Free as a bird.

Notes from the political sidelines.
Nov. 22 2005 12:31 AM

Free As a Bird

Which turkeys will Bush pardon next?

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For the past three years, the White House has run an annual online contest to name the turkeys the president will pardon. When "Stars and Stripes" beat "Pumpkin and Cranberry" in 2003, Bush said "it was a neck-to-neck race." Last year, the winning names were "Biscuits and Gravy," edging out "Patience and Fortitude" and trouncing "Adams and Jefferson."

For some reason, the names have to run as a ticket. History will never reveal whether "Biscuits and Fortitude" would have beaten out "Patience and Gravy." (However, we do know what voters would say about "Adams and Quincy.")

Dumb and Dumber: It's too late to influence this year's results, which the president will announce shortly in the Rose Garden. But today won't be the last round of pardons in this White House.

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Which turkeys will Bush pardon next? "Karl and Scooter"? "Yea and Ney"? "Clear and Hold"? "Cut and Run"? "Angelos and Palmeiro"?

Send your favorite pairings to thehasbeen@gmail.com. The winner gets the top-secret White House recipe for turkey fried in peanut oil. Eat all you want—like Turkeys A and B, you'll never feel guilty again. … 12:31 A.M. (link)

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Friday, Nov. 18, 2005

Sinker:Back in August, when George W. Bush crossed the Mendoza Line with a disapproval rating in the Gallup Poll of 56 percent, he still had four men left to pass for the title of most unpopular president in modern history: Jimmy Carter (59 percent), George H. W. Bush (60 percent) Richard Nixon (66 percent), and Harry Truman (67 percent). I predicted that the way things were going, he could speed past Carter and Bush 41 "within the next month."

I was wrong—it took the president two months. This week's Gallup puts his disapproval at 60 percent, which means father and son share third place on the all-time list. Bush 43 always said he learned an important political lesson from Bush 41, and now we know what it was: Don't hit bottom too early. If you're going to be the third-most unpopular president, do it in your second term, so you have some time to stop and smell the Rose Garden.

It's an awesome achievement for one family to produce two of the four most unpopular presidents in modern times. If there were a Mount Rushmore for rejection, the Bushes would have half the place to themselves.

With the holidays coming, you can bet there will be a lot of good-natured joshing in the highly competitive Bush household about which man deserves full bragging rights. Bush the father, whose favorite sport was speed golf, can boast of his prowess in speed failure. Truman needed seven years to hit bottom, Nixon six, and Bush the son five. The elder Bush tanked in three and a half.

On the other hand, Bush the son may not have to wait long before he has the crown to himself. His unpopularity has been rising two points a month all year, which gives him an outside shot of catching Nixon by January.