The Morning File's research team was watching last week's Democratic primary debate between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, prepared to analyze the approaches to immigration, global warming and plagiarism (the same friendly, almost ethical version of it that The Morning File specializes in) when actual news broke out.
"Hey, the dude's left-handed!" the research team's deputy field assistant for handedness called out.
And there was Mr. Obama, scrawling smudged notes with his wrong hand, showing all of America (or at least the 3 percent glued to CNN at that moment) his gauche, sinister love of the left. He was carefully writing down his opponent's words, presumably to appropriate them for a very eloquent inaugural address down the road.
The big deal here is not just Mr. Obama's orientation. Republican front-runner John McCain comes from the same, left-leaning 10 percent to 15 percent of the population. It's becoming clearer by the day -- unless every right-hander in Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania votes for Mrs. Clinton -- that the next president will be left-handed.
The country has not been faced with such predetermination of presidential handedness since the three-way race of 1992, when George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and H. Ross Perot all favored the same side used by Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci to create great art.
Other than the first Mr. Bush and Mr. Clinton, the left-handed presidents everyone seems to agree on were James Garfield, Harry Truman and Gerald Ford. Some lists include Herbert Hoover, but he's omitted from others created by left-handed advocates, perhaps because they want no part of someone on whose watch the Great Depression began.
And then there's the case of Ronald Reagan. He wrote with his right hand, but discussion has abounded that he was switched from his natural tendencies when he was young by strict schoolteachers. It has been pointed out that he slapped Angie Dickinson with his left hand in the film "The Killers," which is what a lefty would do. (No one thinking right would ever slap Angie Dickinson at all, actually.)
So just as in politics, Mr. Reagan apparently went from left to right as his life evolved. He shows up on some lists of left-handed presidents but not others, meaning we've had between five and seven of them, with much more likelihood of a left-handed White House in recent decades than before.
There's no indication yet of organized left-handed support for Mr. McCain, but a Lefties for Obama group has a Web site and slogan: "Make Obama Number 8 in '08"
Please be kind to your local left-hander
A Left-Handers Club exists at www.lefthandersday.com to promote the status of this minority group and sell products (scissors, writing utensils, can openers) especially needed by its members. The England-based club also promotes International Left-Handers Day each Aug. 13.
The club's Web site says the Bible contains more than 100 favorable references to the right hand and 25 unfavorable references to the left hand. "The devil is nearly always portrayed as left-handed and evil spirits lurk over the left shoulder (which is why you throw spilled salt over your left shoulder to ward them off)" according to the club.
They're a creative bunch, those lefties
Daniel Geschwind, a UCLA expert in neurobehavioral genetics, told The Philadelphia Inquirer last year that people with autism and schizophrenia are more likely to be left-handed. Those aren't exactly traits you want in the White House.
But he also noted that creative fields like music and architecture have more than their share. Lefties are dominated by the right side of the brain, the side that is more associated with artistic function. One study of college undergraduates years ago found 20 percent of students enrolled in art programs were left-handed, compared with 7 percent of those in other fields.Researchers have been working to identify specific genes involved in handedness, as it's generally viewed as something determined in the womb -- not from stepping up to home plate for the first time, and realizing you're a step closer to first base if you bat lefty.
As to whether the country is better with a lefty or a righty, you can look at the list above of left-handed presidents and decide. The last time America had a right versus left choice, it voted in 2000 for the present President Bush over southpaw Al Gore.
If Mr. Gore's tendencies had been publicized then (it was before TMF existed to "out" the lefties), it's possible he would have picked up a few more left-handed votes. The world might be quite different today.
Gary Rotstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1255.