Paul Jacob

In Washington, we can always expect the triumph of symbolism over substance, the emblematic turkey over the actual Meleagris gallopavo. Even when it comes to something as globally insignificant as whether the president of the United States feasts on turkey or, instead, pardons the large bird selected for such favor by the National Turkey Federation.

In usual capitol fashion, last week, our president had it both ways. In front of his daughters, the media and the viewing public, President Obama pardoned the turkey presented to him. And then, behind closed doors, devoured that poor turkey’s second cousin after having someone else murder the fowl in cold blood.

I don’t take issue with consuming meat. And most certainly animals are better eaten when dead, and cooked, as opposed to still alive and wiggling. Even my beloved sushi is at least not still moving.

Nor do I take issue with pardoning the holiday bird. It seems like a kind thing to do. In fact, I’ve long wondered why presidents don’t make more use of their pardon power. Why limit it to cheesy photo-ops with innocent poultry and backdoor deals with criminal subordinates? Why not pardon innocents on death row and those myriads more, sequestered throughout our American gulag? And without any bribe money changing hands.

It seems awfully disingenuous to ostentatiously pardon a turkey on national television, on the one hand, only to kill and consume another turkey behind closed doors, on the other leg.

In fact, it’s almost as blatantly hypocritical as passing sweeping health care legislation, with claims that the legislation will save money by making $600 billion worth of cuts to Medicare, while at the very same time signing a “doctor’s fix,” which nullifies the savings previously promised in Medicare.

One more bit of clarification: This is not a problem we can dump on the feet of Obama. Ever since Barack Obama began serving what amounts to George W. Bush’s third term, he has been unfairly blamed for lurching toward socialism — as Colbert King points out in yesterday’s Washington Post. The truth? Obama has merely embraced and continued and turbo-charged the leaps toward socialism begun by the second President Bush (and presidents and Congresses before him).

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.