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. Erik


    June 13, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  2. independent OBAMA Supporter

    Thank you Senator Obama for encouraging the safety of young bicycle riders. My kids now know that they have to wear helmet everytime they ride a bike.
    God bless OBAMA. No matter what people says When GOd says YES no body can say NO.

    June 13, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  3. George

    haaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. this is an issue in American election. lets not make fun of our democracy. People around the world will laugh at us. Yeah, the domocratic nominee followed the trafiic rule. In America, the rule of law prevails not something else.

    June 13, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  4. joann

    He is setting a good example by wearing a helmet while biking - it's nothing like Dukakis trying to look like a soldier wearing his helmet!

    June 13, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  5. For country

    Obama wears a helmet to set an example, just as he listens to Wright for inspiration, aspiration, and then perspiration.

    June 13, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  6. randy

    Belle,you sound like tipical conservative you don't want cnn to do there job.now you telling to invesitigate obama well why can't you do it.every time you people come up with anything that will put fear on american guess what belly you people are done.

    June 13, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  7. Charles

    Is this news? WHO CARES CNN????

    Can we discuss real issues and the way forward for America and the world. I dont think this is going to solve the economy, the war in Iraq, or America's standing in the world.

    June 13, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  8. RYAN kr Jr

    The bigots who reason with their butt not their brain’re scary and will finally vote for McSame. McBush refused to stay on the issues. It is scary at the filling station...it is watching my brothers and sisters die in a dumb war. It is scary GOP has not agenda or solution for recession. It is scary McBush will eventually bomb Iran. It is scary the rich’re getting a tax break. It is scary majority of the world despise US. It is scary McSame can't read or speak without a teleprompter. It is scary our neighbor’s home fore closured. It is scary Americans don't get. It is scary 300 millions are so dumb. It is scary some listen to radicals and bigots like Rush, Lou, and Hannity and abide their advice. It is scary our children will have no future due to global warming. It is scary when China and India monopolized our market and steal our ideas. It is scary we can't stop genocide in Darfur. It is scary we elected a stupid man twice. It is scary our president can't speak English. Can anyone show me Gas station written Liberal or Conservative so we can compare the price? - Of course answer is none………………

    June 13, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  9. Linda Garrity

    I am a Speech Pathologist who works with head injured patients. I have also directed a community/school program in my town which educates children re: importance of wearing seat belts and helmets and rewards them for doing so.

    Research shows that the more parents wear their helmets, the more their children do-a direct correlation. Not only was Barack being smart in protecting himself, he was being a good role model for his children. There is nothing "gorky" about that.

    Imagine if he had not worn one, and had somehow been involved in an accident which caused him a head injury. Where would that leave him, his family and the hope for the Democratic party and the country?

    The media needs to smarten up and not be so petty!!

    June 13, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  10. Brian Knoxville, TN

    Elly – the fact that Obama did not want to respond to Larry Sinclair on his fight the smears website definitely elevates Sinclair's claims several notches toward fact. Come on Obama, if it's a smear, fight it on your 'Fight the Smears' website.

    June 13, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  11. Bayou Joe

    This man scares me. Not because of his race or religion, but because of his agenda for our country. Not that he has told us his agenda, but we can piece it together from what he has said throughout the campaign. His is a Socialis/Marxist Agenda.

    That is why Americans will not elect him in November.

    This is not a change we want for our country. McCain 08

    June 13, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  12. Jim

    Silly is right and unelectable is even better! 20 years in a racist church and you think you deserve the Democratic nomination! And the idiots who voted for you!

    June 13, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  13. Shiloh Everett

    What would people think if we said Mc Cain looks like an escapie from a nursing home who needs cleaner dentures! Can we have some respect. What a bunch of kids on the playgroubd we are.

    June 13, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  14. Naima


    June 13, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  15. Jessica in IL

    Uh, this is news??

    June 13, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  16. Pete

    I'm amazed at the people here who are making a judgment call based on how geeky he looks in a helmet. I would say that he made a thoughtful decision to ride safely and that would earn him some points in my book.

    June 13, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  17. Bill - Charlotte

    CNN... thanks for yet another article on nothing....

    June 13, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  18. RH

    Just what is he supposed to wear, then? Should I not be tucking my polo shirts into my jeans? This sort of scrutiny is beyond ridiculous.

    June 13, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  19. catjax

    CNN Please stop posting this useless article. Everything that this man does seems to be wonderful and big news..Give us something that is more important and worthy of discussion and not this petty stuff. I am not voting for this guy simply because he lacks experienced and substance, just like all these articles that you are reporting..

    June 13, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  20. jen

    CNN is in the Bag for John and Cindy McCain. By the way the McCain's theme song should be "Your Cheating Heart".

    June 13, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |

    Hey jay in nyc thanks for posting obamas lame resume online for all to see. What bothered me more than his helmet was the image of him going to play golf while Hc was out endorsing HIM>>> remind you of anyone? That was disrespectful and stupid. This is just dumb. I think the Oct surprise will be in earlier than expected. I do think this will hurt him. Everything I see so far indicates it will hurt him badly.

    June 13, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  22. Naomi Lundgren

    Wearing a helmet gives a strong example, Mr. Obama? What about saluting the American flag? What about "the 57 states" you say you have or will visit. That number just happens to be the number of Islamic states in the Islamic conference organization. I wonder about you, Mr. Obama.

    June 13, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  23. gene

    Now if that had been Hillary Clinton, Jack Cafferty would have been all over it! His question would have been " How can this lady expect to negotiate with Iran when she goes around looking silly and acting like a dork".

    June 13, 2008 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  24. Alex FL

    Id rather have a second Carter term (which obama WOULDNT bring) than a 3rd Retard term!

    June 13, 2008 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  25. B.M.

    What the Hell is wrong with you CNN,dont you have any NEWS to report on?For gods sake,the planet is coming unravelled and were sitting here discussing Obama wearing a helmet and "dorky"clothes.I am certain that you could find a more important story pretty much anywhere on the planet,but I guess I ask too much of the media,after all its easier to print this garbage than do some actual reporting,I mean shucks....reporting real news is too much like work.

    June 13, 2008 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
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