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Politicians behaving badly: Separating the signal from the noise | Ronnie Polaneczky

Not every misbehaving pol is the same. Let's break it down.

From left: Elizabeth Warren, Daylin Leach, Scott Wagner
From left: Elizabeth Warren, Daylin Leach, Scott WagnerRead moreAP

Our headlines have been so heavy with tales of politicians acting poorly, it'd be easy to lump the stories together, throw up our hands, and avoid the polls on Nov. 6.

But our votes are too powerful to toss.

What we need in this histrionic run-up to the midterm elections is the patience to differentiate one candidate's calculated deception from another's honest mistake, one political aspirant's nutty overreach from another's phony attempt at authenticity.

I'll get us started.

Sometimes, a pol is just having a moment.

Take Patty-Pat Kozlowski, state rep candidate for Pennsylvania 177th District.  When she heard that a longtime colleague, State Rep. Mike O'Brien (D., 175th), was supporting her opponent, Joe Hohenstein, she left him a hilariously wounded voicemail.

"You fat bastard!" she said. "Next time you're dying in Northeastern Hospital and you call someone to feed you Breyers and Diet Coke, lose my number."

She was referring to O'Brien's prior hospitalization for heart troubles; at his request, she'd sneaked the contraband food items into his room.

The voicemail went viral, and Hohenstein's people called her "unhinged."

Me? I think she was just talking trash in a message she thought was private to a friend who'd hurt her feelings.

(In an astonishing occurrence of unfortunate timing, O'Brien died right afterward of a heart attack.)

Then there's Pennsylvania congressional candidate Scott Wallace, who dropped the F-bomb last Sunday during an event with his opponent, incumbent Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, at Congregation Tifereth Israel in Bensalem. He later apologized for muttering "Ah, f—" under his breath in a fit of frustration.

Fitzpatrick pointedly noted the slip to WBCB News.

"Ironically, there was … a question about the need for civility in politics," he said. "Well, a good start is to not use vulgarities in the sanctuary of synagogue in the middle of a congressional debate."

C'mon. That was a frustrated moment, not a vulgar attack.

Sometimes a pol fakes “having a moment”

On Oct. 12, Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner broke the internet with a Facebook video taunting our incumbent guv. "Gov. Wolf, let me tell you, between now and Nov. 6, you better put a catcher's mask on your face," he said. "Because I'm going to stomp all over your face with golf spikes because I'm going to win this for the state of Pennsylvania."

The post blew up in about, oh, four seconds, prompting Wagner to remove it, saying, "I may have chosen a poor metaphor. I may have had a poor choice of words."

May have?

In a choreographed post, the man threatened violence against a sitting governor, which would've gotten a less powerful person arrested. This wasn't a "moment." It was a stunt so badly executed it needed a walk-back.

Dog-whispering to the voters you need

Over the bridge in Jersey, the GOP ran a weird ad against Democrat Andy Kim, who's challenging incumbent U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur in the state's Third District.

"There's something Real Fishy about Andy Kim" the ad read, in typeface typically used on Chinese menus or Asian films.

When Dems declared the ad racist, GOP spokesperson Harrison Neely begged to differ.

"Let's not forget that Tom MacArthur has two Korean children!" he said.

Which calls to mind what Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum said during his recent debate with opponent Ron DeSantiswho bristled at being called a racist even though he has spent substantial time with right-wing extremist David Horowitz.

"Now, I'm not calling Mr. DeSantis a racist," said Gillum. "I'm simply saying the racists believe he's a racist."

To paraphrase Gillum, I'm not saying MacArthur is a racist. But in his very tight race against Kim (a new Monmouth poll says it's too close to call) come Nov. 6 he may need voting racists to think he is.

Some pols blame their bad behavior on their kids

In August, Katie Muth, candidate for Pennsylvania's state Senate in the 44th District, refused to attend an event where State Sen. Daylin Leach was to appear. Muth, a self-proclaimed feminist rape survivor, didn't want to share the stage with Leach, who has been accused by eight women of unwanted touching and dirty talk. (In the past, Muth has called on Leach to resign.)

So the event organizers disinvited Leach, who then called Muth a  "dreadful person" and "a toxic hand grenade" in an email to the Montgomery County Democratic Committee.

He defended his tantrum by saying his daughter was upset about his dis-invitation. He then said he "desperately" wanted Dems to win the Senate majority and had even "offered Ms. Muth support and assistance."

Oh, dude. Sometimes no just means no.

Some pols can’t resist the bait

Two weeks ago, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced that genetic testing proved her claim of Native American ancestry. She underwent the test to shut up President Trump, who'd doubted her lineage and derisively nicknamed her "Pocahontas."

The trouble is, the results show that the DNA entered her gene pool six to 10 generations ago, which hardly makes her representative of the "minority" she claimed to belong to when she taught at Harvard Law School.

Warren should've cut bait on this one, not taken it.

The rest of us should do the same — cut bait on the nonsense — or we'll never separate candidates' signals from their noise.