Click image to see more photos. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)
Cobbler and Gobbler are now off President Barack Obama's "kill list." Obama officially "pardoned" Cobbler, the 2012 National Thanksgiving Turkey, at a public ceremony on Wednesday in the White House Rose Garden.
"They say that life is all about second chances. And this November I could not agree more," said the president, who is famously stingy with pardons for humans. Obama's daughters, Malia and Sasha, stood at his side, while Cobbler periodically interrupted the commander in chief's remarks with the distinctive call of his species.
"From here, these two lucky birds will be swept up in a whirlwind of fame and fortune that will ultimately lead them to Mount Vernon, where they will spend their twilight years," Obama said. (Twilight years? Maybe more like twilight months. Last year's honoree—named Peace—was put to death recently under what CNN describes as murky, even suspicious, circumstances.)
On what is surely an unrelated note, Obama acknowledged with a smile a question about the recently-agreed-upon Israel-Gaza cease-fire, but did not answer it.
The president, who planned a visit to a food bank later in the day, noted that this year's holiday comes after superstorm Sandy battered the East Coast, leaving ruin in its wake. "I'd like to ask every American to do what they can to help families that are in need of a real Thanksgiving this year," he said.
In Washington, the birds got the full big-donor treatment: a night in a suite at the swank W Hotel, a VIP visit to the White House and, finally, a presidential pardon that lets them live out their days at George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens. (If history is any guide, both birds are doomed to die within the year.) They earned it, according to the very, very best part of the Wikipedia entry on this entirely trivial annual event: "The turkeys are raised in the same fashion as turkeys designated for slaughter, but are selected 'at birth' for pardoning and are trained to handle loud noises, flash photography and large crowds."
In a twist, the White House crowdsourced which turkey would get the formal title of "National Thanksgiving Turkey" with an entry on its official blog.
(That post read, in part, like some demented avian www.match.com entry: "Cobbler craves cranberries, is known for his strut, and enjoys the musical stylings of Carly Simon. Gobbler, a patient but proud bird, loves to nibble on corn and enjoys any music with a fiddle." #TeamCobbler? #TeamGobbler? Wait, which one is the vampire and which the werewolf?)
"The American people have spoken, and these birds are moving forward," the president said, before throwing in a reference to a favorite political prognosticator. "Once again, Nate Silver completely nailed it. The guy's amazing. He predicted these guys would win.
"I want to thank everyone who participated in this election. Because of your votes, the only cobbler anyone's eating this Thanksgiving will come with a side of ice cream," Obama quipped.
Cobbler and Gobbler were the lucky ones. Two of their unnamed brethren will end up at an area food bank, courtesy of the Jaindl Turkey Farms of Orefield, Penn.
Obama said he, first lady Michelle Obama and their daughters would be taking the less lucky birds to a Washington food bank. "And, as always, if for some reason Cobbler cannot fulfill his duties as the official White House turkey, Gobbler will be waiting in the wings," the president said.
Not everyone thinks the annual ritual is trivial but harmless: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals denounced the "pardon" and linked America's vast appetite for turkey to the historic oppression of minorities.
"You understand so well that African-Americans, women, and members of the LGBT community have been poorly served throughout history, and now I am asking you to consider other living beings who are ridiculed, belittled, and treated as if their sentience, feelings, and very natures count for nothing," PETA President Ingrid Newkirk wrote in a Nov. 20 open letter to Obama.
Are you still reading? Um, OK, here's what the White House bills as "The Definitive History of the Presidential Turkey Pardon."