Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pardon That Turkey

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama will grant a “pardon” to two otherwise-doomed Thanksgiving turkeys, Courage and Carolina (official video preview). These Princeton, NC natives (story at WRAL) will be honored in a ceremony on the White House lawn before boarding a plane to California, where Courage will serve as honorary grand marshal for Disney’s Thanksgiving Parade. (Carolina, as the Alternate National Turkey, will be ready to step in should Courage be unable to perform his duties.) Following the parade, the pair will settle into a stuffing-free life at Disneyland’s Frontierland theme park.

The WRAL article and many other news sources credit the annual Thanksgiving tradition as originating with President Harry Truman in 1947. However, the popular myth-busting website Snopes.com provides a detailed analysis of the annual turkey pardon, tracing the tradition back only to President George H.W. Bush in 1989. (Anecdotal stories involving Lincoln, Kennedy, and Reagan do not pass muster as the “official” source of the annual tradition.)

For information on non-poultry presidential pardons, try the Duke Libraries’ catalog with a subject keyword search for “Pardon—United States”. You’ll find recent works like Jeffrey Crouch’s The Presidential Pardon Power (KF9695 .C76 2009) and historical publications like 1941’s The Pardoning Power of the President (KF5053 .H84). In addition, the Department of Justice’s Office of the Pardon Attorney, which assists the President in reviewing pardons in federal criminal cases, includes clemency statistics back to 1900 as well as recipient details organized by administration since 1989. (And no, the turkeys are not included.)

The Goodson Blogson wishes its readers a happy and safe Thanksgiving break!