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Men are the overemotional ones

Talking about his latest show about thin, sexy lawyers with good legs and bad dates, girls club, David E. Kelley was asked why he has such empathy for women characters.

"I probably deep down believe that women are the superior sex," Kelley told TV critics gathered here for a fall preview. "And when I see all that's going on in the world, in the Middle East . . . if the United Nations just said that women had to run countries, I don't think this would be going on in any of them."

I don't know. If Ally McBeal were president, India and Pakistan would have unleashed nuclear weapons three months ago.

According to a new study published by the National Academy of Sciences, the female brain is wired to feel emotions more intensely and remember them more vividly.

No kidding.

Men have always complained that women get overwrought about personal slights or romantic missteps that guys don't even remember.

Women subjects who participated in the new study got more upset, for longer, than male subjects after being shown pictures of dead bodies, gravestones, crying people and dirty toilets.

It's just the sort of data that misogynists could use to support the old argument that women are too high-strung, thin-skinned and brooding to be trusted as commander in chief. They are already pointing to Kelley's ditzy, man-crazy, mini-skirted nymphs as evidence that we are a weaker sex, that all a woman does is worry about what a cool guy thinks of her.

But in fact, all you need to do is look at modern American history to realize that it has been shaped and warped by men worrying about what a cool guy thinks of them. And it's always the same cool guy: JFK.

FX, the Fox cable station, showed its upcoming biopic about Robert Kennedy, RFK, which is more Hamlet than Camelot. Bobby wears Jack's too-big leather jacket and has several overwrought conversations with the dead president's ghost. He obsesses about whether he will ever live up to big brother, and whether he was responsible for JFK's assassination because of his pursuit of the same corrupt unions and mobsters who had helped the Kennedys win the White House.

The envy and compulsion to compete with Jack led Bobby to run for president in '68, though he knew that by entering the race he was increasing Richard Nixon's chance of winning.

Both Lyndon Johnson and Nixon were fixated on JFK's inimitable allure.

Johnson griped that when he said things, the press called it B.O., and when Kennedy did, it was Chanel No. 5. He groused that he descended from ministers, college presidents and state legislators, and Kennedy was the grandson of a bartender.

He would confide in friends that he felt kicked in the stomach when he saw his Secret Service agents wearing PT-109 lapel pins, or when he went into some poor person's home and saw photos of the usual triumvirate of heroes: Jesus, Martin Luther King and Jack Kennedy.

It was the Southwest Texas State Teachers College alum's insecurity about not living up to Kennedy's Ivy League circle that caused the master pol to listen too unquestioningly when Robert McNamara and other Kennedy holdovers pressed him to escalate the war in Vietnam.

The poor, grim Nixon was so obsessed with the rich golden boy who had defeated him in 1960 that he decided he had to have a landslide victory in '72. Even though his victory over George McGovern was never in doubt, his insecurity led him into Watergate.

The devouring Bill Clinton was also besotted with the detached Jack Kennedy. He never seemed to understand why he could not get away with the behavior that JFK got away with, including dalliances with women who worked in the White House.

Two Democrats circling the presidency now, John Edwards and John Kerry, are also smitten with JFK and ape his style.

So they can do all the studies and TV shows they want on overemotional and man-crazy women. It is the overemotional and man-crazy men who have messed up American history.

+ Maureen Dowd is a New York Times columnist. +

New York Times News Service