From Camille Paglia over at Salon:
Dec. 10, 2008 | Roads and bridges! What joy. Last week's announcement by President-elect Barack Obama of his massive public works initiative to stimulate the economy won loud applause from me. Not only does the decaying U.S. infrastructure need emergency attention but construction commissions will be far more substantive and enduring than the half-mythical 5 million "green" jobs that Obama was airily promising before the election....But then I gulped when Obama also pledged educational reform by putting state-of-the-art computers in every classroom. Groan. Computers alone will never solve the educational crisis in this country: They are tools and facilitators, not primary conveyors of knowledge. Packing his team with shiny Harvard retreads, Obama missed a golden opportunity to link his public works project with a national revalorization of the trades. Practical training in hands-on vocational skills is desperately needed in this country, where liberal arts education has become a soggy boondoggle, obscenely expensive and diluted by propaganda and groupthink....The plurality of moderates and conservatives on Obama's appointments list didn't surprise me, because I never thought he was the flaming radical socialist portrayed on right-wing talk radio (which I listen to and enjoy even when I disagree). As an Obama supporter and contributor, I've been very gratified by his dignified deportment and steadiness at the helm to date. But I must admit to puzzled disappointment with his recycling of Clinton era veterans, who reek of déjà vu. Surely we might have expected a better mix of fresh faces and progressive voices? Obama's team may have underestimated the labyrinthine personal interconnections and habit-worn loyalties of that cliquish crew....As for Obama's appointment of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, what sense does that make except within parochial Democratic politics? Awarding such a prize plum to Hillary may be a sop to her aggrieved fan base, but what exactly are her credentials for that position? Aside from being a mediocre senator (who, contrary to press reports, did very little for upstate New York), Hillary has a poor track record as both a negotiator and a manager. And of course both Clintons constantly view the world through the milky lens of their own self-interest. Well, it's time for Hillary to put up or shut up. If she gets as little traction in world affairs as Condoleezza Rice has, Hillary will be flushed down the rabbit hole with her feckless husband and effectively neutralized as a future presidential contender. If that's Obama's clever plan, is it worth the gamble? The secretary of state should be a more reserved, unflappable character -- not a drama queen who, even in her acceptance speech, morphed into three different personalities in the space of five minutes...Given Obama's elaborate deference to the Clintons, beginning with his over-accommodation of them at the Democratic convention in August, a nagging question has floated around the Web: What do the Clintons have on him? No one doubts that the Clinton opposition research team was turning over every rock in its mission to propel Hillary into the White House. There's an information vacuum here that conspiracy theorists have been rushing to fill....Meanwhile, an area where too many in the mainstream media have been oddly AWOL is in the response to the attack on Mumbai, India, two weeks ago by a squad of Pakistan-based terrorists, who killed nearly 200 people. Reaction in the U.S. was somewhat muted because the protracted standoff occurred over the Thanksgiving holiday, when many Americans were traveling or absorbed in family business. But I was troubled by a persistent soft-pedaling of the identification of the attackers as Muslims --as if the mere reporting of that fact would be offensive and politically incorrect....Because seven years have passed since 9/11 without another attack on native soil, many Americans, particularly urban professionals, seem to have been lulled into a false feeling of security. But jihadism as a world movement -- even if its membership is a tiny fraction of young Muslim men -- will continue to pose a serious threat to every open democratic society over the next century and more. Anyone who has studied ancient history knows that great civilizations, from Egypt and Persia to Rome and Byzantium, broke down in stages separated in some cases by many superficially tranquil decades. Because of the unprecedented fragility of our intertwined power grid and complex transportation system, the technological West is highly vulnerable to sabotage and chaos....The tragic fate of so many innocent victims in Mumbai deserves our pity. But what should live in special infamy was the ruthless execution of the Lubavitcher rabbi, Gavriel Hertzberg, and his lovely wife, Rivka, who was 5 months pregnant. These were two idealistic young people of obvious warmth and humanity, who sought only to serve. The rescue by their Indian nanny of their orphaned 2-year-old son, Moshe, crying and smeared with his parents' blood, is already legendary. Was this zeroing in on the Chabad Jewish Center in Mumbai about Israel, or was it simply a gruesome eruption of the medieval tradition of anti-Semitism? Why have Muslim organizations, very quick to protest insulting cartoons, been mostly silent about the atrocities in Mumbai?...The slaughter of the Hertzbergs and other Jews at Chabad House should be a wake-up call to Western liberals who believe that jihadism can be defeated through reason and happy talk. Only other Muslims can launch the stringent internal reform necessary to stomp this barbaric extremism out. But the events in Mumbai confirmed my opinion about the looming problem of a nuclear Iran: While I oppose all American military operations and bases in the Mideast, I continue to believe that Israel, whose security is directly threatened, has every right to take preemptive military action against Iran.
Read More Here: http://www.salon.com/opinion/paglia/2008/12/10/hillary_mumbai/