WASHINGTON For the first time since 2009, President Obama carried out the traditional pardoning of the turkeys without daughters Sasha and Malia by his side. This year, he said, they had a scheduling conflict.
“Actually, they just couldn’t take my jokes anymore,” he told the small crowd in the Rose Garden. Instead, there to officially pardon Tot (the other turkey, Tater, was the designated back-up), were his two nephews, Austin and Aaron Robinson, who, Mr. Obama noted, “unlike Sasha and Malia, have not been turned cynical by Washington.”
What his daughters don’t know, he went on to say, was that he was going to keep on pardoning turkeys each year -- no cameras might be present -- but there’s “no way I’m cutting this habit cold turkey,” he quipped, in one of many jokes he cracked during the ceremony.
Here was another: “When somebody at your table tells you that you’ve been hogging all the side dishes and you can’t have any more, I hope that you respond with a creed that a sums up the spirit of a hungry people, ‘Yes, we cran.’”
Mr. Obama deemed Tater to be “sort of like the ‘vice turkey.’ We’re working on getting him a pair of aviator glasses.” He also recognized the other turkeys who “didn’t get to ride the gravy train to freedom.”
And on a more serious note, the president noted the things he was thankful for -- full employment, a healing housing market, a greater number of Americans with health insurance -- “that’s worth gobbling about,” he said. The president said the country would keep moving forward, defined by the values and ideals that have been a light to all humanity. “We have a lot more in common than divides us,” he said.
The light-hearted ceremony featured Iowa-raised turkeys Tater and Tot. Tot won the White House Twitter poll, so he was the official recipient of the pardon, but both got a reprieve. Mr. Obama’s own twist on the tradition is the pardoning of two turkeys instead of one, which he’s done since 2009, at the request of Sasha and Malia.
At the official pardoning following Mr. Obama’s remarks, Tot flapped his wings, to the delight of the president, who exclaimed, “Freedom! Freedom!”
For the Twitter poll on the turkey pardon, the White House blog provided a biography for each bird to help in the decision. Tater’s favorite snack is worms, his favorite song is “Me Too” by Meghan Trainor, he has a “strong” gobble style, and he walks with a swagger.
Tot, on the other hand, prefers tomato slices and is more of a Justin Timberlake kind of bird, who likes “Can’t Stop the Feeling.” His walk is described as a “relaxed saunter.”
Presidents as far back as Abraham Lincoln have spared turkeys. President George H.W. Bush is credited with beginning the tradition of a pardon.
CBS News’ Jillian Hughes contributed to this story.