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GOP: home to leftist thinkers?

Let's see if we can get this straight.

Sen. Trent Lott says Democrats and Republicans think with different sides of their brains, like men and women. And the GOP is the party of men.

Or as Lott put it, "I think we're the party of Mars, but we would like to have the Venus side of the American society in our party, too."

Lott's thinking prompted plenty of guffaws this week in Washington, but that was Lott's left brain working, you see. That's the side used for analysis, logic and verbal skills. The right side is the creative, artistic, emotional side.

The wimpy side, in other words. The brain of women and Democrats, Lott reckons.

Such a hypothesis coming from the No. 2 leader of the U.S. Senate has rather baffled the scientists who study brain function.

"We're doomed," neuropsychologist Sally P. Springer said when the Washington Post reached her at the University of California. She's a co-author of the basic text on this topic, Left Brain, Right Brain.

"I don't know that anybody's ever studied a Republican under a brain scan to see which side of the brain is active," said George Weaver, chairman of the psychology department at Florida State University.

Jay Leno suggested that Lott has proven politicians work with only half a brain.

But seriously, folks. As far as scientists can tell, men and women use both sides of their brains all the time. It is true, however, that men tend to depend more heavily on the left side, especially for language.

Men and women have different brain patterns, even when the outcome is the same, on SAT scores, for instance. What scientists don't know is whether these differences mean that men and women approach life differently. The dissimilarities that so frustrate the genders _ resulting in bestsellers such as Women are from Venus, Men are from Mars _ could be cultural, not biological.

So Lott is taking too big a leap to connect left-brain activity with masculine behavior, much less Republican philosophy, Weaver said.

"He is suggesting that men are analytic and great problem solvers," Weaver said. "Women are going to be thinking about whether the curtains are straight."

But is Lott wrong that Republicans are the party of men?

Only 20 Republican women serve in the U.S. Congress. (Then again, only 37 Democratic women are there).

It was men _ supposedly angry, white men _ who put the Republicans in charge last year, while female voters stayed home in droves.

These are the guys who talked about the Evil Empire and throw-weights throughout the 1980s. Ronald Reagan rode horses and chopped wood.

George Bush was a real problem for the GOP when he couldn't move the needle on the macho meter. Remember the wimp factor? Remember when Bush asked for a "splash" of coffee at a truck stop? Poor Barbara Bush had to defend his masculinity.

Luckily, Bush was running against girly-man Michael Dukakis, a Democrat who provoked national howls of laughter by riding around in a military tank to prove his toughness.

Four years later, America had a brief fling with Bill Clinton, a '90s kind of guy who said he feels our pain. A right-brainer. Women loved him. But the Republicans were back in no time.

And without the Communists to kick around, they've turned their manly attention to welfare mothers. The GOP wants to make the mothers work, slow down spending on school lunches and medical care _ perfectly logical if you want to save money _ but those emotional Democrats are whining about children starving in the streets.

Toughness prevails in the Republicans' presidential primary, too. He-man Pat Buchanan would build a fence along the U.S. border to keep out immigrants. Phil Gramm is courting the National Rifle Association. (Maybe he's aware of research that shows a male brain at rest turns to thoughts of violence.) And Bob Dole is pounding on those aging hippies in Hollywood for polluting our children's minds.

Don't expect any left-brain, right-brain theory to become part of the Republican Party's platform, however.

"My wife recommended that I drop the subject," Lott said.

Sounds logical.