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. Celeste

    Way to go, President Obama! Safety first, fashion sense......not really important in this instance.

    June 13, 2008 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  2. McCrazy

    Ok since the rest of the posts are closed: This is about McCain requesting co-townhall meetings.

    The ONLY reason he is doing this is because Obama draws crowds of 50,000 regularly, while McCain draws 100. Normally i would be all for a debate, but in this case, McCain is only riding Obama's speech popularity.

    That and Obama isnt very good at debating

    And, McCain puts the world to sleep reading off his teleprompter.

    McCain should just quit now, move to Iraq, put them to sleep with his teleprompted speeches, and then maybe we can finally leave.

    June 13, 2008 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  3. Donnie

    Alexander Marquardt is a douche bag.

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

    Bam–you looked so CUTE! And yes, safety is our number one concern–domestically AND internationally. We love you , baby!!

    June 13, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  5. Dave

    CNN, Thank you for allowing us to view this photo. It does not matter who anyone supports, a great way to begin your day with a good laugh.

    June 13, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  6. Michael Lorton, Virginia

    Is there anything sacred in a candidate's life?

    June 13, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  7. Belle

    Just one more insult they can blame on someone else.

    And once again Obama plays the blame game. If no one says anything about you say they did anyway (make everyone feel sorry for you). Say they called you (and your wife) black. There are always rumors and false statements made about candidates for national office. Other candidates must deal with rumors; why is he so so special and we must feel so so so sorry for him because someone is being mean.

    If Obama wants to set up a website, who cares. I looked at that website; I was not impressed. He has no proof of any of the believable rumors; just "it is not so".

    If that is his birth certificate, it has less information on it than any birth certificate I ever saw (not that I have ever seen an official Hawaiian birth certificate).

    However, I know that I could have done a better job about denying the quotes from his book. Which "quotes" are incorrect; what page in the book will we find the real quote. A better answer would have been simply to say "read the book."

    There is a video of him not placing his hand over his heart while the national anthem plays-he needs to explain that. Just saying it is not so is not good enough. Clearly it is true for that one time; nothing he can do will change that.

    Once he excuses his (or her) action, he needs to stick with that excuse; don't excuse (or denounce) by degree. (Rev Wright and his church)

    There is no way to excuse her "proud" statement. I don't care if there is a video of her saying "whitey" or not; I can feel her hatred when I watch her speak. She is not proud of America; she does believe white people are to blame for all her ills.

    June 13, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  8. Steve

    About the only guy who DOESN'T look dorky in a bike helmet is Armstrong. At least Big O has a sense of humor about it. Thank god he didn't wear spandex bike shorts. That would give us more information about the presumtive nominee than we care to know....

    Now, it's time for a response from the Republican Party. Can we get some shots of McCain riding his horse and buggy?

    June 13, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  9. independent

    Please obama pick caroline or oprah for your vp. We need Hilary in 2012...Please dont take our Hilary away to a do nothing administration.You will taint her.

    June 13, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  10. WAKE UP


    What's wrong with his image? He can't ride a bike? Wow, I never knew riding a bike wearing a helmet was a crime.

    June 13, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  11. Dem in CA

    Oh, yeah, let's get ourselves a president that is too stupid to wear a safety helmet, good plan, America.

    As far as Obama looking "goofy", I suppose all those professional cyclists look goofy too? What foolishness.

    June 13, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  12. Ulese

    For once, it would be nice to have a President with a head worth protecting.

    June 13, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  13. Republican for OBAMA!

    I and everyone I know are voting for OBAMA. Republicans dont have a chance come Nov.

    OBAMA 08 12

    June 13, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  14. Mike, CA

    Maybe I missed it but I didn't read one word from the Obama-loving press about his helmet. But this is so Obama: to bring everyone's attention to what a great role model for kids he is. Geez! Maybe they didn't notice because of your overall nerd look. You're so out of touch with everyday people. Get rid of the stupid, prissy belt and yank the freakin' shirt out, if you want to pretend you're not too elite for the blue-collar workers whose votes you WILL NEVER GET!

    June 13, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  15. H


    June 13, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  16. Natasha/Supporter of Democrats

    Ok CNN, this is not something that should be discussed on blogs. I see that it is clear that there is some serious race/racism issues here from the Republicans.

    That my friend is a line they should not cross. Hey, they(republicans) are going to lose the election anyway.


    June 13, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  17. Agnostic Democrat

    Better to look a little dorky than come across as an out of touch, disconnected, flip-floppin' fossil.

    June 13, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  18. Chi4Obama

    Bush = McCain; McCain = Bush.

    June 13, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  19. Rich In Seattle

    Can McCain even ride a bike at his age? Doubt it.

    And for those Hillary supporters who are still attacking Obama for Hillary, "Don't go away mad, just go away!"

    June 13, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  20. Concerned Canadian

    I don't just look goofy in a bike helmet; I look downright moronic (in my mind, anyway), but I still wear one. Imagine the uproar were Obama to go riding without one!!

    I am glad to see that ge is first and formost a responsible, concerned father!

    June 13, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  21. Scott, Wichita

    He does kinda look like Urkel, now that you mention it...

    Helmets are smart!
    and I doubt he'd do as well in the campaign if he has bandages wrapped around his head, so it makes double sense

    June 13, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  22. Gary Chandler in Canada

    Just get back on the basketball court for few photo shoots.
    Come to think of it, challenge McCain to shoot a few or go for a bike ride.

    June 13, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  23. Anita from Arizona


    FYI, Barack has been attacked for everything he says. That's all the GOP's got on him. Nit picking over dumb things that have NOTHING to do with the issues. Who's gonna help me afford a week's worth of groceries again? OBAMA

    Thank you, next....

    June 13, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  24. shamous mc

    I want to see Hillary Clinton riding a bike with a drink in her hand.
    Put some wheels on McCain's walker and he'll zoom past them all.

    June 13, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  25. kim

    What's wrong with wearing jeans and a polo going for a bike ride? And why does the press have nothing better to do than take pictures of Obama going for a bike ride and then scrutinize his choice of clothing? The one thing I really like about Obama is that he calls things for what they are and speaks his mind. He wore a helmet because he knew he'd be scrutinized and you hear from his own mouth the thought process that went into actually wearing the helmet. I like that about him and I hope he doesn't roll over to political pressure and act like a subhuman like the rest of the politicians in this country.

    June 13, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
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