Archive for the The 2016 Presidential Race Category

Hillary Speaks to the Vets

Posted in Playthell on politics, The 2016 Presidential Race with tags , , on September 2, 2016 by playthell
Hillary Clinton at American LegionCiting her long involvement with military matters as her qualification for CIC

 Making a Pitch for the Military Vote

 Hillary Clinton made a campaign stop at an American Legion convention in Ohio on Wednesday, a pivotal state in the coming presidential elections.  Although she faced an audience that was staunchly Republican and neither warm nor welcoming – blase skepticism and frosty reserve would more faithfully characterize their demeanor – she nevertheless took to the podium and commanded their grudging respect with a combination of passionate patriotism – recounting tales of military heroism told by her ex-soldier dad – and unimpeachable knowledge regarding the anatomy of war, peace and diplomacy.  Even the Five Blind Boys could clearly see that Hillary’s credentials for the gig are heads and shoulders above anything that blustering real estate huckster from Queens can muster.

The quality of the Democratic candidate’s speech depends upon the criteria one employs to evaluate it.  As a political oration designed to win votes it was perfect for her audience and thus must be judged a rousing success…that is to say it went as well as possible.  She touched all of the right bases she needed to touch to hit a home run.  Yet as a statement of political reality and astute realpolitique – which is to say a proper assessment of the relationship of political forces in the world and where our real interests lay – Hillary’s stance on foreign relations left much to be desired.  Since I have made this case elsewhere, re-litigating it here would be akin to reinventing the wheel.  Hence I shall refer the reader who cares to fathom the issue to: “The World According to Hillary” at

As I argue in the essay cited above, in order to fully comprehend Hilary’s view of the world, and the role of American power in the international order, one must first take into account the fact that her basic views were molded in the heat of the Cold War era.  It is a measure of how bad Trump is that even when he is clearly right he can be dismissed out of hand.  Given that the game of politics is a system by which relationships of power are created and maintained alas, and considering the monumental issues that will be decided by this election that demand Democratic leadership, I hesitate to speak frankly of the folly of certain of Hillary’s bedrock views regarding foreign policy…even when they offend my sense of reality.

These are no picayune issues of which I speak; they are at the very root of why the US remains in a state of perpetual war at a great price in blood and treasure!  For instance, Hillary gained big brownie points with the Vets as she vociferously attacked Trump for suggesting that the concept of “American Exceptionalism” was “an insult to other nations” and that it is unreasonable to expect them to accept our vision of the world.

The specific example she used to highlight Trump’s foreign policy blasphemy was his comment that “If you are in Russia you might not view America as Exceptional.”  Hillary acted as if Trump had voiced some unspeakable heresy that alone disqualified him for the US Presidency.  She looked into the cameras and said with all of the indignation she could muster: “Just because Putin does not recognize it doesn’t mean it isn’t true.”  That kind self-righteous messianic view is a dangerous way to understand the role of the US in the community of nations.  The late Senator J. William Fulbright from Arkansas published a book about this attitude in 1966, titled “The Arrogance of Power.”

Fulbright, who was the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, presented an argument that Hillary Clinton needs to consider just now. For although a half century has passed, Senator Fulbright’s argument is as relevant now as it was then.  At the time the US was in a protracted war in Viet Nam, fighting to “contain the communist menace,” a threat that has now been replaced with the “Radical Islamist menace,” which we are now called upon to save the world.  Senator Fulbright, a thoughtful man who was a Rhodes Scholar, offered the following observation:

The attitude above all others which I feel sure is no longer valid is the arrogance of power, the tendency of great nations to equate power with virtue and major responsibilities with a universal mission. The dilemmas involved are preeminently American dilemmas, not because America has weaknesses that others do not have but because America is powerful as no nation has ever been before and the discrepancy between its power and the power of others appears to be increasing….”

Senator Fulbright went on to analyze how the arrogance of American power shaped our mission in Vietnam:

We are now engaged in a war to “defend freedom” in South Vietnam. Unlike the Republic of Korea, South Vietnam has an army which [is] without notable success and a weak, dictatorial government which does not command the loyalty of the South Vietnamese people. The official war aims of the United States Government, as I understand them, are to defeat what is regarded as North Vietnamese aggression, to demonstrate the futility of what the communists call “wars of national liberation,” and to create conditions under which the South Vietnamese people will be able freely to determine their own future. I have not the slightest doubt of the sincerity of the President and the Vice President and the Secretaries of State and Defense in propounding these aims.

