The execution was imminent. Only the governor could stop it. And then, just as he was ready to announce his verdict, the call came to the governor from President Obama. Minutes later, North Dakota GOP Gov. John Hoeven announced that Tallulah would be given a reprieve.
Tallulah, of course, is a 19-week-old turkey, and a prime candidate to be someone's Thanksgiving dinner until Hoeven issued the expected pardon. And Obama, of course, hadn't interrupted the manufactured holiday drama to plead for Tallulah's life. He wanted to talk about the economy and energy issues.
Presumably, the president (who was calling from Air Force One) wasn't trying to interrupt a time-honored, if somewhat frivolous, ceremony. And Obama himself pardoned not one but two turkeys, his second year in a row, on Wednesday morning. But unlike Hoeven, the hyper-cerebral Obama doesn't seem to be enjoying the silly ritual very much, and that's unfortunate. [See photos of the Obamas behind the scenes.]
Last year, the president dutifully pardoned the turkeys, announcing that he was sending them off to Disneyland instead of a slaughterhouse. But the look on his face was that of a man trying to be patient as he considered all the far more important things he had to do that day. This year, Obama cracked a few jokes, but it still appeared that he'd rather be focusing on something more substantive. He chuckled a bit at his own joke (that it was like Dancing With the Stars, but with much higher stakes for the losers and winners), but it sounded more like he couldn't believe he was actually participating in such a non-serious ceremony. [Read Peter Roff: Lincoln and the First Official Thanksgiving.]
True, there are Thanksgiving traditions that are of questionable value. Mincemeat pie, for example: who really eats that? There's a reason no one makes it during the rest of the year. And why should the Dallas Cowboys and the Detroit Lions always get to play (or have to play) on Thanksgiving Day? Why not mix it up? The Lions became the only NFL team in history in 2008 to lose all 16 regular season games, and are 2-8 this year. The Cowboys (whose record of team member arrests in the past has raised the question of whether the Cowboys' nickname should be amended from “America's Team” to “America's Most Wanted Teaa”) are just 3-7. Let's give some other teams a chance. [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on Obama.]
But the turkey pardoning, contrived though it is, is a welcome respite from the seriousness of the rest of the year, and is a pleasant start to one of our few genuinely non-commercial holidays. The president could allow himself to have a little fun with it.