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After having watched a good deal of the Gates confirmation hearing today, I am just appalled at the fluff, the softballs, the preening and the lack of much of any real substance and oversight in the questions and public statements.  I understand that Gates may be likely to be confirmed at this point — most Senators being so overwhelmingly thrilled to see the back side of Rummy at the Pentagon that pretty much anyone looks better after his disastrous tenure at the helm of the DoD.

But that it no excuse for Senators failing to do their Constitutional duty of advice and consent. No excuse at all.

And while a great deal of the confirmation hearing in terms of substantive questioning may well go on behind closed doors — due to the substantial national security considerations that would have to be skated around in answering any questions on operations in Iraq or Afghanistan, as well as deployment questions about any other American forces in other arenas — that is still no excuse for not asking tough questions of the nominee for the public's benefit and for the nation.

So I'd like to open the floor for some suggestions of questions that need to be asked of Dr. Gates.  And I promise to try and get them into the hands of several folks who can hopefully ask them.  You have a question for Bob Gates — a real, honest-to-goodness, substantive question — about war profiteering, DoD direction, long-term planning, the mess that is Iraq, or Afghanistan, or any number of the bazillion other issues involved in this confirmation process and that ought to be considered?  Please ask below.

Because no one ought to get to be Secretary of Defense on a gimme — especially not at this point.  Whomever cleans up the mess after Rummy leaves the building ought to be fully qualified and committed to the job — we owe nothing less to our men and women in uniform.

Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee:

REPUBLICANS

John Warner (Virginia)
Chairman

John McCain (Arizona)
James M. Inhofe (Oklahoma)
Pat Roberts (Kansas)
Jeff Sessions (Alabama)
Susan M. Collins (Maine)
John Ensign (Nevada)
James M. Talent (Missouri)
Saxby Chambliss (Georgia)
Lindsey O. Graham (South Carolina)
Elizabeth Dole (North Carolina)
John Cornyn (Texas)
John Thune (South Dakota)

DEMOCRATS

Carl Levin (Michigan)
Ranking Member

Edward M. Kennedy (Massachusetts)
Robert C. Byrd (West Virginia)
Joseph I. Lieberman (Connecticut)  (Soon to be [I])
Jack Reed (Rhode Island)
Daniel K. Akaka (Hawaii)
Bill Nelson (Florida)
E. Benjamin Nelson (Nebraska)
Mark Dayton (Minnesota)
Evan Bayh (Indiana)
Hillary Rodham Clinton (New York)