Every so often in Washington a figure rises who is exceptional, extraordinary and destined for great things. Many in the Congress and national politics have great acts but beneath the surface are more of the same, with better wrapping. Others are special. Jim Webb is very special.
Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) is not only a military hero, but one of the truly great heroes of the American military. This is no exaggeration.

The magnitude of his heroism, valor, courage under fire and leadership in war were light-years beyond the call of duty, which made his brilliant arguments against the Iran war fever being drummed up by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and the neoconservative salons so hard-hitting.

In one of the more extraordinary moments in the history of the Senate, Sen. John Warner, Webb's Republican colleague from Virginia — and his fellow former Marine and former secretary of the U.S. Navy — demonstrated the difference between business as usual and the kind of profound sense of honor that is so rare in American politics today.

Webb offered an extremely important amendment that would have rationalized troop rotation schedules for Americans serving in Iraq.

Evincing the highest tradition of the Senate, and the highest ideal of honorable bipartisanship, to win Sen. Warner's support, Webb made key changes to his amendment. Webb moved back the effective date to give the military a few months to plan, as Warner requested. Webb also exempted special forces from the amendment, as Warner requested.

Sen. Warner agreed to support the Webb amendment.

Sen. Warner then reneged.

Apparently Sen. Warner, after serving in the Senate for 29 years, after having been chairman of the Armed Services Committee when Republicans were in control, after having served in the Marine Corps and as secretary of the Navy — after all this, he did not know enough about troop rotations when he agreed, before reneging, to support the Webb amendment.

Sen. Warner represents business as usual in Washington, D.C., and in my humble opinion, would never have supported, and will never support, any change in U.S. policy in Iraq that has a realistic chance of coming into effect.

Sen. Warner's role in this Republican kabuki is not to change the policy, but to offer Senate Republicans the opportunity to pretend they want to change the policy. Yet once change is possible, he, and they, will renege every time (excepting a handful of profiles in courage such as Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel).

While Democrats could certainly perform more strongly, the reason the war continues unabated is 97 percent because of Republicans such as Warner. And the best of hope of ending this catastrophe is to put the fear of God in the Senate Republicans that they will be defeated, and then to defeat them.

Sen. Webb, by contrast, is a conviction politician and a leader who knows who he is, why he came to Washington, and what he wants to do. He is equally comfortable looking George W. Bush in the eye and telling him what he really thinks, and working in good faith with Sen. Warner, though that good faith, obviously, was not reciprocated.

Listening to Sen. Warner's near-worshipful speech heaping praise and honors on Jim Webb, using extravagant language to describe Webb's heroism and statesmanship, at the very moment Warner announced his reneging, was both surreal and revealing.

Warner came to praise Webb, while he voted to bury him. Webb conducted himself with dignity, honor, professionalism, statesmanship, leadership and honesty.

Warner is business as usual. Webb is business the way democracy in America ought to be.

Warner is the Senate at its worst. Webb is the Senate the Founding Fathers intended when they wrote the Constitution.

Warner is the Senate of maneuver, calculation and timidity. Webb is the Senate of conviction, political courage and principle.

To Clinton, Obama, Edwards, Richardson, Biden, Dodd, Kucinich and Gravel or whoever the Democrats will nominate for president, it is time to put Jim Webb at the top of the list.

Jim Webb for vice president today.

Jim Webb for president tomorrow.

At last, a leader.