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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Karen Handel needlessly defends lack of diploma, children in glowing profile


Yay! The new issue of The Beacon, the North Fulton weekly newspaper that made headlines for its Obama-in-the-crosshairs cover, has been delivered to my computer screen!

What's this? A profile of Georgia Secretary of State and 2010 GOP gubernatorial candidate Karen "Bring It On" Handel? I wonder how it'll start.

“I’ve had to fight for everything my whole life,” says Georgia Secretary of State and GOP gubernatorial candidate Karen Handel. “So this is no different.”

And so begins perhaps the most glowing profile you will ever read about Karen Handel, from now until the day you die.

Handel, whose campaign hasn't nearly been as cartoonish as her opponent  Robert Moses Walt Disney John Oxendine's, has lived a difficult life — her mom was an alcoholic, her dad didn't want to leave her. She worked several jobs and tended to a sister who was born without an esophagus.

There's been some low-level chatter, the kind that causes some people to place their hands over their mouths in shock, over the fact that Handel never finished college and that she and her husband Steve have never had children. This supposedly will be a factor when the GOP primary rolls around next summer — and again if Handel succeeds. Frankly, I think it's ridiculous and irrelevant.

The Beacon's John Fredericks devotes a hefty chunk of the profile to some of those  "controversial" details from her bio. Handel says she doesn't regret taking a job at the White House, which forced her to stop attending college.

Handel said she started going to college at night to further her career, and went for 10 years. “I only stopped going at night when I got the great fortune to work in the White House, and I had to commit the hours that I needed to get the job. I couldn’t do both.

“In life, you have to make decisions and certainly if I would have chosen not to work at the White House, I think my life and my career would have gone in a different direction. I can’t go back and change the things that are done. What I need to do is draw from the experiences that I’ve had and lead a good life. That’s what I try to focus on. I can’t be in control of other people’s criticism of me.

“Nobody else gets to define me. I define me and I’m very secure in who I am and my beliefs and where I am in life and win or lose the governor’s race, I will still be who I am,” she said. “I guess I can just quit this campaign and go back to school and finally make something of myself, “ Handel then quipped.

And on why she and her husband Steve don't have any children, another meaningless detail critics bring up when they paint Handel as not-fit-to-lead.

When asked if that decision was by circumstance or by choice, Handel attempted to answer what was undoubtedly a personally invasive question.

The question forced her to re-live what I soon learned was an agonizing and heart wrenching experience, by telling the story of what she classified as the most disappointing period of her life: her inability to conceive a child of her own. Handel said she and her husband tried for over eight years to have a baby. They participated in every medically available remedy, to no avail, including In-Vetro.

Handel recanted how distraught she became, and how it nearly destroyed her world. “Every month for over eight years was just like a devastation over and over and over again…” she shared.

Then we hear that this, this moment, was the most riveting John Fredericks has ever experienced:

Handel was filled with raw emotion as she shared her experience. This was not made for TV emotion. It was real. It was riveting. Her pain was evident; I felt it run through me. It hasn’t left me yet.[...]

The candid exchange was one the most compelling interview interactions I have experienced in my journalism career.

Think of the woman politically what you will. But to classify her as “self serving” is not to know what’s in her heart.

Journalists: Only they can see into a person's soul.

There are some hints on what Handel proposes to do if she's elected Georgia's first female governor. She wants overall tax reform to boost economic development. She thinks water is the state's most critical infrastructure challenge and proposes a mix of conservation and new reservoirs. She offers specifics on transportation, but not once does she mention transit.

In all, the Beacon profile is worth a read, just to learn more about Handel's life and to giggle at all the hero worship. But it's not the hard-hitting profile or analysis of her political experience as a Fulton County commissioner or secretary of state you'd like to see.

If you're Handel's campaign manager, you'd hang this thing on your office wall. If you're a voter, you're gonna have to wait for something more substantive. Nonetheless, we say thanks to the Beacon for giving us an opportunity to finally use our nonsensical dramatic-chipmunk/prairie dog photo illustration.

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