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NYTimes Columnist Sent Article Draft to White House's Valerie Jarrett for Comments Before Publishing

9:26 AM, Sep 13, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
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The latest Bob Woodward books reveals that Peter Orszag, at the time a columnist for the New York Times, sent a draft of an article to White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett for review and comments before publishing.

Barack Obama meets with Peter Orszag 1

"Orszag continued his star turn in the op-ed spotlight and a month later drafted a column to appear October 20, 2010, on the sensitive subject of Obamacare," writes Woodward of Orszag, the former OMB director. "He wanted to focus on one of its weaknesses. The health care legislation ‘does many things right,’ he wrote. ‘But it does almost nothing to reform medical malpractice laws.’"

Woodward adds, "Should he alert the White House? [Orszag] wondered. Better not to surprise them. With some discomfort, because a columnist is supposed to speak for himself, not his former employer, Orszag sent his draft to Valerie Jarrett. It was about three days before the column was scheduled to run. Here’s a draft, he wrote in an email to her. Let me know if you have any comments."

Jarrett did have a comment for Orszag, according to Woodward:

"Thanks, Jarrett wrote back. She offered no comments on the draft. The column ran as scheduled, unchanged from the draft Orszag had provided the White House. Orszag was in an airport when he got Jarrett’s email. How could you have done this? It’s ridiculous. You’re so disloyal. You have got to realize the health care bill is wildly unpopular, Orszag replied. Every single speech I give, if I lead with this reflection on its imperfections, the dynamic changes. People will then listen. You can’t hold this law out as perfect. It won’t sell. People think it’s a piece of crap. The weaknesses must be acknowledged. Then it’s credible to say, here’s why it is good and why it is the only thing that will work. Jarrett’s answer was delivered with Politburo finality: You have burned your bridges."

The column in question ran in the New York Times on October 20, 2010. It was titled, "Malpractice Methodology."

The bottom of the article carries this biographical information for Orszag: "Peter Orszag, the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget from 2009 to 2010 and a distinguished visiting fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, is a contributing columnist for The Times."

Nowhere in the article does it state that it had been reviewed by the White House. 

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