January 21, 2010

Mixing Bed Sheets With Spread Sheets

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Something sexy’s going on at the White House.

Peter Orszag, the young (and somewhat handsome) director of the Office of Management and Budget, has been making headlines lately — not for how he balances the budget, but how he balances his ladies. The story involves his engagement to a hottie financial correspondent from ABC News (ow-ow!) only a short while after another chick gave birth to his daughter. It’s been the talk of the Washington rumor mill (after all, it’s been over a decade since anything slightly erotic came out of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.), and Orszag’s trying to keep his head down and plow ahead with the numbers. But didn’t anyone tell him not to mix balance sheets and bed sheets?

Orszag, it seems, is the latest victim of our country’s fascination with hanky-panky and power. Nothing gets the populace riled up like a semen stain on an intern’s dress or an assignation in an airport bathroom. From Mark Sanford to Mark Foley (Argentine mistress and page boys, respectively), illicit sexual behavior has proven to be the quickest way to the spotlight. Orszag, a mid-level functionary who might otherwise have spent his Washington days in relative anonymity, now finds himself the unwilling center of a gossipers’ feeding frenzy. Such is the price one pays for libido.

But beyond confirming what we already knew about America’s blowhard morality vis-à-vis leaders and liaisons, Orszag’s travails indicate a certain creepy fascination with anything smutty, no matter who the participants might be. For all the fiduciary weight he might throw around, the head of the OMB is not exactly a national figurehead: We don’t look to our number geeks as paragons of virtue, and their personal lives should have little bearing on how we evaluate them. A similar argument could be made for more prominent politicians, of course — the fact that Larry Craig enjoys an occasional hummer during stopovers in Minneapolis shouldn’t really perturb us — but when creeps like John Edwards cheat on their cancer-ridden wives and try to pawn off their out-of-wedlock child to an associate, the anger’s understandable. Bureaucrats, however, are another matter entirely. Who cares if your accountant’s getting some on the side? Why do we extend this righteous indignation even to people we don’t care about?

Part of the reason has to do with the joys of new media meddling. With the burdens of fact-checking, bylining and general journalistic integrity suddenly lifted, gossip-fiends have found a paradise of sorts in the Internet. One only need recall the agonies of our dear Colin Farrell — who, despite a successful court case and lots of pleading, was not able to stop a sex tape leaking — to realize that no one’s dirty laundry is safe. And so we have such pinnacles of reportage as Gawker and the Drudge Report, not to mention the more specialized varieties like IvyGate and the short-lived JuicyCampus. And remember Sage-gate last semester? The scandal involving the two employees at the Johnson School whose steamy e-mails quickly made their way around the globe? Excepting the astounding length and detail of their conversation — for which they should be commended, not chastised — those two weren’t really up to anything worse than millions of other Americans. In this day and age, only a misplaced “CC” stands between a secretive tryst and eternal infamy.

Which brings us back to Orszag. His crime wasn’t that he loved too much, but that he loved in the time of the blogger. The last thing our little number-crunching friend expected when he teamed up with the President was to have a website called “Orszagasm.com” chasing him around. But his experience serves as a lesson to us all — if you want to spread your seed, do it out of sight. If you’re aiming for higher office, perhaps it’s best to buy a chastity ring. The one thing Americans can’t stand is someone getting more ass than them.

Ted Hamilton, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, is one of the Sun’s Arts and Entertainment Editors. He may be reached at [email protected]. Brain in a Vat appears alternate Wednesdays this semester.

Original Author: Ted Hamilton