Karen Handel and the upside of unemployment in a down economy

In this economy, most people need a job in order to thrive. But not Karen Handel. The former Republican candidate for governor may have revived her political career by quitting hers.

As a public relations disaster, the week’s aborted attempt – the phrasing is intentional — by Susan G. Komen for the Cure to sever ties with Planned Parenthood will quickly become a case study in business schools around the country.

Karen Handel, a former GOP candidate for governor , is interviewed following her resignation from Susan G. Komen for the Cure.  Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

Karen Handel, a former GOP candidate for governor , is interviewed following her resignation from Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

The nation’s largest breast cancer charity first announced it would shut off most money to the family planning organization – whose abortion services have long made it a target of pro-life forces. Then, in the face of an unexpected wall of protests, largely Internet-driven, Komen reversed itself.

As the senior vice president of public policy hired to help turn Komen into a Planned Parenthood-free zone, Handel had been hung out to dry. She resigned on Tuesday, to no one’s surprise. Komen badly needed Handel to depart, as proof to pro-choice forces that the charity’s turnabout was sincere. And Handel just as badly needed to jump into a lifeboat and cast herself adrift – to demonstrate her own sincerity.

But Handel also needed to look good doing it. The chaos of a mass news conference, with its shouted questions, might have come across as grandstanding. Also, like most unemployed people, Handel now had to think about her budget – and renting the required hall would have been expensive.

So selected journalists and a large Fox News satellite truck were summoned to the wilds of northern Atlanta, where — at the private home of her one-time campaign spokesman Dan McLagan — Handel conducted a series of quiet, one-on-one conversations. She had nothing but good to say about her former employer, unless one read between the lines.

By giving Planned Parenthood advance notice of the split, and the loss of $680,000 in grants, Handel said Komen had allowed the family planning organization to organize a “shakedown.” All invective was reserved for the GOP villain.

“Komen is a breast cancer organization. It’s not an organization that knows guerrilla campaigning and guerrilla tactics like Planned Parenthood unleashed,” Handel said.

Handel and Komen have — or had — more in common than an employment contract. Both have deep Republican roots. Komen founder and CEO Nancy Brinker served as U.S. ambassador to Hungary during the George W. Bush administration. Both the charity and the former candidate for governor have had to cope with hardening GOP attitudes toward abortion.

Komen’s problem boiled down to efforts by anti-abortion activists, even Catholic dioceses, to cast a cloud on the charity’s pink-ribbon brand. “I was tasked with identifying options that would allow us to move to neutral ground around this,” Handel said. “I embrace the fact that I led the process.”

There was no neutral ground for Handel in 2010, when the former secretary of state sought to replace Gov. Sonny Perdue. In a GOP primary runoff, rival and ultimate victor Nathan Deal criticized Handel for approving — as a Fulton County commissioner — the direction of $400,000 in federal grant money to Planned Parenthood. Told that the cash went to cervical cancer detection, Deal responded that this only freed up more money for abortions.

On a state level, Handel opposed restrictions on in-vitro fertilization. She opposed abortion — except in cases of rape and incest. Both positions put her at odds with Georgia Right to Life, the state’s leading anti-abortion group, which declared her insufficiently pro-life. GRTL president Dan Becker noted Handel’s childless status, calling her “barren.”

After this week, Handel now has pro-life bona fides that would be hard to challenge, should she decide to run for office again. She dodged the question on Tuesday. “I learned a long time ago, don’t try to predict the future,” Handel said.

Asked whether she thought she would now be accepted by pro-life forces in Georgia, Handel was circumspect. “With Dan Becker? Are you kidding me? It does not change my relationship with that one individual one bit,” she said.

But Becker himself said he was impressed by Handel’s decision to quit. “We commend Karen Handel for being instrumental in exposing the link between Planned Parenthood and Susan G. Komen,” he said.

As I was typing these final paragraphs, the phone rang. The Christian Broadcasting Network — Pat Robertson’s outfit — was on the line. They’d read Handel’s comments on ajc.com, and wanted to put a camera in front of her.

The pro-life movement may have just found a new hero. The irony doesn’t escape Handel — or anyone else.

To read more on the topic, check out the AJC’s Atlanta Forward section.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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191 comments Add your comment

Ellen

February 8th, 2012
6:07 pm

Maybe there is a pro-life land where Karen Handel can be its queen….

honested

February 8th, 2012
6:08 pm

Poor karen.
One can only wonder now, had she won the Governors race, would she be almost ready to quit now (after 2 years) since the job was so hard?