What I do doubt and doubt very much is the ability of the United States to achieve these aims by the means being used. I do not question the power of our weapons and the efficiency of our logistics; I cannot say these things delight me as they seem to delight some of our officials, but they are certainly impressive. What I do question is the ability of the United States, or France or any other Western nation, to go into a small, alien, undeveloped Asian nation and create stability where there is chaos, the will to fight where there is defeatism, democracy where there is no tradition of it and honest government where corruption is almost a way of life. Our handicap is well expressed in the pungent Chinese proverb: “In shallow waters dragons become the sport of shrimps.”

Since she is likely to become the next President of the USA, and Commander-In-Chief of the most destructive military force ever assembled on this planet, I can think of several aphorisms that would serve as wise council to Hillary Clinton. As one who voted for her in the primaries, and is working to convince others to cast their votes for her in the general election, I feel at liberty to suggest the following.  Since the doctrine of American Exceptionalism is the moral equivilent of the Arrogance of Power, “A hint to the wise should be sufficient.”  I would buttress that sentiment with the philosopher George Santayana’s warning: “Those who refuse to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat its mistakes!”

Old Soldiers Paying close Attention

Hillary at American Legion

Click on link to view Hillary’s Speech


See Report on Hillary voicing the view that Putin is comparble to Hitler
Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
September 2, 2016

Reflections on American Exceptionalism!

Posted in Cultural Matters, The 2016 Presidential Race, You Tube Classics on June 30, 2016 by playthell
James Reece Europe and the Harlem Hell Fighters Band

Setting the Record Straight

In the coming months we will hear endless praise for “American Exceptionalism,” and while the Republicans are sick with this, some consider commitment to this ideology a litmus test for one’s fitness to become President, large numbers of Democrats are also seduced by this self-serving fiction.  Alas, since “patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels,” as George Bernard Shaw observed, we must look at those who boisterously wrap themselves in the American flag with a jaundiced eye. The ground breaking Afro-American historian Dr. Benjamin Quarles, author of “The Negro in the American Revolution” advised us that “he who would understand the present realities need the added dimension of historical perspective.”

This is especially true when evaluating the doctrine of “American Exceptionalism,” which argues that America is exceptional among the nations of the world in promoting freedom, equality and justice “for all” people. This point of view is especially promoted by Republicans and ding bat White Nationalists like the supporters of Donald Trump, but it is shared to some extent by virtually all white Americans, and some black Americans as well as misguided immigrants who know little of America.

However it is a fiction. The actual history of the US reveals it to be the most racist nation earth! Both Adolph Hitler and the White South Africans got their racist ideology from white American eugenicists – especially Madison Grant’s tome “The Passing of the Great Race” – which Hitler called “My Bible” in a recently discovered letter in Grant’s papers.  Furthermore, the Nazi’s based their racist laws on America’s  anti-black laws.

Madison Grant
Madison GrantHitler’s Bible!

Although Afro-Americans have fought in every war since the Revolutionary war against Britain – which Professor Quarles details in his book, their courage and manhood was still being denigrated at the outbreak of World War I.  However when the all black 369th Regiment from New York, the famous “Harlem Hell Fighters,” was assigned to the French Army they became the most highly decorated of ALL American military units in the First World War.  Yet upon returning home their racist American government refused to recognize their valor, and had even tried to prevent the French government from decorating them!  That was certainly EXECPTIONAL among the nations of the world.

Real American Heroes!

Harlem Hell fighters 69th Infrantry

The 369th Regiment aka “Harlem Hell Fighters

Afro-American music, and the dances it inspired, changed the popular culture of Europe. One European philosopher remarked that had it not been for the popularity of Afro-American music they would have been left to listen to European classical music, and in the spiritual angst that engulfed the European intelligentsia trudging among the ruins of a civilization gone mad in the aftermath of World War I “we would have all committed suicide.”   The Afro-American Renaissance Man, James Weldon Johnson, may well have been right when he called the Harlem Hell fighters band “The greatest military band ever assembled!”

Yet true or not, one thing is certain, the Harlem Hell Fighter’s Band won the hearts and minds of Europeans through the power of music in a way that military power could not.  And I cannot think of a more powerful example of positive American Exceptionalism. For a further discussion of this question see my critical essay on Woody Allen’s thoughtful and artistic film about the period, “Midnight in Paris: A Flawed Masterpiece,” at…/midnight-in-paris-a-fl…/  This is a multi-media presentation with text, photographs and video of the Hell Fighter band performing in Paris.

As one who taught history in a variety of situations from church basements and adult ED classes, to university seminars, I have learned how to plan an effective lesson.  Fortunately I am lucky enough to be living in interesting times, a period of tumultuous change, and the Gods of the pedagogues have provided me with the internet, a marvelous medium in cyberspace that allows me to publish my Commentaries on these events to a world-wide audience.

Furthermore, on the Internet I am able to publish my views without the censorious mediation of editors who are owned by corporate media organizations that determine what we shall see, hear and read.  Added to these blessings are the magnificent video files on You Tube; which provide compelling evidence to buttress my often controversial arguments.  The videos cited here are prime examples, because they support my arguments in the essays superbly.

