Obama Talks Turkey and Birds Get Their Freedom

Photograph by Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Barack Obama approaches the 2012 National Thanksgiving Turkey Cobbler as National Turkey Federation Chairman Steve Willardsen, center, and handler Bob Evans hold the turkey during a Rose Garden turkey pardon event on Nov. 21, 2012.

President Barack Obama fulfilled a duty of office, pardoning two turkeys a day before Thanksgiving. While their only crime was to be born a potential holiday main dish, Cobbler and Gobbler will live out their days in relative livestock luxury.

With his two daughters at his side and one of the 40-pound birds on a table in front of him, Obama engaged in some subtle political humor as he delivered the pardons in the pumpkin-festooned Rose Garden at the White House.

“They say life is all about second chances, and this November I couldn’t agree more,” Obama, who was re-elected to a second term earlier this month, said. “So, in the spirit of the season, I have one more gift to give and it goes to a pair of turkeys named Cobbler and Gobbler.”

Following his loss to Obama, Republican Mitt Romney told donors in a conference call Nov. 14 that the president won in part because of “gifts” he bestowed on voters, particularly minorities, through government programs.

Obama also reprised his campaign slogan, saying, “The American people have spoken and these birds are moving forward.”

In a melding of American traditions — democracy and Thanksgiving — the public voted on Facebook to determine which of the two 19-week-old toms from a farm near Harrisonburg, Virginia, would be crowned the National Thanksgiving Turkey. Cobbler emerged victorious.

Unlike humans who receive presidential pardons, Cobbler and Gobbler will remain in captivity, albeit in enviable accommodations, for turkeys at least. Their residence will be a custom-made enclosure with other farm animals at Mount Vernon, the Virginia property where President George Washington and his wife Martha “made a concerted effort to build up their turkey flock” during the 1760s, according to historical records from the estate. The two turkeys also spent this week at the posh W  Hotel in Washington awaiting today’s ceremony.

George H.W. Bush was the first president to officially grant a turkey pardon, though White House lore dates the tradition to the 1860s, when Abraham Lincoln’s son Tad asked him to spare the life of a turkey meant for the family’s Christmas dinner. Lincoln granted his son’s wish. Presidents John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon were also known to let the turkeys presented to the White House go on living.

 

 

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