President Bush Monday night will deliver what White House aides have described as a major rhetorical blast aimed at Saddam Hussein.

That's easy enough, since virtually nobody has anything nice to say about Saddam -- but the president and his scribes ought to use the forum to advance the argument for war, rather than merely cranking up the volume. He soon will have all the authority he needs to conduct war. Congress will give him an authorizing resolution next week. The United Nations likely will follow suit soon after.

But despite that legislative and diplomatic momentum, something is weirdly absent -- and that is a sense of palpable urgency. Americans of all ideological stripes are willing to go after Iraq, but many of us want to know more -- if only a tiny bit more: a detail about biotoxins; a photo of a weapons factories; testimony from victims.

Presidents in times of war must educate, motivate and lead. We all suspect hostilities will commence sooner or later. Now, we need a clearer vision of why -- and why now.