Obama gives one lucky bird second chance

Slips campaign talk into event

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While pardoning a couple of lucky birds Wednesday at the White House’s annual National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation, a smiling President Obama, accompanied by his daughters, managed to work in several references to his successful re-election campaign — and even squeezed in what seemed to be a sly political dig at Mitt Romney.

“In the spirit of the season, I have one more gift to give,” the president said before announcing the turkey pardons, apparently a reference to Mr. Romney’s recent comments that Mr. Obama won re-election by giving “gifts” to key Democratic Party constituencies.

“They say life is full of second chances, and this November I couldn’t agree more with that sentiment,” he said. “The American people have spoken, and these birds are moving forward.”

The Obama campaign’s one-word 2012 slogan was “Forward.”

The newly designated national turkey, Cobbler, a 19-week-old 40-pounder from Rockingham County, Va., and his alternate, Gobbler, were chosen by the public in an online popularity contest — another election, the president jokingly said, that was called accurately by New York Times polling analyst Nate Silver.

“Once again, Nate Silver completely nailed it,” Mr. Obama said.

The funniest moment came after Mr. Obama’s younger daughter, Sasha, gave Cobbler a quick pet on the back feathers but Malia, the president’s oldest, shook her head and refused.

“Congratulations, Cobbler. You’re going to have a great life,” Mr. Obama said.

Only one intrepid reporter shouted a question at the end of the seven-minute event: “Mr. President, can you comment on the cease-fire in the Middle East?”

But Mr. Obama only smiled broadly while the audience broke into laughter at the awkward juxtaposition of real news at the hokey event.

As if on cue, Cobbler broke into cooing gobbles as the president shook hands and the amplifiers set up in the garden piped in John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever,” ending the event.

More than 150 reporters and photographers who showed up to cover the event.

Mr. Obama also asked Americans to remember Superstorm Sandy victims, saying he had seen much destruction during his tours of the damage in New York and New Jersey, “But I have yet to find a broken spirit.”

The Thanksgiving tradition of “pardoning” a turkey at the White House dates back to 1989, but presidents have made turkey presentations for the national holiday since the time of Abraham Lincoln.

Mr. Obama’s turkey pardons, however, may not be as long-lasting as the White House promises. CNN reported that Peace, one of the turkeys pardoned last year, was euthanized Monday under unclear circumstances.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has supported the presidential turkey pardoning in the past but not this year. The group’s president wrote Mr. Obama arguing that the event “makes light of the mass slaughter of some 46 million gentle, intelligent birds and portrays the United States’ president as being in some sort of business partnership with the turkey-killing industry.”

Members of the National Wild Turkey Federation were sitting in the first row at the Rose Garden event.

Later in the afternoon, the first family, accompanied by the Oregon State basketball team coached by Michelle Obama’s brother, Craig Robinson, handed out bags of food to families at the Capital Area Food Bank in Northeast Washington.

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