The Ballad of Sailor Bill: A Timeline of the Tortoise in the White House

Or that he has a fully automated weapons system under his shell.



History of American Protest

... People who believe in those 'reptile people control the world' theories probably wouldn't like him, but there weren't any sources in that reading.

Coincidence? I think not! (Also edited to "but" from bvt :) )

Nor did he never bite Elvis during the latter's visit to the White House.

He never bit Elvis or he did bite Elvis?

Or that he has a fully automated weapons system under his shell.

Recording equipment I tell you! MUCH more devastating that any conventional weapon! :)
(Oh and that mini-HARP built into his shell so he can control the weather and such... You now, the usual :) )

Great story!
On the pop culture, I think that besides of the already mentioned apparitions/cameos in TV/Mass Media of Sailor Bill, that, would probably appear/be included in the first Avenger Movie, as one of the few things/beings familiar for Steve Rogers that would link him with his life before to pass forty years frozen...
My compliments on having conjured up the most delightful Alternate History hooks on record: “White House tortoise as Animal Forrest Gump” works like gang-busters! (Though I tend to feel that it would be kinder to have Old Bill participate in the opening of the Summer Olympics at LA, rather than any of the Winter Games).

One question, if I may - did Sailor Bill ever meet Queen Elizabeth the Second? (I can imagine a running joke in the media about Old Bill being one of the few national figures who made Her Late Majesty feel positively spry by comparison).
Playboy - Bill Clinton

WASHINGTON DC - What was meant to be a chance for the President to advertise his diplomatic expertise turned sour yesterday when he was caught on a hot mic.

"Sailor Bill can do things El Presidente Bill can't," Clinton said, apparently unaware his microphone was active.

The incident dredged up memories of Clinton's Impeachment and other sex scandals that have plagued him since he was Governor of Arkansas.

President Clinton was in Washington yesterday, hosting the President of Ecuador Jamil Mahuad. Mahuad, who was elected after his predecessor was impeached and fled to Panama, is on a tour of western nations. Mahuad hopes to rebuild faith in Ecuador's government.

Ecuador is most famous for being the birthplace of Sailor Bill, First Tortoise of the United States. He was acquired by an American sailor in the early 1900s, and delivered as a gift to then President Theodore Roosevelt.

Since then, Sailor Bill has been a national symbol, but also a symbol of Ecuadorian-American relations.

The small South American nation has often promoted its connections with Sailor Bill. Such connections have not prevented allegations of American interference in Ecuadorian affairs. However Sailor Bill has enhanced name recognition of Ecuador in the United States, according to polling.

Sadly Sailor Bill is also rather lonely. His species, the Santiago Island giant tortoise, is considered “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Estimates suggest less than a thousand of his kind still survive.

Since the 1960s, the American Government has cooperated with the Ecuadorian Government to make Sailor Bill available for work to preserve his species. Sailor Bill has been used in promotional material for Galápagos Conservation fundraising and awareness campaigns.

Identifying Sailor Bill’s exact species (there are 13 living species of Galápagos Tortoise) took some time, but he was eventually identified and entered into the breeding program. The Santiago Island tortoise population has a strong male bias, meaning there are substantially more males than females of the species surviving. This means that Sailor Bill is not quite as in demand as males of other engendered species.

However such a small population does create a problem with genetic diversity, and so Sailor Bill is called upon from time to time to mate with females and produce eggs. To this end the National Zoo hosts several on a rotating basis, as part of its wider breeding program.

Recently, Sailor Bill became a proud father to a clutch of eggs laid by Sundial, a female at the Zoo. This coincided, some say suspiciously so, with the state visit from the President of Ecuador.

Clinton and Mahuad’s initial meeting took place at the White House, where they discussed trade, combating drug violence, and environmental concerns. They then proceeded to the National Zoo to see the eggs, as well as Sailor Bill.

A zookeeper briefly summarized the success of the breeding program at the National Zoo, and brought Sailor Bill onto the stage, where he lay down between the Ecuadorian and American flags. Then the Presidents were invited to take the stage.

President Clinton than made his comment, apparently unaware that the microphones were picking up his statements.

The comment no doubt raised memories of the recent impeachment and trial of President Clinton for his affair with Monica Lewinsky. The comment has already drawn critique from Hill Republicans and is likely to cool relations with Hillary Clinton.

The comment also raises memories of other memorable gaffes, such as Dan Quayle calling Sailor Bill an iguana for no discernible reason.

The National Zoo declined to comment, as did Sailor Bill.
Well, I just ran into this, and this is quite frankly the best TL idea I've seen in a while. Quite fitting that this TL about a turtle (well, a tortoise, but that's less poetic) is being considered a contender for several Turtledoves. I love it!
The comment also raises memories of other memorable gaffes, such as Dan Quayle calling Sailor Bill an iguana for no discernible reason.
Never change, Danforth. Never change.
Gaffe Machine - George W Bush

2008 - It's Sailor Bill's 100th Birthday this week. Well, 100 years since he came to the White House at least. He's a touch older than that.

President Bush is not particularly popular right now, and has always been prone to gaffes. But all he has to do is putting on a party, and everyone loves Sailor Bill. Surely he can manage that. Right? Well he did just accidentally call Sailor Bill a turtle instead of a tortoise when even little kids know the difference.

Still, this is far from the worst gaffe featuring Sailor Bill. So let's take a, slow, walk down memory lane for some of the most infamous gaffes featuring America's First Tortoise.

Iguana Incident

Dan Quayle's gaffe ability was famous. Latin America, Potatoe, but perhaps most infamously when he called Sailor Bill an Iguana at a press conference about GMOs. No one is entirely sure how he reached that conclusion.

