He was the biggest surprise. His speech opening the conference was one of the best of his political career, certainly his finest on the Middle East. Discarding the hubris and fantasy of his early Iraq addresses, he asserted America's leadership in ending the region's core conflict through the creation of a Palestinian state. Bush pledged "to devote my effort during my time as President to do all I can," knowing that many in the room have been critical of his lack of any such commitment until now. Bush spoke of the promise and obligations of peace for both the Palestinians and the Israelis, and he demonstrated keen awareness of the risks of continuing the present stalemate. "If Palestinian reformers cannot deliver on this hopeful vision," he warned, "then the forces of extremism and terror will be strengthened, a generation of Palestinians could be lost to the extremists, and the Middle East will grow in despair." At last, Bush seems to get it, but whether he follows through remains open to question.