The speech will give millions of Americans an impression of this president and his administration at a time when the edifice is shaky. And we never know until it is delivered how it is going to go or where it will go.

It's such a phenomenal hole in the national debate that you can have arguments with nonexistent people. All politicians try to get away with this to a certain extent. What's striking here is how much this administration rests on a foundation of this kind of stuff.

It was easy enough to tell us about the physical properties of the landscape, but they needed to find a way to describe both the terror and the pleasure of the vastness. There's an importance to the psychological effect the landscape produces, and that's what they were challenged to describe.

The West was very disorienting - vast, big, rough, dislocating, ... None of that represented home.

[Explorers, for the most part, had been of the Marco Polo school of writing:] Basically, you travel through the wilderness for a long time, then you come to a city, ... That's not very helpful or useful.

Going back again and again to the troops is also a constant reminder to Americans of just who is taking the risks in Iraq. I don't think it's playing particularly well.

An incredibly admirable job.

All he had to do in 2002 was say 'We're going to do something,' and everyone was going to cheer. It really didn't matter much what it was.