Pardon Me!

By Dana Milbank
Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The annual pardoning of the Thanksgiving turkey has gained new attention since President Bush allowed the administration's most famous almost jailbird, vice presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, to fly the coop.

Members of the White House press corps strutted their stuff as they awaited Bush in the Rose Garden yesterday. Somebody said the two birds should be named "Scooter" and "Libby."

Another proposal: "Ramos" and "Compean" -- the two imprisoned border agents whose pardons CNN's Lou Dobbs fervently seeks.

Ken Herman of Cox News feared that Bush would ship the birds off to Gitmo, where they would be "water-basted." Another reporter, in an allusion to the president's low poll ratings, wondered whether there would be difficulty figuring out which one is the turkey.

But Bush played it straight. "They are 'May' and 'Flower,' " he dubbed the 45-pound tom turkeys.

How sweet. How tame.

Then he added a bit of presidential mischief. "They're certainly better than the names the vice president suggested, which was 'Lunch' and 'Dinner,' " Bush said, to appreciative laughter.

The best names, considering the birds' itinerary, may have been, to borrow Bush's old joke about his base, "Have" and "Have More." At a time when nearly 40 million Americans live in poverty, the wholesome ceremony for the annual turkey-pardoning has managed to turn into yet another display of American excess.

From the White House, the birds were driven in a police-escorted motorcade to Dulles Airport, where they were whisked to a private room in the United Airlines Red Carpet Club, before going to Gate C17 to board a United flight to Orlando, where they will be grand marshals of a Disney parade.

"They're going to Disney World!" announced the stickers on the turkeys' kennels.

According to their first-class boarding tickets, "Turkey One" received Seats 3B and 3C, while "Turkey Two" got 1A and 1B. The plane, flown by a chicken farmer and packed with actual paying customers in coach, was renamed "United Turkey One, Flight 6519."

It was, quite literally, first-class treatment, but the scene still ruffled feathers at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The group sent Bush a letter asking him to send the birds not to Disney World but to a "credible farmed-animal sanctuary."

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