President Joe Biden is all set to again pardon a pair of turkeys, hailing this year from Minnesota, which is apparently the top turkey producing state in the nation, while his predecessor as president, Donald Trump, remains still unpardoned for numerous alleged crimes as the nation gets ready for Thanksgiving, also known in the US as Turkey Day.
Of course it is all supposed to be a joke.Traditionally in real life presidents only pardon cronies who have been convicted of malfeasance, not innocent members of the poultry.
It all seems to have started when, in a canny political move, instead of publicly accepting a live turkey that was destined for the White House dinner table, John F. Kennedy broke the tradition in 1963 and ‘pardoned’ the turkey.
This decision well might have been reviewed by the Supreme Court, considering that there was no fowl play and the turkey remained unindicted, but it wasn’t and what started as a joke continued and became a tradition as the lame joke was revived by Kennedy’s successors.
Kennedy and succeeding presidents realized that it’s better to be seen as a turkey liberator rather than the one to publicly be seen sending an innocent to the gallows, so they went with the flow.
There was a close call, though, during the George W. Bush administration when Barney, the president’s plucky Scottish Terrier, almost silenced the gobble of that year’s bird. Bush had to be called out of a national security meeting to call Barney off.
In fact, pardons for turkeys seems to be an expanding duty for politicians.
Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer brought the tradition to Michigan in 2022, pardoning “Mitch E. Gander“, a play on words using the name used for a resident of Michigan. And the same thing is scheduled again this year in the swing state, where every vote counts (though turkeys do not have the franchise.)
Alabama has apparently been doing this for decades. Oddly, the birds also, according to the Alabama Daily News, used to use the same names for the turkey every year for some reason — “Clyde” and “Henrietta.”
That changed this year after the incensed citizens of Alabama, many of them called Clyde or Henrietta, demanded a state-wide referendum on the matter.
“Today, by the powers vested in me as governor of the state of Alabama,” Gov. Kay Ivey said at this year’s event, “I hereby am granting a full pardon to Giblet and Puddin’, so that they can spend their turkey day enjoying a meal of their own.”
Sources: NPR, CNN, Wikipedia.