Archive for Playthell

After The Gulf Oil Spill…

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , , , , on May 29, 2010 by playthell

  James Carvelle freaking out!


 What Now: Passion or Reason?

Like his fellow Chicagoan Oscar Brown Junior, Barack Obama appears to conduct his life by one golden rule: “whatever happens don’t blow your cool.”  Hence it is no accident that he has gained the sobriquet “No Drama Obama.”  His constant cool was much remarked about during the Presidential election; it enabled him to appear calm and “presidential” when John McCain was running around in circles like the “Energizer Bunny” during the financial crisis. 

 Mr. Obama displayed that same cool, calm, collected manner during his press conference explaining his administration’s response to the burgeoning oil crisis in the Gulf Of Mexico that threatens to obliterate the economy and culture of the states nestled along the Gulf.  The President systematically laid out his plan to deal with this crisis and placed his critics on the defensive in his forthright answers to the probing questions put to him by the press corps. 

No doubt he had heard the mounting criticisms about him moving too slowly, appearing unattached and overly calm in the face of disaster.  Perhaps the President’s cool resulted from the fact that he knows the catastrophe in the Gulf is just one more crisis he inherited and he is doing all that can be done at the moment…so his conscience is clear.  However Barack’s caution in predicting precisely when the problem will be solved reflects the uncertainty of our best scientific minds. 

For instance Professor Mishu Kaku, an internationally renowned theoretical physicist at the City University of New York and my longtime colleague at WBAI, compares the effort to plug the leak in the underground pipe to a Three Stooges skit with everybody running around in a whack-a-mole routine.  Dr. Kaku explained “This is the biggest scientific experiment of our time; nobody in the world has experience with this type of operation.”  Hence the Republican attempts to blame this disaster on the President, and their constant carping about the failure of “the federal government” to solve the problem ignores both the technical difficulties involved and exposes all of their anti-government rhetoric as the mindless BS that it is.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about the President’s performance before the media inquisition was his grasp of the both the factual minutiae and the broader realities implied by the massive oil spill.  This guy is obviously a quick study and a brilliant analyst of complex facts who can make sense of situations that appear beyond the grasp of our ability to comprehend.  Unaffected by even the most provocative questions, Mr. Obama was the personification of the level headed and thoughtful leader. And he explained the complex relationship between the US government and the British Petroleum Corporation in exquisite detail.

The President displayed the same calm and thoughtful manner when he visited the Gulf Coast on Friday and stuck his hands in the oily water.  He was reassuring to the country when he calmly explained that “There are only three beaches in the Gulf region that are contaminated; the rest are clean and safe.” The local officials – especially the representatives of commercial fisherman, who are dying a slow death – were ecstatic with his response, including his plans for recovery. 

If anything they seemed buoyed by his serenity and candor in admitting that cleaning up this mess would be no easy task and that there would be mistakes: “there are no silver bullets here,”  the President said.  He also said he understood their anger because he was angry too, and he responded to the hysterical outbursts of James Carvelle and his dreadful Republican wife with the simple observation that Mr. Carvelle didn’t know all the facts regarding the actions the Federal government is taking.

The mark of the true leader is to keep your head when all around you are losing theirs as the poet counsels.  In this, as in his ability to communicate with elegant oratory that is both inspiring and enlightening, Mr. Obama is peerless among world leaders and has rarely been equaled among those who have occupied the Oval Office before him.  He is a man of vision and high principle who possesses both a brilliant mind and a compassionate heart. 

Those who say he lacks passion – like TV pundit Chris Matthews or the long time Democratic Party strategists and Louisiana native James Carville – evidently prefer words to deeds, heated rhetoric over constructive action.  I say let the banshees wail but the president should pay them no mind and keep his eyes on the prize.  For what the world needs now is less passion and more reason. This is especially true in regard to the catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico – which promises to get worse before it gets better – where passion now threatens to overwhelm reason. And that’s bad news indeed, for when this happens things rarely get better and the situation goes from bad to worse!

     The Thinker

President Obama Droppin Science…Again!


Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

May 29, 2010

General Clark is Right about McCain

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On John McCain, Playthell on politics with tags , , , , , , on November 25, 2008 by playthell


A Deluded Old Fool or a Willful Charlatan?

John McCain is not qualified to be Commander-In-Chief

             Now that the Democratic and Republican conventions are over, with the general election soon to follow, Barack Obama is steadily losing ground to John McCain; his once commanding lead has dwindled down to the point where they are in a dead heat!   Should the junior Senator from Illinois lose this historic contest for the presidency, the historical record will show that the main cause of his defeat – aside from whatever role race plays in the outcome – was his ill advised decision to repudiate General Wesley Clark’s candid evaluation of the bogus claim made by the McCain camp, and mindlessly echoed in the media, that Senator McCain’s military experience better qualifies him for the role of Commander-In-Chief. 

