Here's the difference between writing on a web site and writing for a monthly magazine, as I usually do, or in books: on a web site the crucial "hmmm, did I really mean to say that?" delay cycle has less chance of guarding you against something you didn't really mean to say. (Yes, I know, in the hands of genuine bloggers this is part of the medium's spontaneous charm.)

On reflection, I really did mean to say that Barack Obama's top-of-his-head answer to the "Do you believe in American exceptionalism?" question was extraordinary in its combination of comprehensiveness and concision. As argued here and here. But I've been convinced by the person who posed the question (plus the Yank journalist who recommended that he ask it) that there was no lost-Empire hauteur intended in it. So I didn't really mean to make that cheap joke, and I'm sorry that I did -- and apologize to the man in question, Edward Luce.

Think how many more of these excesses our magazine would contain if it were published every hour rather than every month!