregnant with his child. Orszag acknowledges that he is the child’s father but has gotten engaged to someone else. This makes the budget director, in the world according to King, Exhibit A for inside-the-beltway hypocrisy about absent fathers. President Obama has eloquently described the need for fathers to be present in the lives of their children and eloquently flayed fathers, poor and rich, for failing to live up to their responsibilities. “Is [Orszag] held to a different standard, or perhaps none at all, because he's within Washington's privileged?” King asks.

All else equal, as the economists are wont to say, it is better for children to be raised in a home with two parents. (And, yes, I use the word parents advisedly, to include same-sex parents as well.) But all else is, all too often, not equal.

For one thing, marriages fail. I believe that the impetus to stay together for the kids has fallen too far out of favor, but I also know that sometimes that is either not possible or not the best outcome. In those situations fathers and mothers have a responsibility to do what Obama’s absent father failed to: not only provide child support but remain deeply
involved, on a day-to-day basis, in their children’s lives. Does King have some evidence that Orszag has fallen short of this standard?

For another, people have sex outside of marriage, and that tends, sometimes,
to result in pregnancies, intentional and unintended. I write about the federal budget, so I've known Orszag for years, but I don't have any idea -- and I suspect King doesn't either -- what happened in the case of Orszag and his former girlfriend. But the Supreme Court has made clear, and rightly so, that the decision about whether to bear a child is up to
the pregnant woman. If I were 39 and unmarried, I’d have chosen to have the baby, too, no matter what the father wanted. The legal playing field here is unavoidably tilted: the woman gets to decide whether to have the child, but the father has no choice about his legal duty to provide child support if she chooses to proceed with the pregnancy.

Again, there is no indication that Orszag has any intention of ducking his obligations, legal or moral. Yet it seems more than a little archaic to think that every out-of-wedlock pregnancy must result in a marriage. Does King want a shotgun wedding, with an outraged Obama wielding the firearm? In truth, he has no clue about whether that is what any of the parties involved want, or whether that would be in the best interests of their child.

Is King demanding that every father of an out-of-wedlock child marry the mother? If not, how can he so confidently assert that Orszag has fallen short of Obama’s injunctions?

By Ruth Marcus  | January 16, 2010; 11:02 AM ET
Categories:  Marcus  | Tags:  Ruth Marcus  
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Comments

Ruth Marcus has just proved Colbert King's point: That the liberal media and radical feminists are giving Peter Orszag a pass because he's a Democrat.

While what's done is done re Orszag Families #1 and #2, Marcus has also chosen to ignore the fact that Orszag has gotten engaged to be married to Bianna Golodryga, setting up the stage for Orszag Family #3.

Her silence re Golodryga taking Orszag's attention away from his newborn infant by planning marriage with him also highlights ongoing, potentially irresponsible behavior into the future, on both parts. What about the solidarity of sisterhood?

Ruth Marcus has known Peter Orszag for years; we can assume that money is not an issue here. However, perhaps she could encourage him to explain how he will fulfill his existing responsibilities as a father (by raising his children in Families #1 and #2) and otherwise act creditably and responsibly in the future, before embarking on new adventures.

Posted by: WashPostSucks | January 16, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps Mr. King's point had more to do with the attitudes toward Mr. Orzag's situation than with his marital status. Obama simply stressed the parent-child relationship, as did Mr. King. One must wonder how a Type-A achiever such as Mr. Orzag will establish and maintain strong relationships with children from two, potentially three, relationships in different cities. His personal resources might make it easier, but there may be many who see the situation as "the way things are today" without considering the consequences.

Media coverage of those in positions of responsibility - or even celebrities - sets patterns for what is considered acceptable in our society. They can approve, disapprove, encourage or discourage by the tone of their coverage.
Mr. Orzag's situation was treated gleefully by the WaPo's gossip columnists and the entertainment media. Nerdy stud? No, this is a serious domestic situation for several adults and children. It's not a joke.

The same is true of former NBA star and current Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, the fiance of DC School Chancellor, Michelle Rhee. The gossip columns have cared about nothing but diamond rings and wedding bells, never mentioning Johnson's past history of child sex abuse accusations, settled out of court with the help of Ms. Rhee. He's considered "a catch." By whom?

This is continued by the joking attitude toward celebrities and public figures fathering/bearing children with multiple partners, having affairs, involved in domestic altercations and substance abuse, and involved in criminal behavior
All of these actions have consequences far beyond the titillating gossip. Real people, often children, become the collateral damage.

Posted by: parkbench | January 16, 2010 4:33 PM | Report abuse

Marcus opines:

The legal playing field here is unavoidably tilted: the woman gets to decide whether to have the child, but the father has no choice about his legal duty to provide child support if she chooses to proceed with the pregnancy.

