A Visual History of Presidents Petting Turkeys

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The annual presidential pardoning of a turkey is a slightly morbid tradition that doesn't make much sense, but that doesn't mean it's without value. It gives us the opportunity to watch the highly stylized and ceremonial Office of the President interact with nature in the form of a hideous, uncooperative fat bird.

This year, there had been some concern on the Internet that the White House's social-media campaign, in which people could vote to save one of two turkeys, was also a vote to slaughter the other. But President Obama pardoned both Gobbler and Cobbler Wednesday, and he made some jokes. He joins his White House predecessors in the annals of awkward turkey photography:

A concerned 8-year-old Sasha Obama watches her dad wave away the cruelties of the turkey justice system with a mere gesture on November 22, 2009.

George W. Bush had a way with animals. His soothing touch calmed May on November 20, 2007.

On November 17, 2004, he manhandled Biscuits.

Then he gazed into Biscuits' eyes.

He showed some compassion for Liberty on November 19, 2001:

From the same day, we have the most famous funny turkey pardon photo:

(Photo via Reuters.)

November 27, 1996: Bill Clinton is impressed by the turkey's feather display. His name is Carl.

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Soothing a 75-pounder on November 22, 1995:

George H.W. Bush thought an unnamed 50-pounder looked pretty nifty on November 18, 1989.

On November 16, 1984, Ronald Reagan pardoned an ungrateful bird named Woody.

Charlie, the pet Welsh terrier belonging to President John F. Kennedy's daughter, was allowed to taunt a poor bird, displaying the cruelty of an oppressed class of animals toward an even more oppressed class. The turkey was eventually pardoned by her Kennedy on November 19, 1963. 

Naturally, the Associated Press's photo of Nixon's participation in the holiday tradition is of Nixon not pardoning a turkey. On November 14, 1955, then-Vice President Nixon comforted the 40-pound bird doomed to be President Eisenhower's Thanksgiving meal in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. 

(Photos via Associated Press unless otherwise noted.)

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.