THE WHITE HOUSE SHOWBIZ TURKEY

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics -

A bird must be im­age con­scious, me­dia ready and brand friendly to be a White House Thanks­giv­ing turkey. This year, it has come down to a pair of Min­nesota gob­blers named Caramel and Pop­corn; there’s a pub­lic poll to name the win­ner, to be re­vealed Wed­nes­day with all the pomp and cir­cum­stance be­fit­ting the tur­keys in all their plumage. They have their own Twit­ter han­dles and fan bases. Pres­i­dent Obama will par­don the win­ner and his al­ter­nate, an event to be show­cased live on C-SPAN at 1:15 p.m. Both birds have been drilled in par­don­ing pro­to­cols and the in­evitable noise and dis­trac­tion of a photo-op in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal.

The press of­fice at 1600 Penn­syl­va­nia Ave., mean­while, has seen to the show biz needs of their feath­ered charges as well, pro­vid­ing much ap­peal­ing per­sonal in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing au­dio snip­pets of their gob­bles.

Both weigh about 38 pounds, both are male, and both were born July 8 of this year. But from then on out, it’s ev­ery turkey for him­self. Pop­corn has a “proud strut” and a gar­bled gob­ble, while Caramel is known for his “steady and de­lib­er­ate walk” and “quick, clear and fre­quent” com­mu­ni­ca­tions. The first sounds like a politi­cian, the se­cond like a PR guy. But no mat­ter. Pop­corn fa­vors corn to eat and Bey­once tunes to lis­ten to, while Caramel rel­ishes soy­bean meal and the strains of Lady Gaga.

But there is ev­i­dence that the turkey rit­ual has evolved over the years. Farm­ers have been show­ing up at the White House since 1873 bear­ing the gift of their finest birds; a “re­ceiv­ing cer­e­mony” did not ap­pear un­til 1947. The fate of the bird weighed heavy on pres­i­dents of the mod­ern era, how­ever.

Pres­i­dent Kennedy sent his turkey back to the farm while Pres­i­dent Nixon do­nated sev­eral to a lo­cal pet­ting zoo. Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush was the first to in­au­gu­rate an of­fi­cial ex­on­er­a­tion of the Thanks­giv­ing main course in 1989. The gob­bler, Mr. Bush told the press, had “been granted a pres­i­den­tial par­don, as of right now.”

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