Christmas, comebacks and the conservatives’ Man of the Year

Long-time friend and longer-time Daily Sentinel editorial page editor Bob Silbernagel offered to give me the week off from my column. With Christmas, eggnog, bad-sweater avoidance and back-to-back marathon viewing of “Rocky,” who could make time to put wrapping paper on 750 words of opining?

Me, that’s who. And it’s not only because I need the money.

I love year-end retrospectives. TIME magazine’s edition of “Man of the Year” hit newsstands last week. It offers an inanely boorish profile of Mark Zuckerberg, who launched Facebook because it was “an awesome thing to do.”

So I thought I would take a shot at a 2010 redux myself, featuring people who mattered in varying degrees at varying points for varying reasons. Caveat: These people are not necessarily the most anything. They’re just people who deserve a nod, and whose story is worth acknowledging.

The Man of the Year (at least for right-wingers):  John Boehner, the next speaker of the U.S. House, vanquisher of Nancy Pelosi, author of hope for those who watched in horror while the federal government grew faster than LBJ would have dreamed or FDR would have allowed.

For the last two years, Democrats have had an unabated shot at implementing hope (for more government paternalism) and change (the meaning of the Constitution). Mercifully, that is no more, and it’s because of Boehner and his band of deputies, including my friends Cory Gardner and Scott Tipton.

Boehner is a political survivor (when I was a congressional aide, Boehner was shunned from leadership for getting sideways with Tom Delay) and a congressional gym rat who has the skill and the smarts to avoid the mistakes of Newt Gingrich and Pelosi and other speakers-past.

One other name of note: Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, the one-man idea engine who had the guts to rally Republicans behind a real plan to overhaul the entitlement system that threatens to bankrupt America.

When conservatives are at our best, we lead with ideas, a standard Paul Ryan meets with gusto.

People who will matter in Colorado: John Hickenlooper, Frank McNulty and Brandon Schaffer — the governor-to-be, speaker of the Statehouse-to-be, and the president of the Senate, respectively. These three faces will be, in the words of W., the deciders in Colorado.

Comebacks, “Coming soon:” I love the scene in “Rocky Balboa” where philosopher-in-chief Sylvester Stallone explains to his rebellious son the art of finding success in life. “It’s not how hard you can hit, it’s hard you can get hit and keep moving forward,” the Italian Stallion sagely pronounces.

In the spirit of a Balboa comeback, two Colorado politicos are especially deserving of recognition because their comebacks are only a matter of time.

Andrew Romanoff and Ken Buck both ran spirited campaigns for the U.S. Senate that, under a different set of circumstances, might have earned them access to the highest legislative body since Rome.

Both fell prey to the lethal and laser-focused campaign of Sen. Michael Bennet. Bennet himself deserves recognition for traversing the tidal wave against his party and his record to earn a six-year term.

But Romanoff and Buck are a long way from done.

Romanoff boasts an energized base that will be on-call the next time he jumps into the arena. And Buck is a bear of a politician who rose from obscurity to the cusp of beating the Obama machine and Bennet.

Yes, Buck made some mistakes down the stretch. But, in my view, the biggest mistakes were made by his team, who played prevent defense while Bennet and Team Obama played brutal. But all that’s the stuff of the past. Buck’s Princeton smarts and his down-home authenticity brought him from unknown to national prominence and will likely bring him back.

I know this first-hand. Buck whipped my team’s backside in the hard-fought Senate primary. During that fight, I hit Buck pretty hard (OK, very hard) and he took more than a few shots at me, too. But in the immediate aftermath, Buck has been remarkably gracious.

If he decides to run again (Governor? Attorney general?), he’ll be well positioned to finish the job. And he’ll have a lot of conservatives rooting him on.

Comebacks, “Now Showing:” OK, enough politics. Let’s talk foozball. In the realm of professional football, there’s one storyline that trumps ‘em all, and it is the return of Michael Vick.

Vick’s rebound from down-in-the-dumps, incarcerated, dog-slaughtering scumbag to likely NFL MVP is the stuff of the big screen. He’s shown grit and grace on the field. More compelling, though, is Vick’s sincere humility off the field. His conspicuous personal growth is compelling to see.

I admit it. I’m pulling for Vick and the Eagles. Some animal-rights activists and holier-than-thou finger-waggers will never let No. 7 off the hook. To these folks, Vick will never escape the legacy of his awful past mistakes.

But when they cheer against Vick only because of his past crimes, they ignore that the Eagles quarterback has paid his dues to society; he served his time. And when they root against Vick because of his past failings, they really aren’t cheering against Michael Vick at all. They’re cheering against redemption, and a comeback story that would make Rocky Balboa proud.

Josh Penry is a West Slope native, former state Senate Republican leader who is still beaming after his son, Chase, hit a buzzer- beater to win a third-grade basketball game this month.


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