Typically of Marcus' analyses, she begs
the quesion by using the word "unavoidably"
to describe the legal situation. In fact,
legal "situations' are formed by laws passed by the legislature, so the "tilt" is avoidable if there is a change in laws.

Should there be? Consider that if a woman intentionally becomes pregnant against the wishes of her partner, a man is facing obligations without his consent. It's a pretty small step from that to demanding that a woman carry a child to term--while she certainly suffers inconvenience and discomfort, so does the man having to shell out a good portion of his income for something he didn't want.

The fact of the matter is society takes things from people without their consent all the time (the draft, taxes). Marcus needs to understand that violations of a man's right to choose undermines the principle of a woman's right to choose. Marcus would no doubt argue that "the best interests of the child" demands hitting the man up against his
consent, but recall that lifetime welfare (AFDC) was defended as being in the best interests of the child. Society killed that.
The principle of consent and society's demands are not as clear cut as Marcus would have people belief and she would do better for her cause to argue on the principle of consent as it applies to all parties.

Posted by: garbage1 | January 16, 2010 5:09 PM | Report abuse

It wasn't "rape" rape.

Posted by: neilwied | January 16, 2010 6:47 PM | Report abuse

Raising children takes a lot of work. Is Orszag going to be there to do it? For all of his children? That's the question. And, unless Orszag is a superhero, the answer is no, he won't be there to do it. And that's why his actions are deeply dishonorable.

Posted by: cjknew | January 18, 2010 12:43 AM | Report abuse

The knee-jerk family-values crowd would prefer that unhappy couples stay together to raise their kids so that the children can grow up learning that marriage is a hellish, unsatisfying cesspool of resentment. This will be in keeping with tried and true Old Testament mores that life should be a miserable, hard slog full of judgment, pain and self-loathing ending in fiery, brimstoney death. This is how all flavors of the Taliban want the liberal west to live, though some preach it in Pashtun and others use English.

Orszag's former girlfriend will find someone with whom she shares a mutually rewarding, happy, satisfying relationship, and the child will grow up amidst a less conflicted atmosphere of love and harmony. He will learn to associate positive feelings with committed relationships.

Orszag will find his own fulfillment with someone else. Everyone - except for Colbert King and the Taliban Authority - will live happily ever after. End of story.

Posted by: B2O2 | January 18, 2010 1:05 AM | Report abuse

Orszag's former girlfriend will find someone with whom she shares a mutually rewarding, happy, satisfying relationship, and the child will grow up amidst a less conflicted atmosphere of love and harmony. He will learn to associate positive feelings with committed relationships.

FYI: The baby is a girl. And studies show, little girls with fathers present in their daily lives do better in social relations with men than women whose fathers are largely absent.

I too note liberals willingness to acknowledge the science of these studies when convenient, yet now she wants to argue because he presumably cuts a check, Orszag is present daily in all 3 of his childrens' lives, even while undertaking a stressful job and dating a media starlet?

Come on, Ms. Marcus. He just a responsibility-skipppin' baby daddy, on to make more with the Russian anchorwoman. This whole articles seems to imply the 39-year-old tricked him into pregnancy: "His former girlfriend got pregnant with his child." Did she scrape his sperms off the discarded condom?

He a Baby Daddy. He a playah. King had it right. He's free to swing like that, but it does contradict Obama's call for responsible fatherhood.

Posted by: Mary42 | January 18, 2010 5:44 AM | Report abuse

And keep an eye on that little Ezra Klein too, somebody!

He just might be looking up to the likes of this Peter fellow.

Posted by: Mary42 | January 18, 2010 5:45 AM | Report abuse

Honestly, I think the details of Peter Orszag's family life are not really for public consumption. He is not an elected official, and we really don't know the inner workings of his relationships and we have no idea what the arrangements might be.
They're wealthy people who have the money to ensure that this child has a comfortable existence with every advantage, and if they're not too self-centered and self-indulgent, they will likely devote enough time, attention and love to ensure that this child grows up in a healthy environment.
The out-of-wedlock kids that I see run into problems are the kids who grow up in bad neighborhoods, the kids whose parents pay more attention to themselves than to their offspring, the kids who don't know whether they're going to be evicted from their home or whether they're going to have school clothes or a winter coat, the kids whose parents are on drugs or out drinking every night, etc. Yeah, it does make a lot of difference if you have money. It also makes a lot of difference if you put the kid first. Those are really the two key things that help with parenting. Economic instability and self-centered (or mentally unhealthy) parents are really the two reasons kids turn out wrong. And as the child of an unhappy marriage, where my parents stayed together out of a misguided idea that I needed them both in the same house, I can attest to the fact that an unhappy marriage is not better than a broken home for raising kids.

