By Ben Kamisar - 11-26-14 15:36 PM EST
President Obama poked fun Wednesday at his conservative critics over his executive actions that give legal status to as many as five million undocumented immigrants, saying his Thanksgiving pardon of a turkey would doubtlessly be criticized as “amnesty.”
Obama joked that the pardon of a turkey named Cheese would be the “most talked about executive action this month” and one that’s “fully within my legal authority, the same kind of action taken by Democrats and Republican presidents before.”
“I know some will call this amnesty, but don’t worry, there is plenty of turkey to go around,” he said.
During a speech at a Polish community center in Chicago on Wednesday, Obama used similar language to his turkey pardoning. He called his actions within his “legal authority,” reminded the audience about former President Ronald Reagan’s immigration executive order, and hit back against those who call the executive order “amnesty.”
The turkey pardon’s White House audience chuckled at Obama’s jokes, but last week's executive action that gave legal status and work permits to illegal immigrants isn’t a laughing matter for many conservatives. Republicans ripped Obama’s decision, accusing him of acting outside his authority, and threatened that they’ll go after him with legislation that seeks to block Obama’s order.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in the immediate aftermath that Obama was acting like a “king” and an “emperor,” but at least one member of his caucus isn’t pleased with Boehner’s strategy.
Outgoing Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said on a Breitbart News radio show on Saturday that Boehner told the conference that he won’t engage the president on immigration and will instead focus on other issues. She criticized the plan and added that she was “floored” that the party wouldn’t fight back.
Rich Lowry, the editor of the conservative-leaning National Review, told the New York Times that he’d consider not inviting the president to speak for his 2015 State of the Union Address if he was the House speaker.
The American people have a mixed view on Obama’s executive actions. While fifty percent call the plan’s steps “about right,” 56 percent of American adults said they opposed Obama implementing the plan through executive action.
During the brief pre-Thanksgiving event, Obama also confronted recent criticism, specifically from The Washington Post over whether the practice should continue.
“It is a little puzzling that I do this every year,” Obama said.
“But I will say that I enjoy it because with all the tough stuff that swirls around in this office, it’s nice once and a while just to say Happy Thanksgiving and this is a great excuse to do it.”
Obama’s pardon of Cheese marks the 67th anniversary of the National Thanksgiving Turkey presentation.
The White House asked Americans to decide which turkey would receive a pardon, Cheese or his feathered friend, Mac, by voting on Twitter using the hashtags #TeamMac and #TeamCheese. While Cheese came out on top, the president used his constitutional authority to save both Mac and Cheese from becoming a Thanksgiving meal.
The two 20-week, approximately 48-pound turkeys will be sent to the Morven Park turkey farm in Leesburg, Va, where guests will be allowed to see the famous fowl. The president said that he and his daughters would bring two other turkeys to a local food panty.
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) upped its criticism of the practice this year.
The group asked Sasha and Malia Obama, the president’s daughters, to convince their father to end the turkey pardon because it is similar to the way that people “treat others who are viewed as ‘different’ simply because of superficial physical differences or cruel traditions.
This post was updated at 5:02 p.m.