Each Thanksgiving, two lucky turkeys are saved from impending death and join that exclusive list of birds who have stood in the Rose Garden with the president of the United States.
They’re lavished with attention, given an overnight stay at the historic Willard Hotel and provided instant celebrity.
But no one ever remembers the two less fortunate turkeys that are also sent to the White House each year.
Every year since the Kennedy administration, the National Turkey Federation has asked a turkey farm in Orefield, Pa., to send two dressed (a nicer word for ready-to-eat) birds to the first family. Jaindl Turkey Farms proudly boasts on its Web site that it has been asked to “supply the turkey that graces the holiday table at the White House each Thanksgiving.”
But, at least in the Obama White House, the Jaindl turkeys are not eaten by the chief executive. Instead, President Obama has donated the Jaindl turkeys to a local charity. Where the White House gets the turkey that is eaten by the first family is a state secret.
“For a variety of reasons, including security of the White House food supply, we aren’t usually able to give out details on where we get food, beverages, etc.,” a White House official told the Loop.
When the Turkey Federation started giving turkeys to the White House in 1947, the intention was for the president to eat them, a spokesman for the group said.
Since at least 1962, those turkeys have always come from Jaindl, specifically its Grand Champion brand. No one could confirm whether Obama is the first president to give the Jaindl turkeys away.
David Jaindl, who runs his family’s turkey business, said he sent two 30-pound birds to the White House last week.
Jaindl’s only proof that presidents of the past ate his turkeys are from thank-you notes he’s received over the years. He recalled one particularly kind one from President George H.W. Bush, who wrote a glowing review of his meal.
“We’re happy to send two turkeys down and we hope the president and the family try them,” Jaindl said. “But if they want to give them to charity, that’s fine with us also.”
Obama has thanked Jaindl Farms at previous pardoning ceremonies, but the real headliners are the two turkeys that survive.
We asked Jaindl, after all the decades of supplying the White House with ready-to-eat turkeys, whether he’d like to see two from his farm get the pardoned star treatment.
“Yeah,” he said, not missing a beat. “That’d be nice.”
President Bill Clinton remembers the 1990s fondly. The economy was booming, he was still eating cheeseburgers, and he was living in the White House.
And political discourse was loftier and far more substantial. Wasn’t it?
“I was shocked — you know, campaigns I used to be a part of, you’d see these negative ads or positive ads. But they were usually like reasonable ads subject to fact-checking,” Clinton said last week in a speech at the New Republic’s 100-year anniversary gala.
“In other words,” he said, “they would hit each other over something real. This was ‘My opponent voted with the president 93 percent of the time.’ Well, what did they vote on? Would that include all the budgets? What is it? There’s all this sort of dark labeling business going on.”
Yes, the Republican drumbeat this campaign cycle was to link Democrats to President Obama. But is that really so much different than the Republicans’ successful effort in the 1994 midterms?
We’re reminded of an attack ad against Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) that year, which said she “voted with President Clinton over 80 percent of the time.”
Notably, voting 80 percent with the president these days wouldn’t be an attack, it’d be a sign of independence. And, perhaps to Clinton’s broader point, at least the Republicans in 1994 also laid out a plan — the Contract With America — while also of course bashing Democrats for voting with their president.
There’s been much chatter that the timing of the release of the Ferguson grand jury decision in the shooting death of Michael Brown — close to 8:30 p.m. in Missouri — contributed to the rioting that quickly followed.
Maybe. Maybe not. The verdict in the trial of the four Los Angeles police officers that sparked the Rodney King riots on April 29, 1992, was alerted to the media and public at 1 p.m. and announced about 3 p.m. (Sunset that day was a bit after 7:30 p.m. Pacific time.)
And the chaotic and violent protests soon began. We remember. Because we were there.
You knew what was coming when the minister at the historic First AME Church, watching television with a group of church leaders, sat in stunned silence when the verdict was read, a tear rolling down his cheek.
Shortly after that, as rush hour approached, two women with a baby carriage walked slowly down a busy street, carrying a homemade cardboard sign saying “Honk if you think they are guilty.” (This sparked much honking, and people threw bottles into the street.)
And, judging from the complete police non-presence at the corner of Florence and Normandie, where truck driver Reginald Denny was pulled from his vehicle and severely beaten, the LAPD seemed totally unprepared for the eruption. (There was one squad car, we recall, that cruised up to the intersection, slowed briefly and sped away.)
Had the Ferguson verdict been announced earlier, it’s hard to imagine it would have made much of a difference.
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Twitter: @KamenInTheLoop, @ColbyItkowitz