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Richard by any other name would be ...

By Al Kamen
Wednesday, September 29, 2010; 7:19 AM

Our colleague Bob Woodward's new book, "Obama's Wars," arguably his best since "The Brethren," is, as usual, another blockbuster best-seller. It's an insider's look at the Obama administration's foreign policy decision-making on Iraq and Afghanistan.

In this company town, of course, people, if not actually reading it, are giving it what's known as "the Washington read," going to the index to find the most significant portions -- naturally, the parts about them or their enemies.

In this regard, there are many absolute gems, such as this one on Page 211:

"It wasn't until well into the Obama presidency," Woodward writes, that vet­eran diplomat Richard Holbrooke, the special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, "learned definitively how much the president didn't care for him." The two had met and chatted briefly on Jan. 22, 2009, when Obama named him to the job.

"'Mr. President, I want to ask you one favor,' Holbrooke had said, expressing gratitude for the highly visible assignment. 'Would you do me the great favor of calling me Richard, for my wife's sake?'" Woodward writes. "... She disliked the name 'Dick,' which the president had been using."

Obama referred to Holbrooke as "Richard" during the announcement ceremony but, Woodward writes, "told others he found the request highly unusual and even strange. Holbrooke was horrified when he learned that his request -- which he had repeated to no one -- had been circulated by the president."

As the Aspen Daily News saying goes, "If you don't want it printed, don't let it happen." Also don't tell Obama. Leaks like a sieve.

Real estate notes

White House deputy staff chief Pete Rouse, deputy national security adviser Tom Donilon and Biden chief of staff Ron Klain are oft mentioned as possible inside replacements for Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, whose departure announcement has been "imminent" for so long it's getting annoying.

As a practical matter, moving Rouse, who could be named acting chief until the election dust settles, would be the easiest. Just need to drag his files across the reception area he shares with Emanuel. Donilon, in a cubbyhole way down the hall, wouldn't be too hard.

Klain is in a temporary office in the under-renovation Eisenhower Executive Office Building across West Executive Avenue, which is now ripped up. His current digs are perhaps smaller than Emanuel's, but his original EEOB ornate and spacious office -- used by both presidents Roosevelt when each was assistant secretary of the Navy -- may well be bigger.

Emanuel's office, however, comes with a working fireplace and a beautiful outdoor patio. Emanuel loves to regale visitors with the story of how Ronald Reagan's White House chief of staff, Donald Regan, sacrificed his own job so that future chiefs of staff could have a place to sit outside on nice days.

The story is also told in Nancy Reagan's memoir, "My Turn." Regan "evidently admired the patio outside Ronnie's office," she wrote in her chapter focusing on Regan, "because when he had his office renovated and enlarged, a beautiful flagstone patio was put in -- which was noticeably larger than the president's." You can bet she noticed.

The patio flap, along with numerous other run-ins between Nancy and Don, led to Regan's firing after two years on the job.

Will there be white smoke from the chimney when Rahm's successor has been chosen?

Survivor: Washington

Speaking of Emanuel's departure, former White House counsel Greg Craig, caught on a live microphone before a speech at Columbia Law School, opined: "The great thing about it, if Rahm goes to run for mayor, is that Eric survived," Craig said, referring to Attorney General Eric Holder.

The National Law Journal had asked Columbia for a recording of the Sept. 21 speech and the Q&A. What they got, however, included a few minutes of "pre-speech banter" between Craig, who left in January and Columbia law professor Trevor Morrison, who worked for Craig at the White House and left in February.

Rahm's departure was "like a miracle," Morrison said.

"They were after him," Craig said, referring to Holder. One particularly nasty fight, earlier this year, was over Holder's decision to try the alleged 9/11 conspirators in Manhattan. Holder was obliged to reverse that decision.

Asked why he left the White House, Craig said there were "a number of different reasons," all spelled R-A-H-M.

"One of the reasons was that I did not get along with the chief of staff well," Craig said, "and I think that the coordination between the White House counsel and the chief of staff is vital to the success of the working of the White House."

He didn't mention other reasons.

Haiti update

Thomas Adams, a 35-year-veteran civil servant and former coordinator of assistance to countries in Europe and Eurasia that had been part of the Soviet Union, has been named special coordinator of aid to Haiti, according to an internal State Department announcement.

The initial relief effort after the January hurricane got basically passing grades in the aid community, but most everyone has been sharply critical of reconstruction efforts since then, describing them as chaotic and slow. As an Associated Press report Tuesday noted: "Nearly nine months after the earthquake, more than a million Haitians still live on the streets between piles of rubble."

Not posthumous pork

Do some appropriators continue their work even from the grave? Robert C. Byrd, the legendary chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, died in June, but the committee sent out this news release Tuesday summarizing the Senate's continuing resolution. It included this item: "Provides $193,400 for the survivors of Robert C. Byrd, the late Senator from West Virginia."

We know what you're thinking, appropriating from the grave, etc. No, this is standard practice, outlined in the Senate Handbook, to give one year's salary compensation to next of kin. It's automatic.

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