Bush talks turkey

Bush pardoned Pumpkin the turkey yesterday in a Rose Garden ceremony, along with a backup bird named Pecan, before packing his newfound “feathered friends” off to enjoy a peaceful retirement at Disneyland. “Together these birds will gobble the rest of their days in the Happiest Place on Earth,” Bush said. “I just hope they stay humble there.”

But while it was all fun and games at Bush’s (thankfully bloodless) pardoning ceremony, the President rather spoiled the effect this week by also pardoning several human beings for a range of environmental transgressions. Top of the list: Leslie Owen Collier, a farmer from southeast Missouri who found himself in hot water back in the 1990s after accidentally poisoning three bald eagles, along with a red-tailed hawk and a great horned owl, with pesticide-laced hamburger meat intended for coyotes. Collier received 2 years’ probation and a $10,000 fine for the crime; he won’t get his money back, but Bush has wiped his record clean.

Other beneficiaries of Bush’s clemency included Daniel Figh Pue III, a former employee of a Texas chemical company, who was convicted of illegally transporting and dumping some 1,500 gallons of toxic creosote sludge in a ditch, netting three years’ probation and a $1,000 fine; and Milton “Kirk” Cordes, a South Dakotan who netted 18 months’ probation after conspiring to run an illegal big-game hunting operation in which mule-deer hunting licenses were unlawfully distributed to out-of-state hunters.

In the grand scheme of things, of course, these are fairly petty crimes, and the criminals themselves long ago served their sentences and paid their debts to society. Still, the symbolism of Bush’s pardons is clear: these pardons are intended less to right an injustice or to clear the records of reformed citizens than to give the President one last chance to thumb his nose at the environmental crowd before he leaves office.

Still, it’s Thanksgiving, and we shouldn’t bear too much of a grudge. Instead, let’s be grateful that some Bush-administration alumni apparently still retain a genuine affection for our feathered friends; in the video below, former attorney general John Ashcroft expresses his enduring love for the national symbol. Happy Thanksgiving!

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