November 29, 2019

A Restaurant Critic Crashes the White House Turkey Pardon

By Adam Platt

“The Turkeys stayed at the Willard hotel last night,” I overheard someone say. “They always do that.” I was among the rabble of scribes, hacks, and weathered, vaguely recognizable TV faces beginning our slow, unruly procession from the famously cramped, airless White House press quarters out into the bright fall sunshine toward the Rose Garden. There were definitely more interesting things happening around Washington, D.C., yesterday, but we’d assembled to witness the annual turkey pardoning, the folksy, predictably loony presidential ritual that, according to the glowering pardoner-in-chief himself, stretched all the way back to the days of Lincoln, when the president’s son begged the great man to spare their family turkey the day before Thanksgiving. (Of course, this is not actually true.)

The event’s official name is the Presentation of the National Thanksgiving Turkey, and I’d been urged to attend by a colleague who had better things to do than hang around the Rose Garden on this beautiful fall afternoon scuffling for turkey quotes. I went anyway, because jaded New York restaurant critics don’t often get to experience folksy old bits of Americana like this, and, as someone who had never visited the Trump White House, it seemed like a perfect little symbolic window — turkey to turkey, if you will — into the loony, madcap, farcical spirit of the place.

Events like this are staged farce, of course, and the best kind of turkey pardoning, as any grizzled press veteran will tell you, is one at which everything goes to hell: The birds flap their wings and become rebellious, crowds of PETA protesters amass outside the gates, flustered Secret Service officers chase the birds to and fro among the presidential hedges. Sadly, none of that happened yesterday, and as those same grizzled White House reporters will also tell you, the minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour moments of absurdity and lunacy emanating from the Trump White House long ago upstaged canned photo-op events like this one. Click here to read more

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