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No breaking away from Barack Obama's bicycle picture

The debate is on: The widely circulated photograph of Barack Obama on a bicycle this last weekend either did the presidential candidate no favors, or actually helped his cause.

In an article in today's New York Daily News, writer David Saltonstall shows no mercy, declaring: "It wasn't a pretty picture: ill-fitting jeans, a tucked-in golf shirt, black-and-white socks and a helmet that could make Michael Dukakis blush."

A weekend in Chicago spent by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama included a bicycle ride with his family Yet in comments to Saltonstall, some Big Apple fashionistas cut Obama major slack. Simon Doonan, creative director of Barneys New York, says: "I like seeing my politicians in goofy weekend attire. It means they're thinking about more important stuff."

Newsweek's Andrew Romano notes today that when the shot of Obama on the bike as part of an excursion with his family in Chicago "hit the wires, the heavily trafficked right-wing message boards of Free Republic went wild."

Those postings, as you can imagine, weren't complimentary toward Obama (but several were creative).

Romano, though, argues that the "bike moment" will be a plus for the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee because it "makes him look like a normal, nerdy American dad."Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts went wind surfing during his 2004 presidential campaign

Boston Herald columnist Margery Eagan also sees a political upside for Obama, and in doing so she directly confronts the race issue. She writes: "It’s hard to get Willie Hortoned -- turned into the radical black guy who gives white America the heebie jeebies -- when you look as suburban, as unchic, as let’s-hop-in-the-Explorer-and-head-to-Costco wonky as Obama looks in this oh-no! photo."

The rest of her piece can be read here.

On one point, we think all can agree: As Obama took some time to relax along Lake Michigan, it's wise that, unlike Democrat John Kerry during the 2004 campaign, he avoided windsurfing.

-- Don Frederick

Top photo: Barack Obama rides a bicycle built for one over the weekend in Chicago. Credit: Associated Press

Bottom photo: Former presidential candidate John Kerry gives windsurfing a whirl during his push for the White House in 2004. Credit: Agence France-Presse

Comments () | Archives (26)

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It looks like his back tire is low.

What in the world is wrong with wearing blue jeans on a bike ride? Are we going crazy here???

And thank God he wears a helmet - a GREAT example for all bike riders. What kind of parents would allow their children to ride a bike without a protective helmet?

Be careful, Barry! Isn't that Hillary speeding toward you in the distance?
-Wm Tate,

What's the big deal? Looks like a guy going out for a ride with the family. No posing involved. Sure, it would be nice if his Secret Service guys could inflate his tires for him, but really, why the fuss? Look around you. Obama looks *exactly* like the typical person out on a ride with the family.

If this was a 'bike ride with his family' where is the family? Maybe his little girls can fit in the carrier that's not shown, but it would seem that Michelle would be in another bike right beside him...and you call this journalism?

I agree with Richard and Mike. How nice to see him just being a normal person. I'd love to see a normal person in the white house for a change! Those secret service guys do need to learn how to inflate bike tires, though.

Nuthin' to see here..move along.

Although *I* don't think it's any big (or even medium) deal, one does remember Kerry (as the bloggers note) on the windsurfer, and behelmeted Dukakis in the tank.

This is the sort of thing that Fred Thompson was talking about when he mentioned having a "silly hat rule." (Not that a bike helmet or, in Thompson's case, a fire helmet is silly. But politicians who put them on may appear silly compared to the stately image they usually try to convey.)

I also don't get what's dorky about this. The first thing I thought when I saw the helmet was, good for him for wearing it, as he undoubtedly advises (his) kids to do. And what's wrong with a nice-looking golf shirt on a hot day?

FYI - John Kerry is Kiteboarding - not windsurfing. And Barry's back tire is as flat-lined as his economic policies.

"If this was a 'bike ride with his family' where is the family?"

They're probably cropped out of the photo.

That arm attached to the seat post is for a trailer bike to take along a kid. I've got one, and my kid still loves it even though she can ride her own bike.

yet another fake and ludicrous non-issue. The dude is riding a bike. And???? Maybe he should have been shooting someone in the face ala Cheney, or golfing ala W...

I am really tired of people dissing bicyclists who wear a helmet. They have saved many people from serious injury or worse. And considering the undeserved commentary about his clothing, what would this, "journalist" , have said about spandex shorts and a bike jersey? Moronic article.

Nice to see that Obama has an answer to the sprialing gas prices. I guess he has an energy plan after all:-)

Thanks for the biz . . .

This journalist seem to be on the attack mode. What is the big deal? The man decided to take some time off from the rigorous demands of campaigning, from verbal accusations and pressure to get a little well needed R and R, and to enjoy his family at the same time. The journalist neeed to stop knit picking and grasping at straws, concerning non-issues. And this indeed was a non-issue, and not worth the paper it was written. Ted, admit it, you are just resting on your laurels waiting to ponce on any perceived negative aspect of Barack Obama. Get a grip already! We know that you are not an Obama fan and so be it! Why don't you go out and write some news that is of import and if you can't, continue to fabricate your information, but do not use Barrack Obama as your target, just to try to boost your journalist status. It won't work. We will not remember, (What was your name again) you for these lame writings.

While I don't support tucking in golf shirts, I do support Barack Obama for President. I am skilled in cognitive dissonance.

"If this was a 'bike ride with his family' where is the family? Maybe his little girls can fit in the carrier that's not shown, but it would seem that Michelle would be in another bike right beside him...and you call this journalism?

Posted by: David Adams | June 10, 2008 at 01:50 PM?

David, David, David,
You see that curved peice of metal attached to Obama's seat post. The other end is attached to a smaller bike riden by his seven year old daughter.
Is that o.k for you Dave?

Happy Fathers Day

Although I wouldn't ride it, he made a good choice in going for the plain Trek hybrid as opposed to the custom Serotta.

Well that does it. I was considering supporting Obama you know with John McCain supporting war and being caught in lies every day but now with this picture of Obama riding a bike in jeans i just cant do it.

I'm Canadian, so I guess you could say I have a slight tilt to the left (more Democrat than Republican)... My comment on this... is that the "journalist" is just fishing for dirt... any dirt. As for Mr. Obama on a bicycle, I like and we should all do the same.

Mr. Obama needs to get his Canadian citizenship and replace our "fizzled" out Stephan Dion... I would vote for Mr. Obama in a heart beat.

Aren't we all ashamed of ourselves for having the least bit of interest in this non-story?

Mchain is experienced but Obama is better

Should have purchased a beach cruiser.

Good for Obama - riding a Trek bicycle - many of which are made in the USA

If it was about politics, well, Trek (made in the U.S.A.), if it was about energy (bicyles-the most efficient form of transportation), if it was about family values (cycling with family in tow = family man = good father), if it was about fashion (helmet = practical, the rest = one of us). Apparently, though, the negative comments from the readers of the original article turned out, instead, the same old closeminded, separatist viewpoints and their statements were about the polarization, small mindedness, and extremely biased point of view of those who would have let another 4 years of Bush policy drag us, and our world, down.

Quit your fussing and lend a hand to make our world and country a safer, better place to live in.

He's on what looks like a Trek 7500 or so, with the upright position and 700cc tires. The helmet looks like a Bell City or Bell Metro. Jeans? Basic "I'm A Dad" collection, same as the shirt. Those "nerdy" black and white socks are probably Thor-Lo socks. What is wrong with a guy riding a bicycle in jeans? I'd be shocked if his junk were hanging out of a lycra/spandex suit, and even more so if he were tearing up the pavement on a Road Racing bike, pulling what is obviously his daughters in a tag-a-long. Give the guy a break. He's riding a bicycle.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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