It was a long hearing. There was a break. About five minutes. I think before ten but it might have been right before eleven o'clock.
A lot of people should probably have a question or two figured out before they show up. That wouldn't prevent the senators who are in love with the sounds of their own voice. But it might make some people a little more organized.
So the Committee held their first hearing since the Defense Dept. released their survey on the issue. Senators John McCain, Jim Inhofe, Jeff Sessions, Saxby Chambliss and John Thune -- all Republicans -- were bothered by the 28% number.
What was that? The percentage of surveys returned.
Look, some people may not have cared. Some people may not have wanted to fill out a survey. Some may have thought -- as Senator Scott Brown argued -- that their vote wouldn't count. But 28% of the service members cared enough about the issue to fill out the survey. So I think they're making something out of nothing. (And statistically, the Defense Dept. said 28% was a good percentage for returns.)
Another argument tossed out there was that Don't Ask, Don't Tell couldn't be repealed because we were at war. Robert Gates (Secretary of Defense) asked. "If not now, when? When we're out of Afghanistan?" Gates doesn't think, as he himself said, that things are going to calm down. It was also stated that a change might work better now while the nation was at war.
Senator Kay Hagan was one of the real stars of today. She stated her position very clearly from the start, noting she was in favor of repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell "because I personally believe that it is the right thing to do and I believe that the discharge of highly qualified professionals" is wrong.
There's another hearing tomorrow. We plan to attend. But it was long and too many of the senators (Jim Webb, for one) were way too long winded.
And here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"