Big news, not because it’s controversial — it isn’t, or else we wouldn’t be getting a new Secretary of Defense — but because the spectacle of a Bush administration official having to acknowledge it in public is catnip to the left. Note how grateful Levin is.

Here’s the soundbite you’ll be seeing for the rest of the day. I tacked on a bit from his opening statement at the beginning and then an exchange with McCain at the end in which St. John, to his credit, wonders how it is that we had too few troops at the beginning when things were calm, and yet now that they’re really bad, we’re talking about reducing troops further. It’s his way of trying to box Gates into admitting that what he’s being brought in to do is manage a retreat, not win a victory.

FYI, the clip has been heavily edited for brevity.

Update: The good news is, he’s under no illusions about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The bad news? He’s gambling that it’s for deterrent purposes only:

Gates replied that … there were greater forces in Iran than Ahmadinejad who are interested in nuclear ability as a power of deterrence against nuclear countries surrounding them – Pakistan in the east, Russia in the north, Israel in the west and the United States in the Persian Gulf.

The senators asked Gates whether he could guarantee that if Iran possesses nuclear weapons it would not put its threats against Israel into action.

Gates answered that he didn’t believe anyone could guarantee such a thing.

Update: That didn’t take long. Having satisfied itself of Gates’s most important qualification — that he’s not Donald Rumsfeld — the Committee votes unanimously to send the nomination to the floor for confirmation.

Tags: Israel