Four Out of Five Recent Presidents Are Southpaws

Sinister. Gauche. Satanic. Throughout history the word "left" has been synonymous with awkwardness, even evil.

Writing with a left hand can be a curse, but it might just get you elected to the presidency. Four of the last five presidents were left-handed.

Commanders in chief Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton were southpaws, a term derived from baseball. George W. Bush is not.

Given that overwhelming modern trend, campaign front-runners Barack Obama and John McCain might have the political upper hand.

Or not.

H. Ross Perot, the Frank Perdue look-alike who ran as an independent in 1972 and 1976, was also left-handed. And Michael Bloomberg, the erstwhile presidential candidate and current mayor of New York City, also pens with his left.

Other failed candidacies were those of New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley, who ran in 2000, and magazine scion Steve Forbes in 1996 and 2000.

But scientists and historians agree that being left-handed, which is often associated with outside-the-box thinking, can be a political strength.

"They have a wider scope of thinking," said Amar Klar, a biologist who has done breaking research on handedness. "I know among scientists their numbers are really high. There are more Noble Prize winners, writers and painters. We need more people like that."

History is evenhanded when it comes to the subject.

According to a BBC report, the Boston Strangler, Jack the Ripper and Billy the Kid were lefties. So is Osama Bin Laden.

But so, too, were many noble figures, such as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Picasso, Queen Victoria, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie and Prince William.

An estimated 9 percent to 10 percent of Americans boast left-handedness, or its close relative, ambidexterity, according to Klar.

The test of a righty is performing 10 acts solely with that hand: throwing a ball, using a spoon, sawing, sewing, shooting marbles, bowling, cutting with a knife, cutting with scissors, hammering and writing.

Fortunately, for a president, only the writing matters — as many left-handed presidents have dragged their pens over the ink signing legislation.

According to Klar, who investigates abnormal cell development at the National Cancer Institute, left-handedness is genetic — and that same gene (or in this case, a gene that is nonfunctional) is related to the way the hair whorls.

Lefties Mostly Whorl Left

Only 8.4 percent of the general population have counterclockwise whorls, but in nonrighties, it occurs 50 percent of the time.

"I can tell from the front of John McCain's hair that he is left-handed," said Klar, who rode a Maryland escalator for a day to determine how many riders with left swirling scalps were actually lefties.

"I know John Edwards is a lefty, too," he said. Klar's research has led him to some startling conclusions about the division of labor in the brain. "The brain of left-handed people is less lateralized," he said.

In all humans, the heart is on the left side and all other organs are in the same place. "All the plumbing is mostly one way," said Klar.

But the brain is divided into two hemispheres that can differ in left- and right-handed people. The left side of the brain is responsible for language and the right side for emotion.

Most lefties favor the right side of the brain, which also handles more spatial reasoning.

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