Hot-Mic Host

Bill Clinton's statement about his own misconduct, in the presence of the Ecuadorian ambassador no less, was caught on a live microphone at the National Zoo. Memory has faded somewhat since then, hut at the time it was the subject of much late night mockery, and attacks from Republicans. At least until a few days later…

Newt's Nuptials

Newt Gingrich, of course, had his own marital troubles. When moderate Republican Olympia Snowe was reported to say 'Sailor Bill isn't the only reptile in Washington with more than one woman' it was interpreted as a dig at the more conservative Gingrich. Snowe denied the comment, and Newts are Amphibians. But much fun was still had.

Fleeing Fritz

This one wasn't really Walter Mondale's fault. And it wasn't actually all that remarked upon at the time, not even widely broadcast. But the sight of Sailor Bill repeatedly turning away from him during the 1979 Easter Egg roll was not helpful to his already floundering 1984 campaign.

Inelegant Interview

Ted Kennedy mumbled something about Sailor Bill during the infamous moment when he tried to answer the question 'why do you want to be President.' Had he commited it might have been a charming deflection, but instead he just seemed shallow.

Boisterous Bombing

Ronald Reagan's capacity for a quick quip was infamous. When asked about White House plans for a nuclear strike, he stated that rhe plan was to all hide under Sailor Bill's shell. However this joke did not land as well as many of his other cracks. The incident, along with the Russian Bombing Joke, convinced some that Reagan was too blasé about Nuclear War.

Translation Trouble

Hoping back to the 1960s, relations between the White House and French President Charles de Gaulle could be testy. At one cabinet meeting he remarked bitterly about the 'stupid tortoise' in the White House, which soon leaked into the Paris rumor mill. Sailor Bill was not widely known abroad at the time. Opposition presses considered it a sign the General was mentally declining. At least until they sheepishly confirmed there was, indeed, a tortoise living in the White House.

Soup Surprise

Gary Hart’s 1984 Primary campaign was banking on winning Ohio, and so naturally the Senator campaigned there as part of his national struggle with Walter Mondale. While in Cincinnati he refused to try a popular local dish, mock turtle soup. He claimed it was to avoid offending Sailor Bill, despite Bill not being a turtle and the soup being mock turtle soup. Hart won Ohio but by a narrow margin and lost the nomination.

Pyongyang Problems

This one stretches the definition of ‘gaffe’ considering that it was entirely intentional. But when North Korean State TV insulted Sailor Bill in 2006, it angered even those used to North Korea’s hostility to the United States. Official statements from the White House followed. South Koreans were reportedly bemused.

Goat Gaffe

This week’s comments are not the only Bushisms surrounding Sailor Bill. When congratulating the Canadian Royal 22e Régiment for their service in Afghanistan he also praised their regimental mascot Batisse, who is a goat. This was seen as unfair to Bill as Batisse is a mascot, not an officer, has only been around since 1955, and is not the original goat. But no bad blood seems to have arisen, and the pair are apparently pen pals, according to the White House kids website.
This was the last of the regular chapters for Presidents, any further and it gets a little too current for me. The forthcoming update will be a broad sweep of Sailor Bill and the Internet, and is the final Regular Update.

The internet age becomes Sailor Bill like no other.

In a way he was a meme before the meme. The absurdity of his existence seems like something the internet would have invented. But he predates it by nearly a century.

From nearly the beginning, he is online. Before the chans or the troll faces. Before streams and sales and social media. Before WiFi or 4G. Before the impact font and the Livejournals. He was there. The very first White House website has a little page on him, accessible by clicking a pixelated image of him. A cartoon version teams up with Socks the Cat on the Children's Site. And he's still there.

From the days of dial up and c-roms, he is there. Not always a star, but mentioned, present. As American Culture moves online, so does Sailor Bill, who is deeply immersed in said culture, does as well.

Photos of Sailor Bill criss cross the nation via email. They dot the pages of tourists in Friendster, MySpace, and Facebook. Official government accounts also get in on the game, posting images of his daily routine, and meetings with important people.

The Internet shrinks the world, somewhat, and so brings the First Tortoise to more doorsteps. From Paris to Tokyo, Delhi to Dover, Brasilia to Beijing, international audiences discover just how obsessed with this reptile Americans are. Some mock, some don't care, and some join in the fun. Other animals pop into the sphere. The Chief Mouser at Number 10. The Penguin in charge of Norwegian Forces.

Bill becomes, fittingly, the first of the Presidential pets to truly go viral. And he is not just a one hit wonder either. A cute moment here, a funny picture there, Sailor Bill is one of the few consistent stars in the great, churning circus that is the world wide web. Every meme that sweeps the Internet inevitably features a Sailor Bill remix of some sort. From rage comics to the Doge to creepypastas to gifs. Corporate plants to corporate missteps, Sailor Bill is inserted into it all.

The arrival of photoshop onto the scene frees him from the shackles of reality. Sailor Bill on the moon? You betcha. Sailor Bill as Sailor Moon? Also there. Sailor Bill but he’s French? Bonjour Marin Bill! He even gets an evil twin brother, Aviator Carl. Aviator Carl has a mustache and goatee for unclear reasons. Or maybe there are clear reasons.

Sailor Bill means different things to different corners of the internet. Official government accounts get in on the fun.

There are of course, flame wars. And discourse on Twitter and Tumblr and every other website about Sailor Bill. Is he ethical? Is he right? Caps locks are turned on, and banhammers fall. Photoshop him into supporting your politics at your own peril. Some do more than photoshop. Sailor Bill is the most popular write in candidate for President the nation has ever had.

But the meme culture surrounding him never fades. Some of the older generations tut tut about the youths disrespecting an American icon like that. But the youth are simply doing what Americans have done for years at this point, imparting their own meaning onto the tortoise in the White House.