In my column today I write about Obama’s Farewell Address. In a section dealing with the history of Farewell Addresses:
Of course, the era of radio and television necessitated — or created the perception of necessity — that presidents address the people directly. Whether that amounted to progress is for others to decide. But until Obama, it never occurred to a president to deliver a televised address from anywhere but the Oval Office.
This has two errors. One is relatively innocuous. I should have written a “televised Farewell Address anywhere but . . . ” Some readers, particularly on Twitter, seem to think I meant that no presidential address of any kind was ever delivered outside the Oval Office. Given the context of the paragraph, I think this is an unfair misreading. Of course I meant Farewell Addresses. I shouldn’t have omitted the word “farewell.” But I don’t think it’s a big deal either.
The second error is more significant. It’s just not true that until Obama no modern president has delivered a televised Farewell Address outside the Oval Office. Most have. But LBJ and Gerald Ford delivered theirs in the House chamber. The first president Bush delivered his at West Point. And the second president Bush delivered his in the East Room.
I truly regret the error, and while I can offer explanations about writing fast — and dyspeptically — amidst several looming deadlines, the truth is such explanations are not excuses. I should have checked. My apologies.
At the same time, my larger point still holds. If I had written something like, “It never occurred to a modern president to deliver a televised address from anywhere but in a dignified official setting,” I would have been entirely right.