Tulsa Girl Scouts were able to convince President Obama to break one of his cardinal rules and wear something on his head for a group shot: a tiara. Last April, the Navy football team tried to get the Commander-in-Chief to do the same thing but with different headgear – a custom-made football helmet – but they were unsuccessful. Obama was not putting on that helmet.
The President explained at the time why he accepted the football helmet but declined to put it on:
“Here’s the general rule: You don’t put stuff on your head if you’re President. That’s Politics 101. You never look good wearing something on your head.”
In refusing to put on the football helmet, Obama follows in John F. Kennedy’s footsteps (“Hatless Jack“) and avoids creating his own Dukakis in the tank moment. He was not putting on a helmet, no way!
Mike Dukakis was the Democratic presidential nominee running against GOP George H. Bush in the 1988 Presidential Election. His political advisors convinced him to drive a tank wearing a helmet for a photo op. They believed the image would help counter his image as being soft on defense.
The photograph made Dukakis look ridiculous and the GOP spin doctors, Lee Atwater in particular, lost no time using it in anti-Dukakis ads. Most people believe it cost Dukakis the election. Bush won by a landslide. People have compared Dukakis in a tank to Rocky the Flying Squirrel. Dukakis defended this gaffe saying, years later, at least I didn’t vomit on a Japanese minister! (as President Bush did at a state dinner.) Sour grapes, indeed.