It is a point of view that persists in spite of McCain’s myriad factual blunders, at home and abroad, and his transparently flawed analysis of the progress of the war in Iraq, dangerous saber rattling and verbal provocations directed at the powerful Russian bear!  The seriousness of the threat to Barack’s chances of occupying the White House because of McCain’s claim that his military experience better suits him to direct the fate of the nation in war time is verified by the numbers.

Recent polls that found 53% of all Americans believe that the nation would be safer if John McCain was in the white house.  Hence Barack’s chastisement of the General is bad strategy on several counts.  First, General Clark is not only right about McCain – as the Senator’s speech on foreign affairs and national security on 7/15 /08, along with his recent statements on the military crisis in Georgia and the protracted insurgency in Iraq clearly demonstrates – but Barack desperately needs the General to make this point and defuse what is a definite advantage for McCain in the mind of the electorate.

Secondly, by rejecting General Clark’s analysis Barack comes across as spineless and wishy washy to many of the people who have supported him from the git go – like this writer for instance!   Bill Mhar, host of Politically Incorrect – also pointed this out in a recent interview with Larry King.  Barack has been poorly served by the Nervous Nellies among his advisors in this instance; for it is an axiom of political practice that you do not sacrifice a bird in the hand for the bird in the bush.

In other words, in his attempt to win Republican leaning or so-called “undecided voters,” Barrack could lose the support of many people in groups like Move On and other anti-war activists.  What the Illinois Senator should have said is “General Clark is far better qualified to make an assessment of the qualifications of a junior officer than me.  But I remind you that it is senator McCain who has made his military record an issue in this election.”  And then he should have remained mum on the issue and let the general do his thing!

  Instead, the silly and transparently opportunistic apologia offered up by Barack gave credibility to the bogus charge made by the hero worshiping chicken hawks in talk radio and the Fox News crowd – who are cut from the same mould – that have purposely misrepresented the general’s remarks as an attack on McCain’s military record.  It was no such thing, and Barack should have shown a little balls and said so!

By his refusal to support General Clarke’s attack on the McCain myth Barack enabled McCain to shamelessly exploit his military service to great political advantage during his acceptance speech, which was televised to a captive audience around the world.   If Barack had supported the General, McCain would have looked like a rank opportunist – assuming he had the nerve to go through with that charade at all.

This way Barack would have slaughtered two turkeys with one swing: nullify McCain’s military myth, and also come across as a man who is willing to stand on principle even when the political waters get a little rough.  Alas, his choice make  him look like a spineless pooty-pop whose allegiance is dictated by expedience.  Not good.

 What makes Barack’s position so indefensible to those of us who know better is that General Wesley Clark is clearly right in his assessment of McCain.  A Four Star General who graduated first in his class at West Point and also holds a Doctorate in politics and Philosophy from Oxford, Clarke was the Commander of NATO forces during the Bosnian war, a military action I supported and wrote a 3,000 word commentary titled “Bombs Away!” explaining my position on the conflict.

General Wesley Clark 

The Real Deal!

He also has a chest full of battle ribbons and medals.  Who is Barack Obama to contradict his assessment of McCain anyway?  To this ex-soldier he looks more than silly, he is ridiculous, especially since Barack desperately needs General Clark to offer this critique of McCain’s claims precisely because he has no credibility in military matters – not that this is a requirement for a Commander-In-Chief.

            Although military experience is not a requirement for a President – that’s why we have a professional military establishment – too many Americans know too little about the Constitutional requirement that the Commander-In-Chief be a civilian, and they understand even less about the thinking that underlie that decision. Hence they believe that McCain’s military experience makes him a superior thinker on matters of national security and foreign policy.

The fact that most Americans are, as Harold Cruse thoughtfully pointed out in The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual, “anti-historical and anti-intellectual” means that few citizens recognize the fact that our two greatest war time presidents – Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delanor Roosevelt – had no military experience just like Barack!

Yet these Presidents led the nation through perilous times when our national existence was at stake.  If the Illinois Senator had shown a little spunk and stood on truth and principle instead of wimping out and running for cover, he could have used the occasion to teach Americans what the architects of the Constitution intended when they placed the nation’s armed forces under the command of a civilian.

After all, he is a former professor of constitutional law and is well versed about the intentions of the founding Fathers on this issue.  Hence he should once again turn the nation into a vast classroom without walls and instruct us on the intent of the framers of the Constitution in setting up the chain of command with a civilian in charge the same way he enlightened the nation on the issue of race in American history.

