“You have to be kidding me.”
Philippe Reines was sitting in a yurt in Mongolia during a trip with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, sure that he’d finally done it: traveled to more countries than anyone else with Clinton as one of her top aides. And then Jake Sullivan strolled in.
“He’d literally just been in Oman for secret peace talks with the Iranians, and he managed to make it to this remote part of Mongolia,” said Reines, still floored by the feat seven years later. “So in the end he’s the only human being who went to 112 countries with Hillary. His capacity for work is just that annoying,” he joked in an interview, one of a dozen for this story.
All that work has clearly paid off: Sullivan, now 43, will be the youngest national security adviser in nearly 60 years when President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated in January — in what those who know him described as an almost-inevitable next step for a man who’s always seemed preternaturally older than his actual age.
After holding top positions at the State Department and in the Obama White House and playing a key role in negotiating the Iran nuclear deal, it’s clear Sullivan is “on the Benjamin Button track,” Reines said, referring to the F. Scott Fitzgerald character who is born into an old man’s body and ages backward. “He is the equivalent of at least a decade, if not two, beyond his biological years.”
Reached by phone on Tuesday, just hours after he was officially introduced by Biden along with other incoming national security leaders, Sullivan spoke at length for the first time about the unique circumstances that will face him and his team on Day One — specifically, a raging pandemic and a changing climate that will spawn new dangers. [Continue reading…]