Post Turtle

Post turtle is a phrase that has been used in political discussion of various countries, including the U.S. and Canada, based on an old joke. Various politicians have been referenced by the joke or used the joke, including George W Bush,[1] Barack Obama,[2] Bill Clinton,[3] and Stephen Harper.[4]

The joke

An old rancher is talking about politics with a young man from the city. He compares a politician to a "post turtle". The young man doesn't understand and asks him what a post turtle is.

The old man says, "When you're driving down a country road and you see a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, that's a post turtle. You know he didn't get up there by himself. He doesn't belong there; he can't get anything done while he's up there; and you just want to help the poor, dumb thing down."

Notable usage

The Natural: The Misunderstood Presidency of Bill Clinton by Joe Klein quotes Clinton as saying: "If you see a turtle sitting on top of a fence post, it didn't get there by accident." According to Klein, this was Clinton's way of claiming partial responsibility for "the historic prosperity and the global peace that attended his time in office".[3]

Molly Ivins is attributed to usage for George W. Bush.[5]

At the 2010 CMAs, Brad Paisley used the phrase in his acceptance speech for Entertainer of the Year.[6]

Steve Benen, lead blogger for the liberal "The Political Animal" at Washington Monthly, refers to Eric Cantor as a post turtle.[7]

Mary Doria Russell used the post turtle reference in her novel The Sparrow, attributing it to Father D.W. Yarborough, leader of the first Earth expedition to another planet. Yarborough refers to post turtles in the context of seeming anomalies in nature and regards them as proof of the existence of God, specifically of God trying to get our attention.[8]


External links

  • Further examples of the "post turtle" joke at The Big Apple.