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Live From the Oval Office: A Backdrop of History Fades From TV

July 13, 2013

By Jackie Calmes

WASHINGTON — At historic moments in the television age, past American presidents turned to the Oval Office as their stage.

Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy interrupted prime-time shows to tell Americans from the Oval Office why they had ordered troops to desegregate schools. Bill Clinton broke into programming from behind the presidential desk three times in a month to explain military actions in Haiti and Iraq. Ronald Reagan, the telegenic former actor, set the record for evening addresses from the Oval Office desk: 29 over two terms.

Even the untelegenic Richard M. Nixon spoke 22 times from the Oval Office in just five years, the last time to resign in disgrace.

The current president? It was three years ago this summer that Mr. Obama gave his only two prime-time addresses from the Oval Office — the first on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the second on ending combat operations in Iraq.

That ties the number for George W. Bush at a similar point in his presidency. After Mr. Bush’s first Oval Office address, on Sept. 11, 2001, he gave just five more in eight years. The statistics come from the American Presidency Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

“I wouldn’t say the Oval Office address is a thing of the past,” said Martha Joynt Kumar, a presidency scholar at Towson University in Maryland. “It’s just going to be reserved for those presidents and those occasions where they feel they have to use it.” Read the rest of the story at The New York Times.


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