Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pantano can help fill need in U.S. Congress for lawmakers with military combat experience.

By Verne Strickland

Most members of the U.S. Congress don’t have a clue how battles and wars are fought. They haven’t been there.

The disconnect shows in muddled decision-making, callous calls on Rules of Engagement, dangerous and naive micromanagment, and — perhaps most vital of all — failure to offer up a prescription on how to win, decisively and honorably.

As a result, America — still the most powerful nation on earth, and the most magnanimous – limps through combat situations with its fighting forces hobbled by naive directives from U.S. Congressmen who project a sanitized mentality of life — and death — in the savagery of desperate combat.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, the enemy wears no uniform, squanders its own “soldiers” behind the cowardice of suicide missions, human shields, and wantonly kills innocents at every opportunity to weaken the resolve of the “government” to resist.

Who could understand this war? Who could deal with it? Lawyers? I don’t think so. But these are the ladies and gentlemen who send our fighting forces into combat, then waste their potential, and safety, by imposing military impotence.

According to the Congressional Research Service 170 members of the House and 58 Senators have law degrees.

Is that enough? Or way too many? The troops who fight for our freedom are having their say now about this issue.

The choice is crystal clear in the Seventh Congressional District of North Carolina, where seven-term incumbent Mike McIntyre, an attorney who has never been in uniform, is being challenged by former combat-seasoned Marine officer Ilario Pantano.

The crying need in Washington for American patriots who have fought our wars, and who are doing so now, is powerfully expressed in a statement by Kieran Michael Lalor, founder of Iraq Veterans for Congress. These are excerpts of his comments:

White Plains, NY – August 17, 2010: The number of veterans in Congress has been dwindling since the end of the Cold War. In 1980 more than sixty percent of Congress had served but now barely twenty percent of our leaders in Washington DC spent time in uniform.

The number of combat veterans is even smaller. According to a report by the House Armed Services Committee only five percent of House members served in combat zones and even fewer saw actual combat.

Also quite rare is the member of Congress who served as an enlisted man. Only about forty percent of the veterans in Congress were enlisted despite the fact that eighty-five percent of our military are enlisted rather than commissioned officers.

In short, those who actually fight our wars are severely underrepresented in Congress. For a variety of reasons, it is in the national interest to have in Congress a critical mass of enlisted men with trigger time.

While colonels and generals craft the overall strategy of any conflict, the execution is done primarily by privates, corporals and sergeants of the infantry, artillery and cavalry. Because they operate where the metal hits the meat, enlisted men of the combat arms have valuable insights into equipment, tactics and policies.

The debate over the Rules of Engagement in Afghanistan highlights the desperate need for enlisted combat veterans of the War on Terror in Congress. Someone with a worm’s-eye view of the impact restrictive rules have on morale and a small unit’s ability to accomplish the mission would be invaluable when questioning the Pentagon brass about the wisdom of current and future rules.

Voters in North Carolina need look no further than Wilmington, NC, for a shining example of a patriotic young American who enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps at 17, fought in the First Gulf War as an anti-tank gunner, re-enlisted after 9/11, won his commission at OCS, was deployed to Iraq where he took command of a Infantry Platoon and led them in combat in the “Triangle of Death” Region of Iraq, engaging the enemy in Latayifah, Yusufiyah and Falluja.

That former Marine, Ilario Pantano, was praised today (August 19) by retired Major General James E. Livingston, recipient of the highest military decoration bestowed by the United States – the Medal of Honor — for heroic actions in 1968 during the Vietnam War.

Livingston served on active duty in the Marine Corps over 33 years before retiring on September 1, 1995. He visited Wilmington, NC, Pantano’s hometown, to support the GOP nominee at a campaign news conference.

“Ilario is a true leader, a man of honor and integrity,” said General Livingston. “As a Marine who led men into battle in Vietnam, I understand the challenge of combat leadership, forged in the toughest crucible known to man.

“Ilario has once again decided to heed the call to service, this time to serve as a Congressman to stand up for us in Washington, to return fiscal responsibility to our government, to protect our national security, and preserve our values,” said General Livingston.

He particularly praised Pantano for pledging to limit his service in the U.S. House of Representatives to six terms, or a total of 12 years.

Pantano secured his pledge with a $250,000 personal bond, which will be forfeited to “Step Up for Soldiers”, a 501(c)3 charitable organization, should he fail to honor his commitment.

Meanwhile, Mike McIntyre, seven-term Seventh Congressional District incumbent, a Democrat, is ignoring his own pledge to cap his service at 12 years — a promise he made when first elected in 1996.

“He wasn’t supposed to run for re-election again in 2008. He did it anyway. And, worse than breaking his word, he’s reversed himself and voted sgainst term limits for committee chairmen, thus ensuring a cycle of corruption amongst his peers. Now he’s running again in 2010,” observed GOP candidate Pantano.

