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Obama pardons Thanksgiving turkey



    Nov 28, 2014

    Obama pardons Thanksgiving turkey


    US PRESIDENT Barack Obama granted amnesty Wednesday, but Republicans did not issue dire warnings of a constitutional crisis.

    "Today, I'm taking an action fully within my legal authority - the same kind of action taken by Democrats and Republican presidents before me - to spare the lives of two turkeys, Mac and Cheese, from a terrible and delicious fate," said Mr Obama, using his executive action taken last week in shielding five million immigrants from deportation as a theme of sorts for the annual White House turkey pardon.

    As the President spoke in the grand, marbled entrance hall of the White House, a large white turkey strutted and fluffed its copious plumage on a mat nearby.

    That was Cheese, a 20-week-old, 22kg turkey raised (antibiotic-free, said the health- conscious White House) in Fort Recovery, Ohio. Cheese won out over Mac, a similar bird, in a Twitter contest to select which would take the title of National Thanksgiving Turkey.

    Mr Obama admitted to being slightly mystified by the White House turkey-sparing tradition, which began in 1963 and morphed into a full presidential pardon for the first time in 1989. But he said that in the midst of global crises, it was a welcome excuse to take a breath.

    "It is a little puzzling that I do this every year, but I will say that I enjoy it, because with all the tough stuff that rolls around in this office, it's nice once in a while just to say Happy Thanksgiving," Mr Obama said.

    After his remarks, the President turned to a table decorated with pumpkins, gourds and mums, where Cheese was being held by his owner, and bestowed the official pardon. Mr Obama made a cross-like gesture near Cheese's head, as if blessing the bird.

    Nearby, the first daughters, Sasha and Malia, looked less than thrilled, especially when the President reached out tentatively to pet Cheese, noting with amusement that turkeys "don't have the best-looking heads". His girls were similarly underwhelmed.

    "You want to pet him?" Mr Obama asked his daughters.

    "Nah," Malia said quickly, taking a few steps back.

    Although Mac did not attend the ceremony, the White House said he would be spared as well. Both are to be sent to Morven Park's Turkey Hill, a 4,046ha farm in Leesburg, Virginia, to live out their days.

    They were luckier than two other turkeys that Mr Obama said "didn't make the cut". They were instead donated to a local pantry, Bread for the City, where the first family went to distribute food for Thanksgiving after the pardon.

    "I know some will call this amnesty," Mr Obama said, alluding to what his critics say he is granting to immigrants in the country illegally. "But don't worry, there's plenty of turkey to go around."