June 13th, 2008
11:58 AM ET
13 years ago

Obama’s helmet dilemma: safety or Dukakis goofiness?

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/06/08/art.obama.ap.jpg
caption="Sen. Barack Obama goes for a bike ride in Chicago, Illinois, last Sunday."]
(CNN) – As Barack Obama relaxed last weekend following his 15-month fight for the Democratic nomination, he struggled with an internal debate before going on a bike ride with his family – should he wear a helmet?

“I knew that the [Associated Press] was going to take a picture, and they were trying to portray it like Dukakis wearing that tank helmet,” Obama told donors at a $2,300-a-plate fundraiser in Chicago hosted by F.K Day, the president of World Bicycle Relief. “But I wanted to make sure that the children who saw that picture knew that even the Democratic nominee for president wears a helmet when he goes biking,” he said to hearty applause.

1988 Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis infamously donned a helmet for a photo-op in an M1 Abrams tank. It backfired and the picture was used by opponent George H.W. Bush in ads mocking Dukakis.

But despite scoring points from the bicycle-friendly crowd that included former Tour de France winner Greg Lemond, Obama acknowledged that the helmet didn’t make up for his stylishly-questionable get-up that included a polo shirt tucked into his jeans and sneakers.

“Now, obviously the rest of my apparel was apparently not up to snuff, because I got a hard time from all sorts of blogs,” he said, “Who said I looked like Urkel.”

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama
soundoff (243 Responses)
  1. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Safety first is what matters. If you have every seen the results of TBI from people riding bikes, motorcycles, etc. that didn't wear helmets, you'd think twice of how important it is to protect your head. I'm sure his children must do the same when bike riding so Obama is teaching by example.

    June 13, 2008 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  2. Dave W.

    The republicans are just jealous that they didn't wear helmets and have suffered mental injuries that force them to pick the war criminal Bush or the old man who will continue Bush's policies, Mccain.

    June 13, 2008 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  3. Norma

    At least he can ride a bike. If it was McCain we would see him riding THE ELCTRIC SCOOTER. LOL.

    June 13, 2008 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  4. David, Silver Spring, MD

    At least we have a presidential nominee who doesn't think Urkel is a country in eastern Europe.

    June 13, 2008 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  5. Ian

    No worries Obama. It's your policies that make you goofy.

    June 13, 2008 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  6. Jack

    I am by no means an Obama supporter and it is a funny picture. However, it is a good idea to wear a helmet when bike riding, particularly in the city. This is not an issue, it is just silly.

    June 13, 2008 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  7. Dark Kent

    Senator Obama sets an excellent example for children and adults to follow.

    June 13, 2008 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  8. M Odell

    I like this image of Barack Obama because it is wholesome and real.

    When John McCain is making a speech, he looks like an angry robot making gestures. Someone needs to put music behind it and use it for an ad.

    June 13, 2008 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  9. tanner, ca

    I can't stand Obama but as a cyclist I am very happy to see him setting a great example.

    June 13, 2008 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  10. Andy J, NY

    Ha ha, i love this. He does look like a goofball and i'm glad CNN has finally put an article out about Obama that doesn't make me feel like they are trying to ride Obama's... bike.

    June 13, 2008 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  11. NYC


    June 13, 2008 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  12. Pat Long Island NY

    Biking shorts and a nice tight shirt...now that would've been a sight to savor!

    June 13, 2008 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  13. Crush Rush

    JAN FROM BOCA,Your just another Limbaugh coward.

    June 13, 2008 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  14. Reality Check

    I see it is a bunch of losers on here too. He Elly, stop asking dumb questions. You are the biggest loser. Still upset about Hillary? Get over it. Obama is your new daddy.

    June 13, 2008 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  15. Billy From Fl.



    June 13, 2008 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  16. Larry Sinclair is Liar

    Elly – Larry Sinclair has already been noted as a pathological liar and a piece of scum. He failed the Lie detector exam miserably and has openly admitted that he fabricated the entire story about Obama.

    June 13, 2008 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  17. Twinkie

    I'm glad he was wearing the helmet. It's not just kids that can be hurt. My dad had a serious accident when his bike hit gravel on a street in our neighborhood. Suffice it to say, brain surgery and months in the hospital are not preferable to wearing a helmet!!!!

    Way to go Sen. Obama!!!!

    June 13, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  18. Pepou

    I ADORE his shoes. I want the same when I bicycle to work. SUV's drivers, get used to it.

    June 13, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  19. Dustin

    I'd have more respect for him if he just wore it out of principle, not politics.

    Ever move is calculated? This is new politics? I don't think so.

    And how about how he pulled the race card into this now...read the article above.

    Losing my respect by the minute...

    June 13, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  20. LIZ

    I will have to agree with an earlier post....at least he has a good sense of humor!!

    June 13, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  21. ral-OH

    Come on cnn, how is this newsworthy, silly of you to waste time
    on this.

    ELLY, investigate the Larry Sinclair smear – you will find he took a
    lie-detector test and he FAILED!!!!!

    June 13, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  22. Andy J, NY

    plain old funny news.

    Keep this up, CNN.

    You might actually get a little respect from me.

    You are still so overtly pro-Obama that it makes me sick. You still suck, but not as much after posting this article. Ha.

    June 13, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  23. Brian Knoxville, TN

    Either way, Obama is the best packaged and marketed candidate since George W. Bush.

    As a result of political malpratice on the part of the failed undemocratic Democratic Party leadership, Obama now has significant power and, the more we watch him wield it, the more he looks like the very thing that he has always—in his entire 16 months as a national figure—claimed he is not.

    Why is that? Mostly, I think that it is precisely because of the way he hastily and illegitimately gained his power…

    The façade that enabled Obama to trick people into voting for him during the first half of the nomination process is coming off!


    June 13, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  24. Moses, Ca.

    This is a joke. No matter what Obama does he can't win. If he didn't wear a helmet the news will talk about that. Is there no stories about McSane. Please give us a break

    June 13, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  25. Dorian, Buffalo NY

    KM June 13th, 2008 11:37 am ET

    Forget about the helmet, I want to know what is the purpose of that high mud flap on the back of the bike?

    If you ride a bike in the rain that mud flap keeps you from getting a streak up your back

    June 13, 2008 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
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