The Slatest

A Short History of Presidents Being Defeated By Air Force One’s Stairs

The wave is the easy part.

Photo by Ernesto Ruscio/Getty Images

President Obama’s confidence in his own athleticism and general coordination can be a double-edged sword in the age of YouTube. Take his jump shot, for example: Sometimes it leads to some pretty cool moments, like when he nailed a three-pointer in front of a bunch of American troops in Kuwait. Sometimes it leads to some significantly less cool moments, like when the commander-in-chief went 2-for-22 in front a bunch of children attending a White House Easter event.

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On Sunday, though, Obama managed to demonstrate both the risks and rewards of his unwavering belief in himself in one fell swoop. While exiting Air Force One after returning from a weekend golfing trip in Florida, Obama busted out what has become something of his de-boarding trademark: a quick wave from the top of the stairs, followed by a confident jog to the bottom. This time, however, things didn’t go exactly as planned:

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Because Obama serves as a Rorschach test for Internet readers, you probably saw that and thought either: Ha ha! What a klutz!, or Wow, what an amazing save! Regardless, history makes it clear that it could have been worse for Obama. A lot worse. A quick trip down memory lane:

1.) Ronald Reagan took his own tumble atop the stairs during an appearance in Seattle in 1984. Fortunately for the Gipper, his stumble wasn’t captured on video. It does, however, live on in still-image infamy.

2.) Gerald Ford was considerably less fortunate, as tended to be the case when it came to matters of coordination. While visiting Europe in 1975, Ford landed in Austria nearly face first:

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3.) Plane-related pratfalls are almost downright presidential at this point, which could be a good harbinger for Hillary Clinton, who had one of the worst you’re likely to see back in 2009 while serving as secretary of state:

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(Clinton had a more painful fall that same year when she was walking to her car in the basement of the State Department and fractured her elbow.)

What’s that? You want more clips of powerful men and women klutzing it up? Your wish is my command. A few bonus hits from the vault.

Bob Dole’s stage dive:

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Gary Bauer flips a pancake, and himself:

And, because even when a stunt goes as planned it can still be cringe-worthy, I’ll leave you with this all-timer of awkwardness courtesy of George W. Bush:

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