WASHINGTON – The race was close, tough, sometimes bitter, but "now's the time for healing," President Bush said in sparing the lives of two White House turkeys.
Bush used the annual Thanksgiving turkey-sparing rite Wednesday to roast the bitter campaign for the White House, jokingly recalling fund-raising disputes, attack ads and a polarizing political movie.
The winning running mates in Bush's satirical rendition of the presidential campaign were Biscuits and Gravy, turkeys raised in Mathias, W.Va. Their names came out on top in an online contest pitting them against the ticket of Patience and Fortitude.
"It was a close race. You might say it was neck and neck," Bush said. He spoke in the Rose Garden during a rare joint appearance with Vice President Dick Cheney (search).
"It came down to a few battleground states. It was a tough contest, and it turned out some 527 organizations got involved, including Barnyard Animals for Truth," Bush said, mocking the free-spending independent groups like Swiftboat Veterans for Truth (search) known as 527s. The group raised questions about Democrat John Kerry's service in the Vietnam War (search).
"There was a scurrilous film that came out, 'Fahrenheit 375 Degrees at 10 Minutes Per Pound,'" he said, panning "Fahrenheit 9/11," the documentary film that assailed him over the handling of the Sept. 11 attacks and the War on Terrorism.
As Bush spoke, the two birds pecked at hedges in the Rose Garden. After his remarks, Bush, wary after being pecked in the midsection three years ago, kept a firm grip on one bird's neck.
He said the birds would live out their lives at Frying Pan Park in Herndon, Va., which raises farm animals.
That drew an objection from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which said the turkeys would live in more humane conditions at an animal sanctuary.
The turkeys Bush pardoned last year died within three months after their "pardons," a result of drugs that make them grow excessively, the group said.