Saying Farewell to D.C.'s Panda, Fondly and Not

Tai Shan, or "butterstick," won many pundit hearts. But sourpusses ask: was the bear a Communist mole?

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All reporters know that government agencies save the really bad news for Friday, when fewer people will notice, and this week is no different. The National Zoo in Washington, DC, has announced that beloved panda Tai Shan will be deported to China. Tai Shan, once dubbed "butterstick" for his tiny size, was born there in 2005 to Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, themselves gifts from China. A stipulation of the gift is that all cubs must be sent to China. The National Zoo is a favorite relaxation spot of many of America's top pundits, a group hit hard by Butterstick's impending departure. Here are the tearful goodbyes and, surprisingly, the sour dismissals.

Fond Farewells

  • Our 'Most Important Citizen'  The Washington Post's Michael Ruane gets a bit carried away. "His departure will end a four-year love affair between a town ruled by the blood sport of politics and a rotund, bamboo-munching black and white bear. Zoogoers have watched him grow from the squealing butter-stick-size infant to an almost 200-pound youth, and the focus of a kind of Pandamania." Ruane notes, "D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) once called Tai Shan Washington's most important citizen."
  • OMG So Cute  Time's Michael Scherer beams Butterstick "is a cute panda bear. Really cute. (See pictures here.) Born about four years ago at the National Zoo, he is the property of the People's Republic of China. And Panda diplomacy, it seems, has its limits." He helpfully adds, "In case you were wondering, there are something in the neighborhood of 1,600 giant pandas still living in the wild."
  • Butterstick Junior?  DCits's Sommer Mathis hopes. "We don't have to say goodbye today, but soon enough, Tai Shan will head back to his ancestral homeland, where he will enter China's breeding program, perhaps to sire his own little 'Stick someday. In the meantime, we're in a bit of Butterstick Shock. [...] start making your plans to stop by and wish the little guy a safe journey."
  • Can't He Stay?  Twitter user Justindignation pleads, "Just thinking ... Butterstick was born in USA and is an anchor baby. China can not take Butterstick back. Butterstick stays!"

Good Riddance

  • 'Immense, Terrifying Monster'  Wonkette's Ken Layne asks, "Good lord, has it really been five years since famous baby panda 'Butterstick' — which means Tai Shan in Chinese — was born in the Washington zoo? Yes it has, even though it feels like at least 50 years ago, and the once-adorable little puppet has turned into an immense, terrifying monster. " Layne writes, "Anyway, good-bye, dumb bear. Sorry you’re from such a weird, doomed species! At least you’re kind of cute, from a distance!"
  • What Panda?  The Washington Post's Ezra Klein doesn't buy it. "In all my trips to the zoo, never actually saw butterstick, so not convinced we ever had a panda in the first place."
  • Get Out, Communist  Twitter user MMonides shrugs, "Butterstick the Panda is leaving DC? So long clumsy, non-breeding communist bear with a ridiculously limited diet! We'll miss you!"
  • Pffffft  Sphere's John Merline scoffs, "No big deal, really, except for those who like the fact that you can see pandas for free at the National Zoo, or those who think that having more pandas roaming around cages in the U.S. somehow makes us a better country." Merline asks, "So this is what being in hock up to our eyeballs to China looks like? Panda-less American zoos?"
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.