Author sees great things from troops home from war
Time columnist Joe Klein, known as the author of “Primary Colors” and other books, is out with a new work of nonfiction, “Charlie Mike: A True Story of Heroes Who Brought Their Mission
He spoke to the Atlanta Jewish Times by phone ahead of his appearance at the Book Festival of the Marcus Jewish Community Center on Sunday, Nov. 8.
AJT: I want to ask you first about the presidential race. How do you think Hillary Clinton’s campaign is going?
Klein: Well, I have opinions, but I don’t make endorsements. I’ve known her for nearly 30 years now. She has a lot of experience, and I think she has a lot of sound judgment, and she also has
some problems. So it’s going to be interesting to see whether she can overcome them (laughs). I don’t know how she is appealing to my kids’ generation, who are now voting. They were not around when her husband, Bill Clinton, was president, so they don’t know her. Jeb Bush is running into some of the same problems on the Republican side, but I’m a flaming moderate, and they’re not moderate people.
AJT: You wrote in a new Time column that people are scared of Donald Trump, including your own (Hispanic) daughter-in-law. Does he stand a chance?
Klein: He might. I’ve seen some crazy things happen. This is my 11th presidential campaign. I certainly don’t hope that he stands a chance. I’ve spent a lot of years studying these issues — they’re complicated, and he doesn’t live in a complicated world. He lives in a world of himself. In fact, that’s a good segue way to the book because it’s about the exact opposite sort of person from Trump and the kind of people who can lead us creatively in the future.
AJT: What will you be addressing in Atlanta?
Klein: I’m trying to promote the ideas that are inherent in the book. In a way this is a summation of 30 years for me as a journalist — things that I really believe in. The message of the book is that we can learn something from these people in the military. This magic transition that happens when you move from active duty to veteran status, you can go from being a warrior to a basket case. That’s how veterans are perceived. So it’s really important to show that not only is that an oversimplification, but also these people have stuff we can use.
They have a quality to them that a lot of us have lost. They know what it feels like to be part of something larger than themselves. For them, citizenship is an active duty, not something passive. It
isn’t just hanging out and calling yourself an American or voting. It’s taking an active part in the community. And as a result I think people like Eric Greitens and Jake Wood and some of the others in there should run for office. They’re going to be a great generation of leaders. In fact, Eric is running for governor of Missouri right now.
AJT: There have been horror stories recently about the Department of Veterans Affairs and patients having to wait months for doctors’ appointments and their treatment in general.
Klein: Those stories are true, and if you look at the way the VA treated Clay Hunt during the course of the book, you can see exactly what the problem is. But there are answers to the problems.
And there’s this whole other story about veterans who are out there doing stuff. People who get involved with these kinds of organizations really are inspired by it, and I wanted to be sure that this generation of service people got the credit they deserve.
The New York Times did a cover story a few weeks ago about the 2nd Battalion of the 7th Marines. Jake and Clay were members of that battalion, but it wasn’t about all the good that had been done since they came home. It was about suicides in that battalion, and Clay was featured in it. But Jake, who has saved more lives, both through direct disaster relief and by giving veterans something profound to do, was barely mentioned in the piece. We tend to concentrate on the blood and the problems, and therefore we give a distorted view of who these people are.