From the random department of random thoughts which randomly takes the place of a fully developed, single-subject column:
Subject one, Mike Pence: The Indiana congressman has become the fulcrum around which the Republican presidential campaign will take shape. He may be nowhere near the top of the polls among Republicans nationwide, because he does not have the name ID of possible contenders Palin, Gingrich, Romney, and Huckabee -- but whether Pence runs or doesn't run makes a huge difference as to what "space" remains, in terms of messaging and strategy, within the field. With stalwart conservative movement leaders such as Morton Blackwell, Dick Armey, Brent Bozell III, David McIntosh, and Jim Ryun all reportedly urging Pence to run and offering at least tacit support, Pence will have the opportunity to be the very first full "movement conservative" to run for president since Ronald Reagan. Nobody since Reagan has so fully supported all three pillars of the movement (financial, defense, social). Without Pence in the race, the other candidates will all be vying for "movement" leader support, individual leader by individual leader. If Pence runs, the other candidates will need to hunt organizational ducks elsewhere.
For that matter, if Pence runs, I can see Sarah Palin staying out of the race -- not because she fears his electoral power, but because I could see her deciding that he is a good enough vehicle for the conservative message that she doesn't need to enter the fray. Think about all her family has been through in the past 29 months! She might want some space to breathe in, and maybe a chance to burnish her credentials. In short, I could see Palin endorsing Pence. I can't see her endorsing any of the other likely candidates.
Subject two, Gabby Giffords: In all the unfortunate back and forth about the "tone" of debate -- an unnecessary controversy ginned up by the left -- not enough has yet been said about just how wondrous a thing it is to see this brave woman recover as well as she has so far. Obviously, Giffords is far from the only person to survive a bullet through the head -- think James Brady, for one -- but her progress until now still seems remarkable enough to be almost miraculous. Every decent American is pulling for her and praying for her. The shooting of Gabrielle Giffords wounded the spirits of all of us. We Americans rally around innocent victims, and rally in defense of our republic and of those who brave the arena. Godspeed, Rep. Giffords. Godspeed.
Subject three, repeal of health care: Every single Republican senator should read this brilliant piece on legislative tactics by Brian Darling of the Heritage Foundation. It explains, step by step, exactly how Senate Republicans can ensure that Harry Reid can't unilaterally bottle up repeal of Obamacare without it reaching the Senate floor. All it takes to keep repeal alive in the Senate is a simple procedural objection, followed by the support of 16 senators at the appropriate time. There will be no excuse for the repeal to be buried in a Senate committee. None. In fact, if Senate Republicans fail to follow Darling's outline, every single one of them -- especially the leaders -- should slink home in shame, under a hail of metaphorical rotten tomatoes.
Subject four, a failure of House Republicans: Conservatives have good reasons to grumble over some serious loopholes in the vaunted new House rules, especially with regard to using savings from items removed from spending bills actually to reduce the debt and with regard to the citation of enumerated constitutional powers for any congressional action. About which, more at another time and place. But at least some semblance of decent rules were instituted on those subjects; on another subject which is at the very heart of abusive big-government power, the House leadership extended the middle finger against civil liberties. The subject: overcriminalization of everyday life, especially via expanded federal police powers (even though federal police power was meant to be extremely limited). Read this December editorial about the rule proposed by major conservative leaders, and then ask why Republicans deliberately ignored the suggestion. For more on the overall subject, please order this book produced by the Heritage Foundation. It will scare the pants off of you, in terms of making you realize just how vast are the federal powers to put innocent people in jail. (Full disclosure: I contributed a chapter to the book, but I receive no royalties or other considerations from any book sales.)
Subject five, a hat tip to a retired governor: On Monday, term-limited Gov. Bob Riley of Alabama left office after having achieved tremendous things in the realms of economic development, education improvements, ethics, and government efficiency. He did it all with Reaganesque cheerfulness and Kempian energy. Conservatives everywhere should hope he finds some other avenue in public life through which he can lend his considerable talents.
Subject six, Joe Lieberman: The best thing about Joe Lieberman wasn't that he is a stalwart on defense and foreign policy -- although that was good -- but that he is both a gentleman and a true statesman. His domestic policy views on most issues were wrongheaded, but never ill-motivated; his fairness and decency and respect for old-style American political norms are tributes to the best this nation has to offer. I am sorry he is retiring. Public life needs more like him.
There, that's enough for now. Here's hoping all Americans can be served, at every level of government, by public servants as superb as Pence and Riley, and as admirable as Lieberman and Giffords as well. We need them so we can remain one nation under God, with liberty and justice for all.