This morning, I spent a couple of hours watching Richard Holbrooke interact with his interagency team before, during and after an all hands SRAP (Office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan) meeting at the State Department.
Holbrooke is good to his people — affirming, serious but on their side. Holbrooke’s tenacious focus on results is legend in Washington — but today and on another occasion when I was given the privilege of sitting in on his team meeting, I saw what few publicly see — the deployment of warmth that he uses to motivate and build loyalty.
There is a palpable chumminess and sticky glue between these people who have been seconded to SRAP whether they are press and communications types, experts in seed to market farming, or military engineers who know how to build roads and bridges and SMS systems — in Afghanistan.
I’ll be sharing my thoughts on Holbrooke’s Af/Pak portfolio — both form and substance — later this afternoon (or perhaps tomorrow morning).
But one bit of important, personal news I want to share about this big personality who holds one of the most toxic briefs in Washington.
Yesterday at 2 pm, Richard Holbrooke was told that he may have some clogged heart arteries — and is going in Thursday for an angiogram and further treatment in New York. He was supposed to travel with Jack Lew, Rajiv Shah and others with General David Petraeus on a major AfPak trip this week, but will have to forego that trip.
Holbrooke assured me that these kinds of things are routine now. He shared the news with Secretary of State Clinton last night — and was in the process of contacting General Petraeus during our meeting.
When at the end of his staff meeting he conveyed this personal news to the 50 members of his team, he was very low key and laughing about it. There were looks of concern around the room — but he looked at them in his paternal way paused and said with a wry grin as if he’d never offered this sort of thing to them before “Come talk to me. I want you to share all of your angioplasty stories with me.”
And they are — kind of like watching a long line of medical home movies — but I hear Holbrooke is smiling through it all.
He said he planned to be back in the office on Monday.
– Steve Clemons