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Pardons aren't just for presidential turkeys this week

November 23, 2011 | 11:58 am

President Obama pardons a turkey
What's with this sudden surge of pardoning?

On Wednesday, President Obama did the usual presidential thing and pardoned a turkey (resist the temptation -- no Republican presidential candidate jokes here).

Actually, two turkeys were pardoned: One, named Liberty, got to share the spotlight with Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha; another, named Peace, was a no-show (resist the temptation --  no acidic comments on Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan or Israel/Palestinians).

It's unclear whether these birds qualify as heritage turkeys. If they do, though, Obama's pardon cost someone some real cash.

According to a story Wednesday in The Times, people are going crazy for heritage birds, paying $6 to $12 a pound (resist the temptation -– OK, maybe not -– to point out that thousands of people in L.A. stood in line this week for free food for Thanksgiving).

Obama's gesture came the day after Newt Gingrich suddenly went crazy under the bright lights of a GOP presidential candidates' debate and said something sensible. Gingrich proposed that we give some illegal immigrants in this country a break, finding a way for them to work here legally (though not become citizens; he's still a Republican, after all).

His rivals, of course, pounced, calling the proposal "amnesty," which, to Republicans, is a four-letter word. It may be Thanksgiving, but Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann couldn't resist acting like turkeys. (Hope Romney's yard crew of illegal immigrants -- OK, OK, I know, that's old news -- will have the place looking nice for the holidays.)

Back in the animal kingdom, though, it was a good week for Yellowstone's grizzly bears. The U.S. 9 th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service erred in removing Endangered Species Act protections for "one of the American West's most iconic wild animals."

(The bears can now enjoy Thanksgiving dining on white-bark pine -- if they can find it.  One reason for the court's decision was that a beetle infestation is killing off the pines.)

Rounding out the week was Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, who on Tuesday declared a moratorium on the death penalty in his state. Gary Haugen was scheduled to be executed on Dec. 6, and had even sought to hasten his own death sentence.

But Kitzhaber, who in a previous term as governor had approved the only two executions carried out in Oregon since the state adopted the death penalty 27 years ago, stepped in, saying:  

"They were the most agonizing and difficult decisions I have made as governor, and I have revisited and questioned them over and over again during the past 14 years. ...

"The death penalty as practiced in Oregon is neither fair nor just, and it is not swift or certain. It is not applied equally to all.

"It is time for Oregon to consider a different approach. I refuse to be a part of this compromised and inequitable system any longer, and I will not allow further executions while I am governor."

Kitzhaber's remarks make quite a contrast with Texas Gov. Rick Perry's, who, you'll recall, said in a presidential debate in September that he had "never struggled" with the issue because "the state of Texas has a very thoughtful, very clear process in place."

In this week of Thanksgiving, one thing we can be thankful for is that there are still some political leaders in this country with consciences.

RELATED:

Obama turns anti-tax message on GOP

Thanksgiving goes gourmet with high-end turkeys

-- Paul Whitefield

Photo: President Obama pardons Liberty, the national Thanksgiving turkey, during a ceremony at the White House on Wednesday. Credit: Mark Wilson / Getty Images

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