After an evening of high-level state diplomacy, President Barack Obama came face-to-face with the other side of his job Wednesday and found himself speaking a little too candidly.
Talking turkey, you could say.
“There are certain days that remind me of why I ran for this office,” the U.S. chief executive said as he studied a large Thanksgiving bird nearby.
“And then there are moments like this,” he said to laughter, “where I pardon a turkey and send it to Disneyland.”
The annual Thanksgiving turkey pardoning came a day after a glittering state dinner at the White House for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh — the first state visit of the Obama presidency.
But duties of another order beckoned Wednesday and this time Obama found himself staring across a table at a large white bird.
The turkey, whose name is “Courage,” was provided for the White House event by the National Turkey Federation, which has been doing the honors for more than 50 years, Obama said.
“I’m told Presidents Eisenhower and Johnson actually ate their turkeys. You can’t fault them for that,” he said. “That’s a good-looking bird.”
Kennedy declined to consume a turkey given to him, despite a sign around its neck saying “Good Eatin’, Mr. President.” But it was President Bush who 20 years ago issued the first official presidential pardon for a turkey, Obama said.
To hear the president tell it, that tradition almost didn’t survive this year.
“I am pleased to announce that thanks to the interventions of Malia and Sasha — because I was planning to eat this sucker – ’Courage’ will also be spared this terrible and delicious fate,” he said.
Turkey pardoning duties aside, Obama said he was thankful for the “extraordinary responsibility” voters had given him, and he paid tribute to U.S. troops abroad and their families. He acknowledged many are suffering because of the recession.
“There’s no question this has been a tough year for America,” Obama said. “We’re at war. Our economy is emerging from an extraordinary recession into recovery, but there’s a long way to go and a lot of work to do.”
And with that, he had some formal turkey pardoning to do.
“Before this turkey gets too nervous that Bo (the dog) will escape and screw up this pardon or before I change my mind, I hereby pardon ‘Courage’ so that he can live out the rest of his days in peace and tranquility in Disneyland.”
Don’t think every turkey’s going to get off so light.
Later in the day, Obama said, his family was taking two of Courage’s “less fortunate brethren” to Martha’s Table, a Washington group that provides meals for the hungry.
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Photo credit: Reuters/Jason Reed (Obama attempts diplomacy with turkey)