Obama cracks the mysteries of the human brain

Obama cracks the mysteries of the human brain (David Horsey/L.A. Times / April 8, 2013)

President Barack Obama wants to invest an initial $110 billion in a study of the human brain that could have benefits as great as those achieved by the Human Genome Project. Maybe the first study should be done on the one-track minds of tea party Republicans who will undoubtedly oppose funding for the study because their brains are fixated on the single idea that government can do nothing right.

After that, researchers could move on to figuring out Sarah Palin's brain. Perhaps they could answer this question: How can a person with so little knowledge and so little interest in acquiring knowledge imagine she has what it takes to be president of the United States? Is it an example of the George W. Bush Effect? ("Hey, if he can be president, anybody can.") Inquiring minds want to know.

Even more fascinating would be an analysis of the brain activity among certain Republican congressmen who suffer from a sort of political Tourette's syndrome. These are the guys who, despite warnings about making their party look like a cabal of white male Neanderthals, cannot refrain from saying crazy stuff -- everything from how rape is God's will to calling Latino laborers "wetbacks."

In this regard, the fellow whose brain needs thorough study is U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas. In a conference call with tea party activists in February, Mr. Gohmert made the following comment in reference to proposed legal limits on the number of bullets in a gun clip:

"Well, once you make it 10, then why would you draw the line at 10? What's wrong with nine? Or eleven? And the problem is, once you draw that limit, it's kind of like marriage when you say it's not a man and a woman anymore. Then why not have three men and one woman? Or four women and one man? Or why not, somebody who has a love for an animal? There is no clear place to draw the line once you eliminate the traditional marriage, and it's the same once you start putting limits on what guns can be used; then it's just really easy to have laws that make them all illegal."

Wouldn't it be great to know how a person's brain can make a stunning leap from limiting ammunition to legalizing sex with animals? Or why someone who is a lawmaker lacks the mental capacity to understand that every law draws a line somewhere and, just because you shift the line toward fewer rounds in a clip or marriage equality for same sex couples, that does not invariably lead to all guns being confiscated or allowing anyone to marry their favorite sheep?

Sure, it will be nice if better funding for brain research comes up with a cure for Alzheimers Disease or strokes, but we would also benefit from a deeper understanding of how people with fully functioning brains can still be so incredibly dumb -- and how they, nevertheless, manage to get elected to high office.

Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David Horsey is a political commentator for the Los Angeles Times. Go to latimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/ to see more of his work.