Dealing with Dirty Politics

During the last 15-almost 16-months, I have traveled the state, met lots of candidates, their families, and staff. I have heard good things and bad things, funny things, and things that go beyond the reasonable realm of ridiculousness. Some of these things have been directed at my candidate and I have heard things about myself. In every instance, you consider your source, you consider the situation, and at the end of the day you chalk it up to politics.

Over the past few weeks, Gubernatorial Candidate, Nathan Deal has been attacked on all sides. He has been questioned by both the Democrats and Republicans, and struggled to pull the Georgia GOP together after a close run-off election against Karen Handel. I am all for questioning those who run for elected office. When you answer the call to public servanthood, you answer the call of the people. And you accountable to them.

However, in the last week, it’s gone too far. Families are off-limits. And folks should have the common sense to see that and recognize the difference between what is ethical and unethical.  I have known Nathan Deal’s youngest daughter, Katie, for several years and her husband, Chris, since I was 10. Katie wrote a blogpost yesterday that I think is worth sharing.

Yesterday I was attacked on YouTube. Today I read a blogger’s comment that “the whole Deal clan are a bunch of shysters and charlatans” and was labeled “Deal and his crooked family” by another blogger. Up until recently it was just politics. Now it’s personal.

My name is Katie Deal and I’m Nathan Deal’s youngest daughter. My entire life has been engulfed in politics, from the time I was one year old. I will turn 32 the week after the election concludes. If anyone knows Nathan Deal and the inner workings of a political figure and family, I would say that I’m an expert on this topic. Now, let me tell you a little bit about how Nathan Deal has kept his family and his marriage together all these years, through all the slander and abuse and out-right threats we have endured. Our family has survived because of some key ingredients. I was taught that a family is not made of material goods, money, race, or even genetics. A family is made of love, respect, and trust…nothing more and nothing less.

My husband and I are both professional actors. We live hand-to-mouth and we freelance to pay the bills when we are not in shows. It is not a glamorous life, by any means. Although my parents come from a different mindset of what “growing up” is, they have accepted that this is the path we have chosen for ourselves and they respect us for living our simple life to the best of our ability. My parents have made it clear to us that when we need their help, all we have to do is call. Luckily, we have not had to ask for their assistance much at all. To me, that call is reserved as a last resort, not because I am worried that they won’t help, but because the last person I want to appear to be is someone who is irresponsible and needs rescuing. Aloof and a little eccentric, I can handle, but not irresponsible.

I didn’t realize the severity of the financial situation that my parents are in until recently. Now before you attack me on this, the reason for that is because it was never my business until the paper made it my business. What my parents choose to spend their hard-earned money on is their business, not mine and definitely not the media’s. I personally feel that this situation should have never been made public, however, the irreparable damage has been done. One blogger on the AJC questioned how the other siblings felt about this mess. So to answer the question I’ve been asking myself of where does this leave me financially, I can only say that I don’t know. I have struggled the past several days with my feelings on the topic and have concluded that it just doesn’t matter. What matters to me is surviving this political nightmare with my family intact, despite the media’s attempts to make sure that doesn’t happen. While I’m not pleased with what has happened in my family’s business dealings, I am more displeased at the attempts to turn the issue into an attack on my dad’s morals and ethics. Someone please explain to me how guaranteeing your lifelong earnings to support your daughter’s valiant attempts at a business, survive or fail, is an ethical wrongdoing?! Perhaps I’m ignorant because I don’t understand how that can be taken as anything but humble and selfless. My parents have always done without so that we could be provided for…not spoiled…but provided for. I will agree with all you naysayers that this venture goes way beyond what I can even contemplate in my tiny income-earning mind, so it does seem huge. However, my parents made this decision together to invest in my sister’s business. It was not and is still not anyone’s decision but theirs. I believe that no one is entitled to tell anyone else what to do, where to live, who to be, or how to spend their money…not me, not you, not anyone.

As the responsible adult that my parents raised me to be, I’m a little bruised from all of this but I can and will take care of myself. I have faith that if there is remaining debt after all is said and done, my family will work together to repay every penny. In a small way, this news has brought a large change in me. I have grown complacent, as we often do, and have stopped dreaming. This shake-up has required me to wake-up and try a little harder to make something of myself. This is, surprisingly, a wonderful realization. Regardless of what happens with my parents’ financial situation and regardless of what happens with my sister’s situation, I love them. I respect their decisions, even when it deeply cuts me, because none of these decisions were mine to make and they weren’t ever about me.

So, where does this situation leave my parents and the rest of the family? Well, my sister is heartbroken and has been ripped to shreds, thanks to the media. She has been living in limbo and her own personal hell for a long time now. She has beaten herself up enough for all of us, so please, back off, people. As for my parents, they say that they will be fine and they will be. They are responsible people who don’t take bailouts and who would never have someone sweep their mess under the rug for them. If that’s what you think about them, you should really meet them and give them a chance. The first time my husband drove up to Gainesville to meet my parents, he was intimidated by their beautiful house (that my grandparents had lived in with them) and thought, “Oh please, don’t let them be those people.” When he met them, he was put right at ease because my dad was watching a football game and my mom was making cornbread and chili. They are normal, caring people who just happen to be called into politics. Anyone who knows me knows that what you see is what you get. I learned that from my parents. There is no “sleazy” side or ulterior motive behind my parents’ choices. They are honest, hard-working, trusting people who have raised one hell of a great family, warts and all. I will not allow anyone to rip that away from me and I will not tolerate personal attacks on my family.

It’s surprising how quickly people jump to attack politicians, as if they aren’t real people with real families. I really don’t understand the mentality of thinking that all politicians are crooks and liars and only out for power and money. Obviously, people that say those kinds of things have never been in the political arena in any large fashion. Call me naïve, but I believe that people interested in politics (and I do not belong to this group of people) are essentially in the career to help people. I’m not saying that every politician is this way, but I’ve been around a lot of politicians and I believe that most of them genuinely care for their constituents and their country. I refuse to believe that all the politicians in the world that have put their families through undue stress because of political aspirations care only for themselves. If that is what our country is made of, why would anyone want to live here?

I don’t accept that “crooked politician” attitude because it just doesn’t make sense to me. It also doesn’t begin to represent my dad. It wasn’t until 9-11 happened that I finally understood why my father had put himself and all of us through such a brutal and hateful career. Up until that point I had issues with the life that I was born into, where I was verbally attacked and threatened at school about things beyond my comprehension at such a young age. I held on to some deep-seated resentment towards my dad for a long time because of it. However, when I heard him speak on TV about the 9-11 attacks, everything became clear to me. All of a sudden, I understood why. He didn’t become a politician for fame; he’s always stayed out of the limelight as much as he could. He didn’t do it for the money; he could have done anything else, as smart as he is. He didn’t do it for his family because most of the time it has brought us nothing but grief. He is a politician because he loves his country more than he loves himself. He sacrificed his time with me as a child to help preserve this country and its land for the next generation of children to come along. You may be reading this and saying, “Well, he was an absent father.” In some ways he was, but he has always been present in the ways I needed him to be present. Our family, our relationships, and our lives, even, are not conventional. I am okay with that. I love my family unconditionally, no matter how much it hurts sometimes. While I can’t speak for the rest of my siblings, to further answer the question about how this financial situation affects me, it’s easy. What better gift could my parents have given me than a legacy of a better country because of their roles in shaping it? Isn’t that what teachers, soldiers, and civil servants all want? There is no price tag for that kind of sacrifice.

Katie, you are loved. Your family is loved. At the end of the day, it’s all politics. It can be-at times like these-dirty and wrong. Chin up! We’re behind you.