Just drawing a behavioral comparison.

ByteMe

February 8th, 2012
6:09 pm

“I was tasked with identifying options that would allow us to move to neutral ground around this,”

And her choice was to use a lie as the basis for the decision. And then get all pouty when no one would back up the lie in public. And then use that to attack a GOP punching bag that provides indigent woment’s services. I see a regular spot on FOX News in her future. She has the instinct for trying to sell garbage to the gullible.

cartoon

February 8th, 2012
6:11 pm

Abortion is murder plain and simple, but I’m willing to let God decide the destiny of the lost souls.

Tom

February 8th, 2012
6:15 pm

Maybe Pat wants to send her to Haiti to try to prevent future earthquakes.

julia

February 8th, 2012
6:22 pm

you just gotta love those sanctimonious womb watcher, bless their pointy little black hearts.

major snark!

You don’t believe in abortion, then don’t have one. But you darn well better not stand in the way of my having one if it is what I choose to do. And for all of the self righteous so called Christians, there are millions of poor women for whom Planned Parenthood is their ONLY option. Poor people don’t matter though, do they.

td

February 8th, 2012
6:32 pm

ulia

February 8th, 2012
6:22 pm

I do not believe in murder either but I am not willing to let a murderer go free.

double

February 8th, 2012
6:34 pm

julia they don’t matter to Romney.

jconservative

February 8th, 2012
6:35 pm

honested at 6:08

Nice point. Reminds one of Palin quitting in Alaska.

Lynnbo

February 8th, 2012
6:35 pm

What you have is two non-profits run by over paid women not doing anything to really help those who they claim to help. Stop wasting your money on either. Find another way to help someone in need.
End the hate by not participating in the politicalizing of human suffering. Don’t be fooled they don’t help those in need as much as they lined their own pockets.

td

February 8th, 2012
6:37 pm

double

February 8th, 2012
6:34 pm

julia they don’t matter to Romney.

That is because there is already a safety net that takes care of them. The truly poor receive Medicaid. He also said he was not worried about the rich. He wants to concentrate of the middle class that has no safety net or money to fall back on.

double

February 8th, 2012
6:39 pm

Nader thinks Newt should run as 3rd party,Handle could be his vice.

hl

February 8th, 2012
6:42 pm

All money is fungible so that argument is bull. In that case you shouldn’t give anyone money. We fund Israel who probably doesn’t need it and they perform abortions. NINETY-Seven percent of the money towards planned parenthood is used for health care. The reason the Komen Foundation supported Planned Parenthood is that they provided health care when no one else did. If that appalls you then open a clinic in places in West Virginia and small towns where no one else provides services.
This is not a republican issue, this is not a democratic issue, it’s a women’s health issue. Even if planned parenthood stopped abortion people would scream about contraception. The same folks screaming are against help for prenatal care and infant care. I am sickened but I know I don’t share a lot of the values that some on this site write about. I love my neighbor.

honested

February 8th, 2012
6:44 pm

Ok, now she has had her two days of irrelevant gas-bag utopia.

Unless she is going to introduce a line of urinal mints in her likeness, it is time to let her slip back into the ooze.
Lest she get the misbegotten notion that people are waiting for her next utterance.

honested

February 8th, 2012
6:46 pm

hl,

Amen!
They are already all bowed up about birth control and that issue was settled by the Supreme Court when Kennedy was still President.

hl

February 8th, 2012
6:47 pm

A couple of other points…TD check the medicaid requirements…sure your grandma can get medicaid and thankfully now children can but not many in between.
Also, too….why did the Congress MANDATE that insurance had to cover Vi.agra? Are you guys really that vain.

hl

February 8th, 2012
6:49 pm

One more thing…Romney is trying to defend his contraception mandate but I don’t think he vetoed any bills. That is actually something he could have done had he been so offended.

doofus

February 8th, 2012
6:49 pm

I’m a born again pro war, pro electirc chair, anti-abortion enigma….

doofus

February 8th, 2012
6:51 pm

boner pills is the lawd’s will, abortion pills is the devil’s work……

godisayankeefan

February 8th, 2012
6:53 pm

I always find it interesting when someone allows an abortion ban exception for rape and incest. If a fetus is a person, why is it OK to terminate its “life” based on how that life originated? This kind of moral, logical, and philosophical inconsistency reveals Handle’s true motives in wanting to outlaw abortion. She wants to punish women who willingly had sex and wound up pregnant. If she really respected life, it would be across the board. What a sanctimonious phony.

sheepdawg

February 8th, 2012
6:58 pm

Just hope she stays away from GA with her hate and ignorance agenda

Aquagirl

February 8th, 2012
7:00 pm

So Karen wrecks Komen then moves along, leaving an awful mess in her wake. Right wingers will now deify this dumb bint as a hero. That pretty much sums up why these people are idiots.