Perhaps voters in the conservative Seventh NC District, turned off by McIntyre’s claim of conservatism while voting repeatedly with liberal House Speaker Pelosi, will make the decision for the congressman, to spare him the anguish of retiring voluntarily.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

McIntyre losing loyal followers in home county to GOP's Ilario Pantano

By Verne Strickland

A serious erosion of support for Mike McIntyre is showing up among opinion leaders in the congressman’s home base – Robeson County.

A notable loss for the Democratic incumbent is Burt E. Benson Jr., 70, of Lumberton.

It is telling that Benson, for years an ardent McIntyre supporter and admirer, is not only jumping ship, but talking publicly about it, and urging others to do the same.

He says his switch to the candidacy of Ilario Pantano, GOP nominee for U.S. Congress in the Seventh Congressional District, is for the sake of his children and grandchildren, and his country.

Benson is a prominent businessman in the area – co-founder and CEO of Benson Construction, Inc., a family owned and operated business launched in 1968. His wife, Jan, also a co-founder, is president of the successful and highly-respected grading, paving and site utility operation serving Southeastern North Carolina. Sons Bucky Benson III and Stephen Benson are on the firm’s executive team as vice presidents.

Benson was asked what effects on his family’s future he sees in the country’s lurch to the political left.

“The erosion of our American values and our business climate are foremost on my mind. I have three children and four grandchildren, and I’m very concerned as a business owner that, when it comes time for me to hand over the reins of our family corporation, the high taxes and federal regulations won’t give them a fair chance to continue on with what we’ve built.”

He emphasized that he is not alone in this predicament. “Every business owner in America, large or small, is facing the same dim future,” he said.

The elder Benson is not one to offer his loyalty and his word lightly. He has a rock-solid sense of responsibility and honor, and it permeates his relationship with his family, his business, his country, and his God.

So he realizes that when he has a public break with a man he has trusted and called his friend, it is a matter which he has given serious consideration.

But even this personal belief system could not deter him from splitting politically with Mike McIntyre.

“I had to do it, and I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t take a stand,” he explained, almost ruefully.

For years, Mr. Benson has seen Mike McIntyre as a kindred soul. And to this day, Benson says he has a high degree of personal affection for this man who has gone so far in Washington. But it is fair to say that he is deeply disappointed in McIntyre’s actions in the U.S. Congress.

“Early on I served with him on a city committee, and I knew him as a very good Christian, good family-oriented gentleman, industrious and a very good representative when he first went to Congress,” said Benson.

“I didn’t pay too much attention to how he was voting up there. I assumed he was voting conservative, in a way that would be helpful for businesses here, and for the most part he did in the early years.”

But Burt Benson III began to realize that things were not what they seemed, and that U.S. Congressman Mike McIntyre, who put on a conservative veneer for the home folks, was betraying them with his loyalties in Washington.

“Recently, we found out, when we got the ratings, Mike is voting with the unions 80 percent of the time, and with Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, over 70 percent of the time. That is not Robeson County. That doesn’t reflect our values at all. They are tilting this country toward socialism.

“If you look deep enough, you’ll see what’s happening to the freedoms and opportunities we’ve had. We’ve seen more burdens on the small businesses than ever. We can’t get people to work, although we offer jobs. We have one of the highest unemployment rates (11.6% May 2010), and are one of the poorest counties in the State. There’s no way we can be proud of that, or tolerant of it,” he observed.

There’s another important reason why Benson has stuck with Mike McIntyre. He has had no other choice. Although he could see that the 14-year incumbent was running off the philosophical rails more frequently, McIntyre did have some seniority, and key positions on committees and subcommittees important to Robeson and the Seventh District. But until a viable candidate came along, turning away from his friend Mike McIntyre was a solution of questionable value.

Until now.

“This is the first time in years we have had a good alternative. Ilario Pantano has his priorities set, he is a patriot, has fought for his country, and he’s a man we can trust and support. When the time comes to say ‘No’ to this outrageous, reckless spending, and all these earmarks, we know that Ilario will get the job done.”

Benson has gotten to know GOP candidate Pantano, and feels this candidate deserves his trust and support. Pantano can win the day, says Benson, if enough voters in the Seventh District get to know him, and perceive his character, moral values, commitment to transparency in government and mission to return America around.

“We know Pantano is the man to carry the banner. He’s a man who has the courage to stand up against the ultra-liberals in Washington. The Democrats are just interested in funding vote-buying programs and trying to get everybody dependent on the government. That way they can count on those votes. But there are more people riding on the wagon now than out there pulling it.

“This has to change. Ilario Pantano will work to change it.”


**Phillip Stephens is chairman of the Robeson County GOP. He writes a hard-hitting blog of his own concentrating on Robeson County politics -- from the inside. See his posts at this Web address: