Carrying on a centuries-old Thanksgiving tradition, President Obama today pardoned the official White House Thanksgiving turkey at a lighthearted ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, thanking both the bird and its alternate for their service before offering special Thanksgiving wishes to the victims of superstorm Sandy and to U.S. forces abroad.
In a thinly-veiled reference to the presidential election, Mr. Obama, joined by his daughters Sasha and Malia for the ceremony, joked that "life is all about second chances, and this November I could not agree more."
"So in the spirit of the season, I have one more gift to give and it goes to a pair of turkeys named Cobbler and Gobbler," he said. Noting that the official White House turkey was selected via a "highly competitive online vote" -- Gobbler was elected to be Cobbler's alternate -- he said: "The American people have spoken and these birds are moving forward."
Striking a more serious note, the president reflected on the holiday as a "chance to spend time with the people we care about and to give thanks for the blessings we enjoy," as well as an opportunity to "remember those who are less fortunate."
"This year that's particularly true for our neighbors in the Northeast who have lost their homes, possessions ,and even their loved ones to Hurricane Sandy," he said.
After issuing the official pardon, he encouraged his daughters to pet the 19-week old, 40-lb bird. Sasha, the younger, complied; giggling, Malia kept her distance.
According to the White House's history of turkey pardons, Americans have been giving the president holiday turkeys since the 1800s. In 1947, the White House started celebrating these gifts in the Rose Garden. Not every president has been in the habit of sparing the turkey's life, however: Presidents Eisenhower and Johnson ate the turkeys presented to them.
With today's ceremony, Mr. Obama will have pardoned eight turkeys since taking office. Meanwhile, he has issued only 22 actual pardons and one commutation of sentence -- the fewest of any recent president.
According to the White House, both birds were raised on the farm of Craig and Nancy Miller of Virginia, under National Turkey Federation Chairman Steve Willardsen's supervision and in partnership with the Virginia Poultry Federation.
Asked by CBS News' Bill Plante about the cease-fire announcement in the Gaza strip, the president stopped, looked and smiled, but didn't respondtruncate.