Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Verne Strickland -- 'Wounded Warrior' fights with words in NC political trenches

'Wounded Warrior' fights with words in NC political trenches. 

Thom Tillis
thom tillis

By Verne Strickland, Wilmington NC
April 29, 2014

This political season, though exciting and always challenging, has called for a different strategy from me. I've had to go from hand-to-hand fighting to sniper. But I've managed.

The previous campaigns I was in focused on Ilario Pantano's battle to wrest the NC seventh district congressional seat from wily long-term incumbent Mike McIntyre.

That was trench warfare at its best. Two great candidates and their field troops slugging it out in a match-up that never went slack. Back then I had everything going for me. At the top of my game. Mind agile and keen. Endurance aplenty, driven by a commitment to pull out a victory. I could go night and day, travel where I was needed, network with Ilario's talented political troops in the field, and keep the pressure on Congressman McIntyre and his Democratic team.

We fought hard, but suffered a loss that was hard to take. I say "we", though I had no official role in those campaigns. I participated as an independent commentator and conservative critic. Still, I felt confident I had given my all, and so had a modicum of pride in spite in the outcome.

For me personally, though, this time, covering Thom Tillis, there was a huge difference in what I had to fight with. I had suffered health problems over the last few  years -- the most serious being a full-fledged assault from multiple myeloma -- bone cancer -- which sapped my strength, brain power, creative skills, and roving ability.

This time I could hardly walk.

Travel was almost out of the question. I needed lots of rest. I was prevented from attending meetings, strategy sessions, news conferences -- anywhere players in the campaign gathered. I was pretty much grounded.

The only way I could cope and stay in touch was by corresponding, chatting, interviewing, researching, using my own devices, and hunting from a distance when I was going after vital news, changing trends, and the like.

I became a sniper -- stationary, but lethal nonetheless.

When I was assembling a piece on Thom Tillis, which I did numerous times, I depended on my interviewing skills, gained by years in professional broadcasting, to get information. Interviews -- rather than being face-to-face, were always done remotely -- via telephone hook-up or the Internet. Trusted sources were more useful than ever, as I was virtually nailed down at my home office on Castle Street in Wilmington.

You miss the feel of a gathering when it's like this. You are denied the use of your hand-held microphone, from  a close-up vantage point that offered expressions -- nervousness, brash cockiness, or an air of confidence, from the person on the hot seat.

I always enjoyed being right in the ring, where I could get the full feel of the setting and its dynamics. I didn't have that this time. I let my imagination go hunting, pictured the scenes in my mind, and used action vocabulary to paint the picture in words. I received enough generous compliments to know I wasn't failing.

Most of that action was during Thom Tillis' drive to win the primary. He's strong, honorable, confident, with great leadership qualities, so the interviews were substantive and effective, I thought, even though recorded via telephone or transcriptions captured via television and cable.

At this time in late April, Thom appears to have the GOP intramural scrap in his possession, though this is certainly not assured at this point. That is very gratifying to me. I feel vindicated. I'm an old war horse who manages to cope despite handicaps. I'm 77, and may be used, but I ain't used up.

My support of Thom was never limited to presenting his positions amidst the vagaries of an intense political battle. He avoided negative approaches. I was obliged, though, to divulge deliberate and false claims from liberals -- distortions and prevarications that found their way into the gritty verbal battles. There are instances of each of these tactics in any contest -- on the field of battle between armies, or in a tense political campaign.

While I was not linked to Thom Tillis in any official capacity, I worked as hard and as effectively as I could under the circumstances. I believed in his honor, his character, and his strength of leadership. I believe I may have contributed in a positive way to the campaigns. And I am grateful to God for the opportunity to take part.

I did it for the Republican Party, Christians and conservatives, the State of North Carolina, and the United States. From the sidelines I gave what I had to give, and loved it. This is my passion. While walking is a struggle, I stayed at my post. In a way, I pride myself as being a Wounded Warrior.

This primary will not be settled at least until May 6. In the event of a run-off, it will go beyond that.

Then, it is my hope, prayer and anticipation that Thom Tillis, will do North Carolina the honor of becoming the new U.S. Senator from our great State. We are overdue for a change.