President Obama called Richard Holbrooke "one of the most talented diplomats of his generation" when he named the globe-trotting foreign policy expert to be special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. But 10 months later, Mr. Holbrooke was anchored in Washington and far from the front lines of diplomacy that led to Tuesday's Afghan election deal.
The Obama administration used other intermediaries to apply the pressure that got Afghan President Hamid Karzai to agree to a runoff after fraud-tainted elections.
And when Mr. Obama praised his diplomatic team for its success, Mr. Holbrooke's name was pointedly missing. There was high praise for U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry and "great congratulations" to Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, who met with Mr. Karzai.
Could Holbrooke be the scapegoat for an administration that has no path forward on Afghanistan?
Mr. [Steve] Clemons [executive vice president at the New America Foundation who runs a popular foreign policy blog, The Washington Note] said Mr. Holbrooke is being made a fall guy for an "absence of presidential vision and clarity."
"Holbrooke was loyal to the vision that Obama laid out last March, which proved to be an ineffective, incomplete and semidisconnected [vision]," Mr. Clemons said. "Some people are trying to pin on Richard the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and the relationship with Karzai, but all of that was deteriorating before."
It must be a great comfort for Mr. Holbrooke to have a friend and supporter like Steve Clemons who will defend him when he can't speak to the press for himself.
I see that the Board of Directors of Mr. Clemons's New America Foundation includes Kati Marton, an author and journalist (whose book about the assassination of Count Folke Bernadotte, A Death in Jerusalem, I highly recommend, BTW). Kati Marton also happens to be the wife of the curiously quiet Richard Holbrooke.
I get the feeling that Steve Clemons will be channeling a lot of Richard Holbrooke's thoughts in the coming months.