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. brad

    we all look goofy in these bike helmet. what a non issue. please.

    June 13, 2008 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  2. Jesse - San Antonio TX

    the point is that the guy is trying to hard to seem like an normal guy, not the arugula loving liberal elitist he is.

    Thanks America, you have handed the republicans another 4 years. There were way more qualified people running.

    June 13, 2008 11:54 am at 11:54 am |

    HA ! HA ! HA !



    I'LL GET IT !

    NO! I'LL GET !



    June 13, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  4. Anonymous

    Any body can say anything about obama but what is the real deal is november.I personaly have promised to register 5000 newe voters and I have registerd 3200 and I will make sure all of them voted in november for obama so all you keep talking whill I walk to walk.

    June 13, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  5. Al

    People are soo excited about this man! ! ! To be into him so much simply means we just love him. GO BARACK O ! !

    June 13, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  6. John from LA

    No one cares!-Why does he think he needs to explain EVERYTHING-oh no, the media or the evil Rep. will try to spin this or that-talk about not wanting to discuss issues!!!-Obama should spend less time pandering to the pubic for votes and more time telling people what the heck he stands for-and let's try NOT to use the word change for once!!!

    What is it that you plan to do with America???? Education, Health care, etc...-and not spout your typical stump speech!

    June 13, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  7. Sethin Jacksonville, FL

    He's a normal human being. A dad. For anyone to say he's an "elitist" and not like the rest of us...take note. Does he really strike you as having a lofty attitude? Come on. He's genuine, and this is a big factor in my support of him.

    June 13, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  8. jay nyc

    Ok everyone- I am voting for Obama...but that get-up does make him look like Urkel's big brother. However, I have no problem with my President having a law degree from Havard and a background as a professor of Constiutional Law, in additon tocommunity organizing in low income neighborhoods and being looked upon fondly by the international communtiy. Did I mention that he advocates for bike safety too? My advice, vote for Obama, but wear some shorts or sweat pants when you go bike riding! LOL-OBAMA 2008

    June 13, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  9. D- Nice

    Who cares. If he wears a helmet, hes goofy; If he didn't wear the helmet I guarantee somebody would have found a state law that required helmets when riding bikes and used that against him. With some people, you just cant win

    June 13, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  10. Amy, Kazoo

    seriously? this is what we're talking about?

    June 13, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  11. GR Voter

    To whoever asked about the mud flap: It's not, that's a buggy, he's probably got the girls in that buggy. Which of course is totally adorable.

    June 13, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  12. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia in CA

    It would be hard to beat the reining king of Dorkdom, George W. Bush, at any level.

    With all the problems the US is having, how petty a subject for the press to be covering.

    Senator Obama will make a great President!

    June 13, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  13. Ric

    Clinton Democrats for Mc Cain '08

    June 13, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  14. CB

    His daughters were with him – he had to wear a helmet to demonstrate safety. Its what I do with my daughter.

    And besides, cool is not what you wear – its how you think! And this man is cool!

    June 13, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  15. indy dem

    what should he wear? An adidas track suit? Maybe some Jordans? idiots

    June 13, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  16. Tom

    Jan from Boca Raton–You sound like a Dork (one who's not old enough to vote). Please go away!

    June 13, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  17. Obama/Clinton '08

    Thank you Senator Obama for encouraging the safety of young bicycle riders.

    If someone was critical of Hillary Clinton's outfit, they would be called a sexist. But I guess it's okay to do the same thing to Obama.

    One day the Obama-haters portray him as a ghetto drug-dealer. The next day the Obama-haters portray him as a goody-goody geek.

    Get a life, Obama-haters!

    June 13, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  18. Dennis

    It was the responsible thing to do. I wouldn't worry about it too much. He was attempting to be safe while enjoying time with his family, not make himself out to be involved in military affairs with a stupid photo op.

    June 13, 2008 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  19. randy

    Obama is down to earth so people be nice and learn from this man.

    June 13, 2008 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  20. Chris from San Antonio

    I don't doubt that the only ammo the GOP has is to mock someone for being safe.
    They can't talk about the economy. They can't talk about the Iraq War. All they have is a helmet and who Obama chooses to have on his committee to select a VP.
    America has gotten smarter over the past 7 years (hopefully). When the best the GOP can come up with is "vote for me because we're not Obama," you know it's going to be a long summer.

    June 13, 2008 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  21. Paul, Riverside, CA


    Larry Sinclair was proven to be a FRAUD over 4 months ago. Also, media outlets like NBC called this man out already.

    Sorry, but you are really behind on this.

    June 13, 2008 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  22. Common Sense

    Ok, how is this in any way an issue? Is Obama under the belief that every single thing he does will automatically be used against him? Is he really that insecure? After all, President Bush wears a helmet all the time when he rides his bike (though he is more of an off-road biker than on the street). I think Obama needs to relax and be less paranoid.

    June 13, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  23. Belle

    CNN YOU are NOT in charge of Obama's campaign!

    VET the candidates please.

    June 13, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  24. Todd

    I'm disgusted that people are still trying to play up some silly stigma with wearing a helmet!! Are you going to make fun of his grades now too?! Helmets save lives. Period. Wouldn't it be great if the rest of our leaders had the marbles to put their role model status to good use rather than blantant hypocrisy?

    June 13, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |


    June 13, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
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