Video: Presidential 'turkey moments'

By Brian Williams Anchor & “Nightly News” managing editor
NBC News
updated 11/22/2005 7:33:50 PM ET 2005-11-23T00:33:50

Tuesday at the Executive Office Building across from the White House, President issued a pardon — but there was nothing controversial about it.

“I,” said the president, “hereby pardon Marshmallow.”

With Vice President Cheney at his side, the president spared the life of a Thanksgiving turkey named Marshmallow. After the ceremony the bird and its alternate were flown first class to California, where they will appear in the Thanksgiving parade at Disneyland.

The presidential turkey photo-op has become an annual Washington tradition — carried out Tuesday with good humor by Mr. Bush, even in the face of all his current troubles.

In that, history tells us, he's got company.

Seven Thanksgivings ago, President Clinton's "turkey moment" came as the House Judiciary Committee was considering articles of impeachment.   

Eight years earlier, President George Herbert Walker Bush was gearing up for the Gulf War. He spent that Thanksgiving with the troops in Saudi Arabia.

President Ronald Reagan had a way with photo-ops, but one turkey pardon came just one day after the Iran-contra story broke — a scandal that nearly sank his presidency.

Jimmy Carter managed to avoid posing with a turkey in 1979, preoccupied as he was that Thanksgiving with the Iran hostage crisis.

Gerald Ford wasn't talking about pardoning any turkeys in 1974. He was still taking heat for another more notable pardon, just weeks earlier — of former President Richard Nixon.

President Nixon had his own troubles, of course. His turkey scene came just days after one of the largest antiwar rallies in American history — a stone's throw from the White House. 

Vietnam was Lyndon Johnson's undoing. He was a lame duck when he posed with one turkey, two days after Nixon's election.   

Five years earlier, John F. Kennedy did not live to see Thanksgiving in 1963. His ceremony took place just three days before his fateful trip to Dallas.

And it's worth remembering that 100 years before that, it was another soon-to-be-martyred president, Abraham Lincoln, who made Thanksgiving a national holiday — at the height of the Civil War.

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