DJ Sniper

February 8th, 2012
7:04 pm

Why is the right so obsessed with abortion and women’s health in general? Like someone said earlier, don’t have an abortion if that goes against your personal beliefs, but don’t try to impose your beliefs on someone else for whom abortion may be an option.

BitterEXdemocrackkk

February 8th, 2012
7:11 pm

hey sheepdawg…hate and ignorance in Ga comes from the evil leftwingnut democrackkks.

Centrist

February 8th, 2012
7:18 pm

Karen Handel did a decent job of taking the fall since she was the point woman for the rigid pro-life policy SGK attempted. She was not alone in implementing that politicized policy.

But her media exit smells of ambition to use it for something else. I doubt she will ever be Governor, but I suspect another political office attempt is in her future.

At least this reader is tired of the issue and her for a while. There are lots of other Republicans for the AJC to attack.

bob from account temps

February 8th, 2012
7:23 pm

AND on the other side of the coin, target was praised by the gay activists for not caving in to the right wing moms and because they did not throw ellen under the bus. if only komen had the same guts.

hl

February 8th, 2012
7:23 pm

Although I don’t think the Komen Foundation spends nearly enough on research (18%) or for care (10%), I do commend Nancy Brinker for the awareness that she brought about breast cancer. Personally I’d rather give to clinics at this point that provide breast exams and research centers like Sloan Kettering but Nancy Brinker needs to be recognized for her work. I don’t think Karen Handel helped her. The Komen foundation studied the issue and knew that lower income would suffer if they didn’t fund planned parenthood and Handel was okay with that. Unfortunately, the Komen Foundation had several high level folks leave because of that. What was Handel thinking?
Breast cancer is not a republican issue. It is not a democrat issue. It is not a issue that attacks only the wealthy (SGK), it’s not only an issue that attacks the poor. The Komen Foundation can only help if they aid those that need it.
Many decades ago I met Nancy Brinker and that was when she started the foundation, I feel so bad for her and what folks like Karen allowed her to be.

Ray

February 8th, 2012
7:27 pm

First of all, the money I donate to SBK should be for breast cancer research, not going to planned abortionhood. I will no longer donate knowing they have money to throw around. 2nd, good for Karen and standing up for her beliefs. 3rd, abortion should remain legal and safe, however you should have to look at an ultrasound of the life you are getting ready to take and if you are good with that and it falls within the law, its between you and God or the lack thereof. 4th, do you know what birth control is people? Its much easier, cheaper and more humane. 5th, you libs need to got hit your bongs.

Slip

February 8th, 2012
7:29 pm

Guerilla tactics? Money walking can hardly be described as “guerilla tactics”. There is broad support for saving lives, something the public obviously thought the Handel.-Komen decision did not do.

Look before I leap...

February 8th, 2012
7:30 pm

@Bob

It was JC Penny you loon.

Dave

February 8th, 2012
7:31 pm

Handel came with her political agenda, why is anyone, INCLUDING Handel, that those were rejected once known by the general public?!!!

Why does the GOP keep pretending they weren’t doing anything wrong, when their ugly, underhanded tactics are brought to light?

Karen’s political future is done, stick a fork in her.

Ray

February 8th, 2012
7:31 pm

And Jim Galloway looks like he needs to eat another twinkie….is that insensitive?

Look before I leap...

February 8th, 2012
7:33 pm

@Ray

None of the SGK funds went to abortions. It was earmarked strictly for breast exams and mammograms.

Slip

February 8th, 2012
7:33 pm

No, Ray. That’s rude.

bob from account temps

February 8th, 2012
7:35 pm

look – thanks – but do you get the point or are you obtuse

hl

February 8th, 2012
7:35 pm

Ray..Only 18 percent goes for research so I understand your concern. Give to John Hopkins or Sloan Kittering if you are concerned about that. BTW you do know that last year they gave 600,000 out of there 300,000,000 to planned parenthood for breast exams. If you are concerned that a poor white folk or poor black folk might be save please give to someone else..

truthpaste

February 8th, 2012
7:36 pm

Life begins at conception and ends at birth, right GOP?

