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On the Trail / THE WHEEL-DRESSED MAN

Some saw him as a nerd of the people

June 11, 2008|Don Frederick

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

In an article in Tuesday's New York Daily News, writer David Saltonstall showed 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."

But some Big Apple fashionistas and other writers cut Obama major slack. Simon Doonan, creative director of Barneys New York, told Saltonstall: "I like seeing my politicians in goofy weekend attire. It means they're thinking about more important stuff."

Newsweek's political blogger, Andrew Romano, argued that the "bike moment" would be a plus for the presumptive Democratic nominee because it made "him look like a normal, nerdy American dad."

Boston Herald columnist Margery Eagan also saw an upside for Obama, and in doing so she confronted the race issue. She wrote: "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."

-- Don Frederick

Frederick is one of the writers of The Times' political blog, Top of the Ticket, at latimes.com/topoftheticket.

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