He didn’t use the R-word but it’s easy to read between lines as broad as these. A vignette from this morning’s House hearings on Libya, in which a glum SecDef gamely tried to choke down the “turd sandwich” currently being served by his boss:

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates reiterated Thursday that the U.S. would not put ground forces in Libya, but conceded that allies involved in the operation might provide arms and send in trainers to aid the rebels, who have lost ground to Col. Moammar Kadafi’s forces in recent days.

In his strongest language since the U.S. deployed warplanes to protect Libyan civilians, Gates ruled out sending any U.S. forces to Libya “as long as I’m in this job” — a viewpoint that he said President Obama shared. But he admitted that the rebels needed help to withstand the assault from Kadafi’s forces, even with NATO warplanes overhead.

Gates acknowledged the administration is still considering whether to provide arms to the rebels, but said what the opposition forces need most is training.

He’s on his way out anyway this year so if it reached the point where the White House was considering putting boots on the ground, O would simply ease him out a bit early before making his move. Even so, Gates’s remark is telling in how emphatic it is. Clearly he thinks there’s a chance it’ll come to this; in fact, watch the clip below and you’ll find him arguing against using U.S. troops in Libya even in a limited capacity of training the rebels. My strong sense from watching him is that he’s already alarmed about the amount of mission creep he’s seen and is desperate to draw a bright line before it creeps any further and infantry starts getting involved. Mike Rogers noted “deep divisions” among administration officials in classified briefings about Libya yesterday, with some evincing palpable “uneasiness” about the mission — but Rogers refused to name names. I think we can now solve the puzzle.

Speaking of yesterday’s briefings, remember last night’s post about Hillary responding to questions about congressional authorization with the diplomatic equivalent of “too bad, so sad”? Somehow I missed this post at TPM before writing it. It’s worse than we thought:

“They are not committed to following the important part of the War Powers Act,” [Democrat Brad Sherman] told TPM in a phone interview. “She said they are certainly willing to send reports [to us] and if they issue a press release, they’ll send that to us too.”

The White House would forge ahead with military action in Libya even if Congress passed a resolution constraining the mission, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during a classified briefing to House members Wednesday afternoon…

The answer surprised many in the room because Clinton plainly admitted the administration would ignore any and all attempts by Congress to shackle President Obama’s power as commander in chief to make military and wartime decisions. In doing so, he would follow a long line of Presidents who have ignored the act since its passage, deeming it an unconstitutional encroachment on executive power.

Exit question: Who wrote the following in response to the TPM post? “If the Obama administration is refusing even to abide by the War Powers Act, then the Congress really needs to vote to defund their adventurism at least or impeach them if it comes to that. Going to war outside even the War Powers Act qualifies as an impeachable offense, it seems to me.” Exit answer: Dude.