The question is: Was it a turkey or did it only look like a turkey? Vice-President Mondale thought it was a turkey. At least he reportedly said to a passerby at the White House: "Do you see that turkey? There's a wild turkey in that tree. We're going to call it Reagan." If it really was a turkey, Mr. Mondale may not have been delivering quite the quip de grace that he intended -- certainly not if we are to believe the lore handed down by the sagacious Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin.
For Franklin regarded the wild turkey as the very essence of sturdy American-ness -- just what Reagan supporters believe their candidate to be. It is true that the Jody Powells of this world, and now, alas, even the Vice-President of the United States, have associated the noble word "turkey" wit quite other meanings. But who are they against a Founding Father?
And Franklin wrote his daughter from France that he was glad when the French thought the American national emblem, the bald eagle, looked more like a turkey. "For my own part," he explained, "I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen as the Representative of our Country; he is a Bird of bad moral Character. . . . The Turk'y is in comparison a much more respectable Bird, and a withal a true original Native of America . . . . He is, though a little vain and silly, it is true, but not the worse emblem for that, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards, who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a redm Coat on."
To listen to some of the campaign rhetoric, this is the very kind of that the American people are looking for -- or at least that the politicians think they are looking for. Unless Mr. Mondale, like Franklin's Frenchmen, mistook a bald eagle for a turkey, he can only bring honor to Mr. Reagan by giving his name to the bird in the White House tree.