Thu. Dec 1st, 2022

Long live grandpa!

With important legislation under his belt, Republicans in disarray and Vladimir Putin in retreat, Joe Biden looks pleased with himself and ready for a family get-together.

On Saturday, he hosted the wedding of his granddaughter, Naomi Biden, on the South Lawn of the White House. On Sunday, he was at a family lunch to celebrate his 80th birthday.

So if it’s Monday, it has to be the annual Thanksgiving turkey pardon, complete with “God loves you” and grandpa jokes.

“It’s a wonderful Thanksgiving tradition here at the White House,” the 80-year-old first US president said as he greeted Chocolate and Chip turkeys on the South Lawn. “There’s a lot to say about it, but it’s chilly outside, so I’ll keep it short. Nobody likes to go cold turkey!”

People laughed politely. Looking at the gobblers, Biden added, “I don’t know if they’re still mad or not.”

The White House tradition of issuing a presidential pardon to remove a couple of turkeys from the holiday table is 75 years old—almost as old as Biden himself. This time, the gobblers are named Chocolate and Chips, a nod to the president’s favorite ice cream flavor.

The brief ceremony in clear sunlight was punctuated by the sound of chocolate and chip munching and Biden’s pet dog, Commander, barking from Truman’s balcony (where his two young grandchildren were also watching).

“I was worried that if he came here with all of you, he would just kiss and lick you,” the president said. “But he might go after the turkeys, so I kept him there.”

Earlier, as the band played Hail to the Chief, Biden came out with signature shades and a noticeable spring in his step. The perennial almost-man of American politics—he ran for president twice and lost twice before 2020—showed the world that old dogs can learn new tricks.

His admirers say he has passed the most consequential legislation since President Lyndon Johnson, and in a closely divided Congress. They point to his rallying of Western governments against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which failed miserably. Biden’s emphasis on democracy and abortion rights appears to have paid off in the midterm elections as Democrats retained the Senate.

Even his pardoning of a turkey outranked Barack Obama and Donald Trump, who held the ceremony in the Rose Garden. This time it was on the south lawn with hundreds of people watching, including Washington High School students. No doubt Trump will insist that his turkey pardon drew the biggest crowd ever.

Noting that Chocolate won the public poll with Chip as his backup, Biden noted, “First of all, the votes are there. They were counted and confirmed. No slips are inserted. No game of chicken. The only red wave this season will be if the German shepherd, Commander, knocks over the cranberry sauce on our table.”

That one got applause.

But there was also some Biden awkwardness after he approached the Chocolate turkey on a table surrounded by pumpkins. The politician, accused of being overly tactful for years, stroked the bird and spoke to it: “Chocolate, you are forgiven. You are pardoned. He said, ‘You had to tell me that?’ That. Yes you are. That. I’m serious. He said, ‘I don’t know, man. You didn’t have to forgive me. I knew I was pardoned.’”

Then things got even weirder when he asked Ronald Parker, president of the National Turkey Federation, how many turkeys he raises. Parker said Circle S Ranch raises about 9.5 million turkeys a year.

Biden replied: “God loves you. Nine and a half million turkeys. I’ll tell you what. These are some of the countries I have been to. And – anyway.” That train of thought was going nowhere so he turned to Chocolate, “Do you want to talk?”

Turkey declined to comment.

The chocolate and chips were hatched in July in Monroe, North Carolina, according to the National Turkey Federation, sponsor of the turkey tradition dating back to 1947 and President Harry Truman.

Weighing nearly 50 pounds each, the gobblers arrived in Washington Saturday night from North Carolina and checked into their room at the Willard Hotel near the White House to await the president’s executive order on Monday. Both will live out the remainder of their natural lives on the campus of North Carolina State University.

Biden concluded on a serious note, encouraging Americans to get their coronavirus and flu shots ahead of the holiday season. He couldn’t resist a bit of post-campaign rhetoric: “Folks, let’s remember — all the political struggles that are going on that you’ve been reading about — let’s remember one thing: This is the United States of America — the United States of America. There is not one single thing beyond our capabilities as a nation – nothing beyond our capabilities – if we do it together, united. United!”

And with that, the sound of swallowing marked the passing of another year. American democracy is still alive, and so is Joe Biden.