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The Left Side of the Political Spectrum

- February 11, 2008

The very first thing I ever noticed about Barack Obama was that he’s left-handed. I pride myself in my ability to pick left-handers out of a crowd. For us left-handers, laterality is more salient than it is to those who do things the other way around.

Anyway, in case you were in doubt, here’s proof of Obama’s left-leaning tendencies. (For those to whom such things matter, he’s a White Sox fan.)


But that raises a question — or at least it did for my niece Kim, who, knowing of her uncle’s fixation on matters having to do with handedness (and, I suspect, grasping for hopeful signs about Obama’s presidential candidacy), asked me whether any of our recent presidents have been left-handers. I immediately responded that in this respect at least, Obama should not be viewed as the candidate of “change,” for several recent presidents — indeed, most of them — have shared Obama’s leftward leanings. Here, then, is a little gallery of recent presidential portsiders.

Perhaps most obviously, there was Gerald Ford.


And, of course, Bill Clinton. (Note that Binyamin Netanyahu was left-handed, too — very handy for writing Hebrew.)


And then there is the puzzling case of the elder George Bush, widely known as a left-hander.


But perhaps he’s not really a lefty? Maybe he’s just confused?


Even more puzzling is the case of The Great Communicator. Do a Google search on “left-handed presidents” and what pop up are 114,000 entries that all make pretty much the same claim: that Ronald Reagan was left-handed (for example, click here).

Ronald Reagan? When I read that, I reeled. Could it be that I, a (self-)certified handedness detector, had somehow failed to record Reagan’s left-handedness? Well, see for yourself:


Anyone who wants to convince me that Ronald Reagan was a lefty (a charge he himself certainly would have denied) had better be able to produce some proof thereof. Yes, many “true” left-handers were changed over early in life, but is there any evidence that Reagan was one of them? Until I see a picture of Reagan acting left-handedly or hear a verified account of his manual reprogramming, I’ll continue classifying him as a righty.

Oh, by the way, Kim, I’m sorry to dash your hopes. But if Obama wins the Democratic nomination, his likely opponent in the general election will be John McCain, who — you guessed it — is also left-handed.

[Hat tip to Kim Sigelman]