DJ Sniper

February 8th, 2012
7:36 pm

Ray, you sound like one of those people who think that the only time a woman seeks an abortion is because she’s just too dang lazy to raise that child. What about a threat to the mother’s life? What about a woman who gets pregnant as the result of a rape and can’t handle the thought of raising the rapist’s child? This isn’t a one size fits all issue.

Also, keep in mind that some states have passed legislation trying to mandate viewings of ultrasound or listening to heartbeats, and some of those have been declared unconstitutional.

Look before I leap...

February 8th, 2012
7:38 pm

@hl

hl

February 8th, 2012
7:23 pm

Although I don’t think the Komen Foundation spends nearly enough on research (18%) or for care (10%), I do commend Nancy Brinker for the awareness that she brought about breast cancer.

I agree on both counts. I have many friends and relatives who walk for the cure. They usually ask for $100. I give them a check for $175. Had one friend ask me why and I told her, the extra $75 was to cover SGK’s administrative costs. They were a bit shocked by that.

Look before I leap...

February 8th, 2012
7:40 pm

The only point that matters is that your post was irrelevant …as are you.

Slip

February 8th, 2012
7:40 pm

Was it George Carlin who said, “they love the fetus hate the baby”?

bart

February 8th, 2012
7:41 pm

What a loser Handel has turned out to be! I was a supporter but no more. She was willing to put the lives of millions of women at risk for purely political reasons. How sad.

amy

February 8th, 2012
7:46 pm

if your position is that abortion is murder, i’d love to hear your position on welfare babies. the more the merrier, yeah?

nevermind that PP provides prenatal care and counseling to expectant mothers who choose to keep their children and can’t afford insurance or private health care. THE HORROR! THE SIN! HOW DARE THEY!

amy

February 8th, 2012
7:49 pm

as far as the right wing is concerned, the goverment should stay out of our lives…unless, of course, they don’t agree with how we live said lives. then they want to be all up in our business.

i’m surprised they’re letting karen handel speak without a man present. she is, after all, a second-class citizen, what with her having a vagina and all. she’s not qualified to make decisions for herself. where is the man in charge?

RCW

February 8th, 2012
7:51 pm

Planned Parenthood does more in one day to prevent abortions than Right to Life groups do in one year.

Bobby

February 8th, 2012
7:52 pm

Actually, before the SGK fiasco few people realized how right winged and into Republican politics SGK was/is. Every time I see a pink ribbon now, I think of corruption and right wing politics, not breast cancer.

janet

February 8th, 2012
7:52 pm

Mrs. Handel should try working in a day care center for low income families for 1 year at minimum wage. She has worked her way from secretarial pool to North Fulton Chamber of Commerce to Sec. of State..She has left nothing but wreckage in her wake. I just don’t understand how someone with so few educational and professional qualifications gets a job like VP at SGK with all the qualified people looking for a job? And let’s not forget her huge salary.

Will

February 8th, 2012
7:57 pm

PLanned Parenthood is the center of the abortion industry in the US. It’s a shame that so many are willing to look the other way at the slaughter.

Look before I leap...

February 8th, 2012
7:57 pm

Ya know, given that there has been no official response from SGK, I am inclined believe to a point what Handel has been saying. That the policy direction was set well before she joined up. Not sure that Handel did not have some say before officially joining SGK, but benefit, meet doubt.

Regardless, the analysis that predicted fallout was so obviously flawed and the whole matter handled just so badly, that Handel had to go due to incompetence. Now, SGK has to reverse a major policy decision, tick off the right flank of the organization and have all of its dirty laundry in the glare of the media spotlight. Many many many folks are just incensed over this and while a tragedy for the millions of women that SGK has helped, this may well prove to be a fatal blow.

I hope the other research and care trusts and charities are gearing up some serious advertising to try and recoup some of the money and move forward with trying to beat this disease that threatens so many.

Sonny LIED!

February 8th, 2012
7:58 pm

Stupid people should STOP breeding more stupid people, then the abortions wouldnt be needed, but since stupid people continue to breed, abortions are needed, and we need YOUR money to pay for it, and thats the bottom line.