Time columnist says Bush 'unfit to lead,' but pans impeachment talk
Mike Sheehan
Published: Friday April 6, 2007
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[UPDATE: See Klein's follow-up to his 'Time' column at end of this article.]

Time columnist Joe Klein has written a scathing critique of President Bush in the magazine's latest issue.

In a op-ed entitled "An Administration's Epic Collapse," Klein writes, "The three big Bush stories of 2007 -- the decision to 'surge' in Iraq, the scandalous treatment of wounded veterans at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys for tawdry political reasons -- precisely illuminate the three qualities that make this Administration one of the worst in American history."

Klein, who gained fame as the anonymous author of the Clinton-era political novel Primary Colors, lists the three qualities as arrogance, incompetence and cynicism.

"Iraq comes first, as always," he continues. "From the start, it has been obvious that personal motives have skewed the President's judgment about the war. ... But never was Bush's adolescent petulance more obvious than in his decision to ignore the Baker-Hamilton report and move in the exact opposite direction" by increasing the number of troops and using inappropriate strategy.

"There was no way he was going to accept [its findings] once the press began to portray the report as Daddy's friends coming to the rescue," Klein quotes a member of the Baker-Hamilton commission.

"General David Petraeus has repeatedly said, 'A military solution to Iraq is not possible,'" writes Klein. "Translation: This thing fails unless there is a political deal among the Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds. There is no such deal on the horizon, largely because of the President's aversion to talking to people he doesn't like."

Klein excoriates Bush over the Walter Reed scandal, particularly in the seemingly hypocritical way the president accused Democrats of favoring political battles at home over supporting troops abroad. "Such demagoguery is particularly outrageous given the Administration's inability to provide our troops 'what they need' at the nation's premier hospital for veterans," says Klein.

"The mold and decrepitude at Walter Reed are likely to be only the beginning of the tragedy, the latest example of incompetence in this Administration," Klein continues. He quotes a veterans activist who says, "The entire VA hospital system is unprepared for the casualties of Iraq, especially the psychiatric casualties. A lot of vets are saying, 'This is our Katrina moment.' And they're right: this Administration governs badly because it doesn't care very much about governing."

"His hyper-partisanship has proved to be a travesty of governance and a comprehensive failure," Klein says of Bush. "I've tried to be respectful of the man and the office, but the three defining sins of the Bush Administration are congenital... They're not likely to change.

"[I]t is increasingly difficult," concludes Klein, "to imagine yet another two years of slow bleed with a leader so clearly unfit to lead."

Despite the rancor expressed in his critique, and reacting to the perception in some corners that he was obliquely condoning the indictment and removal of the president, Klein vigorously denied hinting at impeachment in a follow-up post at Time's Swampland blog.

"There are no 'high crimes' here," writes Klein. "Just a really bad presidency. In fact, I consider impeachment talk counterproductive and slightly nutso."

Klein's full Time column is available at this link.