Bush Pardons Thanksgiving Turkey

The Associated Press
Tuesday, November 20, 2007; 12:02 PM

WASHINGTON -- The turkey at the White House really draws a crowd. When President Bush stepped into the Rose Garden on Tuesday, he found visitors in every coveted seat, reporters standing three rows deep and staff members craning for just one good glimpse. They came for one of those signature White House moments: Bush saving the life of a huge, white, gobbling bird.

Bush granted his yearly pardon to the national Thanksgiving turkey, named "May," and a backup turkey who went unseen, who goes by "Flower."

The names were chosen in an online poll that drew more than 28,000 votes. It was close; people also liked "Wish and Bone," and "Wing and Prayer."

"They're certainly better than the names the vice president suggested, which was `lunch' and `dinner,'" Bush said.

Bush and the bird coexisted peacefully, although the turkey interrupted the president three times with gobbles, much to the delight of the audience.

After the pardon, the president petted the bird gently and then encouraged some young children to gather around him and do the same.

The White House made clear that the national turkey and its alternate were raised under "normal feeding" conditions. The one exception is when the birds were given some extra interaction with people so that they would be ready for their big moment at the White House.

The popular pardon ceremony, now in its 60th year, dates to Harry Truman's days as president.

May and Flower are now headed to Disney World in Orlando, Fla., to be honorary grand marshals at Disney's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

"May they live the rest of their lives in blissful gobbling," Bush said.

The president and first lady Laura Bush, meanwhile, flew off to the presidential retreat in Camp David, Md., for the holiday week.

© 2007 The Associated Press