 Alas he chose instead to take the path of least resistance, and has remained mum on this all-important issue while John McCain is slowly whipping his ass in the polls, where he is slowly but surely wiping out Obama’s lead! If Barack wants to play “Nobel Othello” while McCain increasingly plays treacherous Iyago and systematically poisons his name, Barack will go down in flames.  And if the Obama camp didn’t understand this before, they certainly should see it now after the way McCain used his military experience at the convention.

            General Clarke was simply setting the record straight about McCain’s grandiose claims. This becomes abundantly clear if we carefully consider what the general actually said.  Speaking on the venerable CBS news and public affairs program Face The Nation, which airs on Sunday mornings, Clark’s remarks in no way disparaged Senator McCain’s military service.  If that were his goal he could have pointed out that by McCain’s own admission he sang like a canary when he was captured by Vietnamese soldiers after he was shot down.

The Unified Code of Military Justice, which is the law that governs the actions of members of the US armed forces, states that when captured by the enemy American military personnel are to give their name, rank and serial number.  That’s all folks!   John McCain however gave his captors a lot more than that.  He told them the number of planes in his squadron, and even the coordinates of their bombing targets!

Thus McCain could have been brought up on charges, court marshaled, and dishonorably discharged: would anybody have called him “a hero” then?    Just asking.   But the general was mum on these embarrassing issues; which is compelling evidence that his intention was not to besmirch McCain’s “heroism.”

         General Clark’s remarks specifically addressed the question of whether John McCain’s military experience gave him special qualifications to be president.  And his answer was a resounding no!   But he took great care in acknowledging the senator’s military service in his critique of McCain’s pretensions to the Oval Office.  “I certainly honor his service as a prisoner of war. But he hasn’t held executive responsibility. That large squadron in the Navy that he commanded — that wasn’t a wartime squadron. He hasn’t been there and ordered the bombs to fall.”

This was manna from heaven for Barack, because he desperately needed somebody above McCain’s rank and pay grade to deflate his claim that Barack was unfit to be president because his lack of military experience meant that the nation would be gambling with our survival.  This is McCain’s strongest argument for his pretentions to the Oval Office, but it is a bogus claim that is not supported by history, as the presidential historians constantly point out.

Yet even as Jon Soltz, an Iraq Veteran and Chairman of the anti-war organization, and Lt. General Robert Gard Jr. rushed to Clark’s defense, Barack ducked his head in the sand instead of standing up like a man.  Somebody needs to tell him that this strategy is a mistake, and if he continues down that winding road he will lose this historic election.

            As the controversy around General Clark’s completely reasonable and accurate remarks raged, fueled by rightwing blowhards like that lying fat dope fiend Rush Limbaugh – who always reminds me of Porky Pig – and that greasy headed opportunist Sean Hannity, the General went on television with Dan Abrahams, who along with Keith Oberman and Chris Matthews is one of the fairest and wisest voices in the commercial media, and clarified his views.  Accustomed to maintaining his cool under real fire, the General was unfazed by the hysterical misrepresentations of his views repeated ad nauseum by the air head idiocracy on the right like a Greek chorus.

            “There are many important issues in this Presidential election,” the General said, “clearly one of the most important issues is national security and keeping the American people safe. In my opinion, protecting the American people is the most important duty of our next President. I have made comments in the past about John McCain’s service and I want to reiterate them in order be crystal clear. As I have said before I honor John McCain’s service as a prisoner of war and a Vietnam Veteran. He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands and millions of others in Armed Forces as a prisoner of war. I would never dishonor the service of someone who chose to wear the uniform for our nation.”

But he went on to point out: “”John McCain is running his campaign on his experience and how his experience would benefit him and our nation as President. That experience shows courage and commitment to our country – but it doesn’t include executive experience wrestling with national policy or go-to-war decisions. And in this area his judgment has been flawed – he not only supported going into a war we didn’t have to fight in Iraq, but has time and again undervalued other, non-military elements of national power that must be used effectively to protect America.  But as an American and former military officer I will not back down if I believe someone doesn’t have sound judgment when it comes to our nation’s most critical issues.”  What was Barack apologizing for?  This is a completely accurate statement!

            Then, in spite of Barack’s cowardice in throwing him under the bus when he sought to lend him a much needed helping hand – as all the polls regarding whom Americans trust to protect the security of the nation show – the general reiterated his support for Barack’s candidacy for President.

“”I honor John McCain’s character…he’s been on of my heroes for a long time. He’s been over to my house. This is about the qualifications to be president. It is also about the nature of politics today that a comment can be taken out of context so much to create a hullaboo… I think anybody who serves in uniform who serves their country in wartime and has gone through the hardships like John McCain should be honored for their character and courage,” said Clark.

“I think people look for character and courage in their president,” he said, “but I don’t think you’ have to have been at war to have shown character and courage. I think you can see that in other candidates. I think you can see that in Barack Obama’s life.”



Playthell G, Benjamin
November 2008
Harlem, New York