I was on the phone during Bob Gates’ first presser since being reappointed as defense secretary by President-elect Obama, but my man Matt DeLong kept me covered and sent along his notes. And look at this! Gates is OK with Obama’s timetable for withdrawing combat troops from Iraq in 16 months!

I’ll update when the Pentagon emails me the transcript, but Gates was asked about the timetable, and he said working within Obama’s 16-month-ish timetable, with appropriate adjustments along commanders’ recommendations, is an "agreeable approach." Gates noted that the Status of Forces Agreement compels a full withdrawal by Dec. 2011 and a withdrawal from Iraqi towns and cities by next summer, and said commanders in Iraq are exploring a "potential acceleration" of any drawdown. "I’m less concerned about a timetable," he said. (All quotations are my extrapolation from DeLong’s notes. Errors are mine, not his.)

All this really speaks to the political wisdom of keeping Gates. The Republican defense secretary who implemented the surge just endorsed withdrawing combat troops from Iraq according to a deadline — something that John McCain, the pre-July George W. Bush and a raft of conservative commenters have said for years would herald the apocalypse. What are they going to say now that Gates is in favor of it?

Chances are, not a whole lot, since they can’t seem to comprehend the idea. Here’s Max Boot on the implications of Gates’ reappointment:

This all but puts an end to the 16-month timetable for withdrawal from Iraq…

And here’s Mara Liasson, the token liberal commentator on Fox News:

16 months has gone out the window, I think we can say that.

This is how a new progressive-realist consensus on foreign policy gets forged.

Crossposted to The Streak.