To view History Channel film on “Harlem Hell Fighters” click on link below.”)…/wor…/videos/the-harlem-hellfighters


Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
June 30, 2016


The Bunko Artist as Presidential Pretender

Posted in The 2016 Presidential Race with tags , on May 1, 2016 by playthell

Donald Trump

Trump on the Stump

The World According to The Donald

   The other day I was on my way to the Magic Johnson Theater to check out Miles Ahead – Don Cheedle’s bio-pic on the brilliant enigmatic trumpeter and musical innovator Miles Davis – when I ran into my man Shoobie Doo.  “Yo Man whassup?” he hollered.  “You been watching that Dude Trump? Damn if he ain’t the best Bunko artist I ever seen at playing the long range con.  That boy’s better than ‘Christ Man’ and he convinced people he was Jesus Christ done come back from da grave!”   Well as the saying goes “game recognizes game” so I’m taking Shoobie’s word for it, because back in the day Shoobie had been a quite successful con man.

Whatever one make think of Senator Marco Rubio, and in the case of this writer not much, he was certainly right in his assessment of Trump as a “con man.”  This characterization was never clearer than in the presentation of his speech on Foreign policy, a subject Trump knows as much about as a Chimp knows about playing Bach’s Goldberg Variations. After watching his presentation I wrote my initial response in a Facebook post:

“It is incoherent mumbo jumbo, pompous drivel written by right wing paranoids with a strong smattering of Trump’s own confused ideas about the world. It is extreme “AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALIST” prattle

Watching Trump’s demeanor while delivering the speech he reminded me of a man who has to go to the bathroom but is forced to hold his water.  He looked very uptight and uncomfortable as he read his remarks from two teleprompters, which had been installed on both sides of the podium so that he could see the script when looking in either direction.  “He is reading off a teleprompter and sounds mechanical,” I wrote,  “rehearsed and phony, but it at least kept him for plunging over a cliff.”  His advisors, invisible men tho they are, were not about to let Trump go public with his foreign policy views without a script.

Unfortunately for Trump, despite his success as a television show host, he is not Ronald Reagan – although he seizes every opportunity to identify with him.  Hence, unlike Reagan, a trained actor who could read seamlessly from a teleprompter and was convincing notwithstanding the fact that, like Trump, he was also clueless about the complexities of foreign policy.

Hence whereas Reagan looked like he knew what he was talking about on the podium and was comfortable doing it, Trump was stiff as a stuffed squirrel and spouted the words of his speechwriter like a ventriloquist’s dummy.  He looked like “Chucky” the blond killer dummy from the hit movie “Magic”.  And he sounded like he would be just as dangerous in the Oval Office.




Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks at his South Carolina campaign kickoff rally in Bluffton, S.C., Tuesday, July 21, 2015. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

Two Dangerous Dummys!

Beyond the bluster and histrionics which Trump mistakenly thinks gives him and air of authority, it is obvious to the informed observer that he is about as deep as a dry creek bed during a drought.  It is impossible to disguise the fact that Trump is a light-weight bunko artist who is abysmally ignorant of history and politics.  This is no secret to anyone who has read the transcripts of Trump’s interrogation by the Editorial Board of the august Washington Post, or seen the video on You Tube where two sharp journalists dissect his answers to questions the editors put to him.

It is impossible to conclude after hearing this that Donald Trump is even minimally qualified to be President of the United States.  For it is all too obvious that he knows next to nothing about the problems a US president must address.  After listening to the speech I wondered if it was actually as bad as I thought; or was I somewhat biased by the fact that I was convinced before hand that Trump is a megalomaniacal ass who is embarrasingly ignorant of political science.

I was reassured of my objectivity when I heard his fellow Republican, Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, conclude: “It makes no sense!”  And my conviction was strenghtend when Senator Graham’s conclusion was co-signed by  Professor Tom Nichols of the  Naval War College, one of the nations’ most eliete national security institutions.

“I found nothing…just a speech that was intellectual chaos.” Says Nichols, a professor of International Relations.  “I believe that he has gotten further down the road than he or his advisors expected, and they decided that he had to give     I seriously doubt that Trump can find any of those countries on a map…or even care about them.  The speech sounded like they just cut up articles from conservative journals and newspapers, threw them in a hat and shook them up, then pasted them together in a speech.  I don’t believe that Trump even understood half the things he was talking about!”

Sounds to me like the textbook definition of a Con Man, a half-assed bunko artist trying to play the long range con but is not quite slick enough to keep the wise guys from peepin his hole card.   If it walks like a weasel……

Double Click on link to view Trumps Speech


Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
May 1, 2016