So that’s why the White House gave Carl Levin a heads up about the SOTU. They’re really going to move on it this time. Marc Ambinder:

Before President Obama announced last night that he would work with Congress and the Pentagon to end the military’s ban on service by gays and lesbians, the White House consulted Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to sign off on the language he planned to use, administration officials said. They did. “The Pentagon is with us,” the official said. And Geoff Morell, Gates’s spokesman, e-mails me to say that “The Department leadership is actively working on an implementation plan and will have more to say about it next week.” So — Obama’s pledge to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was more than words — he’s instructed the military to get it done as soon as Congress repeals the law. A Senate hearing is set for February 2, featuring testimony from Mullens= and Gates. An outside hearing is set for February 11.

Supposedly Levin isn’t sure if he has 60 votes. Will this end up being Scotty B’s first falling out with the conservative base? More from ABC:

Gates and Mullen are expected to discuss steps that the Pentagon would have to undertake internally before the White House and the Congress move to change the law. Gates has said in the past that changing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell should be a process that’s done “very very carefully” and in a way that mitigates any downsides…

A senior defense official says it’s likely that at the hearing, Gates will also discuss options, studied by the Pentagon’s General Counsel, about ways to ease punishments on gay servicemembers who were outed by a third party. Gates requested that the General Counsel look into the possibility last summer.

McCain put out a statement this morning saying the policy’s fine as is, but in a battle of military cred with the SecDef and Joint Chiefs chair on the other side, the GOP’s going to have to do better than Maverick. Can they? If you’re thinking of Colin Powell as some sort of ace in the hole, think again.

It’s time to poll this one. Exit question: If the Taliban is okay with having gays in the military, shouldn’t we be too?