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Has the White House turkey pardon jumped the shark? (+video)

The annual Thanksgiving turkey pardon, dating back to JFK, is now a highly choreographed affair, involving two turkeys, their 'bios,' and a Facebook vote to decide who gets to be the official White House bird.

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Gobbler’s a four-month-old male from Rockingham County, Va., according to his Facebook description. His favorite food is corn, and his walk is “patient but proud," according to the White House.

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Washington Editor

Peter Grier is The Christian Science Monitor's Washington editor. In this capacity, he helps direct coverage for the paper on most news events in the nation's capital.

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Cobbler is a four-month-old, 40-pound male, also from Rockingham, who’s a “strutter” and likes the song “You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon, according to his official bio.

(Sweet cornbread stuffing! Who’s the overachieving White House official who had to make that stuff up? They clawed their way to the top of Washington and thought they’d be running the world and instead they’re hawking poultry.)

At last look, Cobbler was the favorite – he had about 2,400 “likes” to Gobbler’s 2,100. Neither will be eaten, so the title is honorific. Maybe they get a sash, or a crown.

But here’s our point – it seems to us they’re being ironic about the whole ceremony instead of straightforward. “Cobbler”? Carly Simon? If it’s not worth doing it without a subtext, maybe it’s not worth doing at all.

It’s not like presidents enjoy it. Or at least, many don’t seem to. Ike and Jimmy Carter made their veeps shoulder most of the turkey-related duties. Ronald Reagan laughed when his turkey made a flyabout and bolted for freedom.

In 2009, Obama approached the bird to be pardoned, named “Courage," and asked his (the bird’s) handlers if there was an “official gesture." Come on – this whole thing has become too grandiose, like the “Happy Days” episode where Fonzie literally jumped a shark while water-skiing. At that point, the show’s creators were out of ideas, and it began to go downhill.

Perhaps the turkey pardon has reached that crucial turn in the narrative road. The animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has asked Obama to end the practice, calling it “archaic."

“The White House turkey ‘pardon’ is a sorely outdated event,” PETA president Ingrid Newkirk wrote in a letter to the White House.

We might agree with that, but then again, the scalloped oysters are our own favorite part of the turkey-day meal.

RECOMMENDED: Know your US presidents? See if D.C. Decoder can stump you.


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