REALITY CHECK….Yes, it was refreshing to hear Robert Gates acknowledge the plain truth yesterday that we’re losing the war in Iraq. And John Judis points out that he appears to hold sane positions on the wisdom of attacking either Iran or Syria. What’s more, I basically believe presidents should have pretty wide latitude to select their own cabinet. So I don’t have any big problem with Gates’s appointment as Secretary of Defense.

Still, it would be nice to turn down the hallelujah chorus just a notch. Everyone knows perfectly well that it’s easy to be critical of policies that you yourself aren’t responsible for, and I didn’t hear anything in particular to make me think Gates will be any more flexible than Donald Rumsfeld once he’s in office and has to deal with failures on his own watch. He might be, but nothing in his testimony was particularly persuasive on that score.

So, sure, Gates appears to be at least nominally reality based. That’s great. But it’s a pretty low bar for getting excited about a cabinet nomination, no?