Posted by: jrzwrld | January 18, 2010 6:37 AM | Report abuse

ouch. Ruth Marcus - what happened?? you are typically so grounded and fair.
the excellent Coleman piece pointed out that if this had been a Bush admin. hot mess, with ex-wife, ex-GF and current situation, plus 3 kids under two roofs, the Bushie would have gotten less of a pass.
that is true. dork-boy is close to The One and thus getting cover for atrocious behavior.
geez, you kind of prove Coleman's point.
will dork-boy start a third family now? skank.
fail.

Posted by: nancyjeanmail | January 18, 2010 7:07 AM | Report abuse

This is not about politics or family values. Everyone knows what is best for children in terms of structure - Pres. Obama was right. Orzag failed once - either partially, or one his own. He failed again while playing house. Now, he's off on his third excursion. I would have to agree with King.

Posted by: bloodhound | January 18, 2010 7:14 AM | Report abuse

Ms Marcus posits the thesis that women's independence (and power over their own reproductive powers) so trumps men's rights that men cannot be held responsible for the babies they make. Orszag acknowledges the child is his. He will pay some bills and visit every third weekend. What more could anyone expect?

How about loyalty? Integrity? Honor?

Ms Marcus ignores altogether the question King poses in his essay: do Mr. Orszag's actions make a very public mockery of President Obama's family values? Mr. Obama has kept his promises to his family. Has Mr. Orszag? No. Did it make a difference to the voters? Without a doubt.

So now the question becomes, what sort of behavior from his senior subordinates will Mr. Obama tolerate? And more disturbingly, is Mr. Orszag getting a pass because he is white (and nebbishy)? If an African American cabinet member were doing this, would it be okay?

Finally, we should all think about why the military still disciplines (sometimes dismisses) officers for "purely" personal sins like adultery. High ranking executives in some traditional companies are also subject to discipline, even firing, for extramarital affairs. Why? It is because people lose respect for leaders whose personal lives spin out of control. It is also because someone who behaves thus towards the people closest to them cannot really be counted on to carry out their duties to the unit, and the larger society it is a part of.

For all these reasons, Mr. King is right to call attention to this matter as a question not of prurience but of policy. Ms Marcus should not be so dismissive of his argument. It is old fashioned. So are a lot of Americans. They are offended by Mr. Orszag's behavior. His boss ought to take heed.

Posted by: Clio1 | January 18, 2010 7:17 AM | Report abuse

Exactly. Mr. Orszag lives within blocks of his ex-wife (and not in a hip, downtown neighborhood) so that he can be a constant presence in his children's lives.

Life happens. He should have been more careful with his girlfriend, but for all we know, the birth control failed. He was not a married man -- are divorced fathers supposed to be celibate?

Coleman calls Orszag "absent." How does he know that? Did he interview the kids? And what about fathers who work 60 hours a week? Fathers whose business keeps them on the road? And what about fathers who live at home but are not participating in the family? And what about fathers (Papa Duggar the reality TV star comes to mind, with 18) who have way too many kids-- are they fully present to any of them?

Colby King is writing without facts. He has no idea what kind of parent Mr. Orszag is to his two school-age children or will be to his infant daughter.

Posted by: trace1 | January 18, 2010 7:22 AM | Report abuse

MADAM, THAT IS INSANE


Two words: OCTO-MOM

Both sides agree: single parent is fastest way to POVERTY.

Colby just pointed that out.

Madam, if you cannot face reality -- go. Leave. Quit.

Posted by: russpoter | January 18, 2010 8:20 AM | Report abuse

russpoter,
Fact check. The baby's mother is an heiress. Save your poverty diatribe for another article.

Posted by: trace1 | January 18, 2010 8:28 AM | Report abuse

"but the father has no choice about his legal duty"

I can't believe that I, a Democrat(but kind of an old fogey) am saying this: So bear the above in mind and keep the thing in your pants. There's your choice.

If Colbert King is, according to Marcus, hopelessly anachronistic, then Marcus, too, is simplistically "modern," for retort boils down to: "People will screw!"

Yes, indeed. I read the King article. He is simply reiterating what Mr.Obama preached and asking whether these standards apply to the nerdy white guy or
is that just for poor (and possibly black) people?


Posted by: martymar123 | January 18, 2010 8:37 AM | Report abuse

What would it take for Orszag to concinve Marcus that he's a cad?

Posted by: douglaslbarber | January 18, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Always amusing when people who know essentially nothing about a specific situation fill in the details from their imaginations.

Posted by: jshear | January 18, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

My brother is divorced. Yet he goes to his former home (now his ex-wife's) almost every night to read to his kids and tuck them into bed.

Is he an "absent" father?

How about fathers who live in the same house as their kids and can't tear themselves away from the tv, let alone read to their kids?

Being absent doesn't always mean living under a different roof.
Being present doesn't always mean living together.

Mr. King seems to think in a pretty simplistic manner.

Posted by: trace1 | January 18, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

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