It was the first of stroke-like symptoms. But he finished his argument before excusing himself to go to a hospital. Eventually diagnosed with hypertension, he was back at work as a top White House aide the next day.
He leaves as the longest-serving staffer and the final remaining White House official from the senior ranks of the 2008 presidential campaign. His departure was a hard choice, say friends, given his loyalty and influence.
His day often begins with early morning basketball games with colleagues. During work, he paces around West Wing offices, especially when calls with journalists get contentious.
When he strolls into the chief speech writer's office with his hands in his pockets, the writers pick up their pens. They know they're either adding a speech to the schedule or he wants to help revamp the one they're working on.
"The guy's a machine," said Cody Keenan, the president's lead speechwriter. "He starts emailing at 4 a.m."
"He shares the president's ability to see around the corner in the short term, and the big picture in the long run," Keenan said. "That's something I wander into his office for constantly."