The Right Hook

Oregon Democrat Steve Novick has become a media darling in recent weeks. Yes, he’s the scrappy underdog in his state’s senatorial primary. Yes, he has an exceptional background, having earned a law degree from Harvard at age 21. But let’s be honest. You know about him because of his hook hand .

Novick has made his hook the centerpiece of his campaign. His smart political spots don’t try to avoid the prosthesis. They show it off. In the best-known ad, he cracks open a beer with the hook.

This would make Novick part of a long tradition of congressmen with deformed hands. You’ve got Montana Sen. Jon Tester , who lost three fingers on his left hand in a meat grinding accident. There’s Rahm Emanuel, who in high school sliced his finger in an Arby’s machine then went for a swim in Lake Michigan. Surgery left him with a stub for a middle finger. He still uses the stub regularly.

Former senators with manual problems include Bob Dole, who carried a pen in his paralyzed right hand to signal that he couldn’t shake hands properly, and Max Cleland, who lost two legs and an arm in Vietnam after bending down to pick up a grenade.


Update 1:35 p.m.: Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake lost the tip of his right index finger in an alfalfa field when he was 5.  

Update 3:31 p.m.: Sen. Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii lost his arm in Italy in 1945 after a grenade exploded at close range.