Oh, beloved martyrs. Leaders of the rabble. Fearless masters of decency.
Save us from ourselves.
On CNN's "State of the Union" last weekend, host John King presented Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., with a yes-or-no question: "If you get to the final point and you are a critical vote for health care reform and every piece of evidence tells you ... you will lose your job, would you cast the vote and lose your job?"
Like Joan of Arc facing the burning pillar -- "may Obama so keep me" -- a valiant Bennet, undeterred by the gruesome prospect of returning to a life of undeserved appointments and a real job, answered plainly, "Yes."
One might have let his reply to a no-win question slide, but no sooner had word of the senator's heroism trickled down to the masses than his campaign staff sent out a blast of self-love, claiming that Bennet's answer proved he fearlessly would "stand up for what is right. He is willing to take on the special interests who will stop at nothing to protect the status quo."
Ironically, Bennet -- appointed by Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, who overlooked more dynamic and experienced Democrats -- was only given his spot as designated Obama yes man through a special interest of one. So goes the real life of our gutsy protagonist.
The most powerful special interest in this nation, of course, is the federal government. It's an organization that Bennet will empower with unprecedented coercive powers to control the common citizen's health care decisions -- his vote, guaranteed even before reading the final bill. To vote any other way could mean a primary loss and little support from an administration that landed him his job -- perhaps the only job it created.
But Bennet certainly isn't alone. These days, the idea of courage -- especially in Washington -- flows freely.
Recently, Newt Gingrich called Obama "a liberal Democratic president who has the courage to take on the establishment on education," as if the tepid education reforms of the administration were akin to a power move against the Gambino crime syndicate (though, admittedly, the National Education Association comes close).
Actress Angie Harmon this week declared that Sarah Palin is a "woman who has her own set of values and morals and ethics and has the courage to live her life accordingly." How many of you have the steely courage to sell 700,000 books in a week?
President Barack Obama, never shy about applauding his own transcendent valor, also announced the traditional pardon of the White House turkey -- and a big chicken, if you ask me -- erroneously named (you guessed it) Courage.
Courage is off to Disneyland.
And a few weeks ago, after the Senate Finance Committee moved the health care takeover bill through, the president singled out Sen. Olympia Snowe from Maine for her "courage."
Courage? I suppose that in Washington, moving a bill out of committee constitutes bravery. Those wild mobs of radical wing nuts in Maine, after all, only can be contained for so long, you know.
But out of 100 senators pretending to understand the health care bill, perhaps a half-dozen have a chance of realizing bravery in even the most liberated sense of the word. Most of those, Democrats and Republicans, however, diligently will investigate every poll and political consideration before they vote.
In an atmosphere of habitual self-aggrandizing, a place where faux historical importance is attached to every spending bill, courage is easy to find. It certainly makes you miss the days when politicians had the common decency to offer false modesty with their arrogance.
Benjamin Disraeli once said that a politician is a "sophistical rhetorician, inebriated with the exuberance of his own verbosity, and gifted with an egotistical imagination that can at all times command an interminable and inconsistent series of arguments to malign an opponent and to glorify himself."
Today we're easy. They only need to be inebriated with the exuberance of their own greatness. All a politician has to say, apparently, is "yes."