U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) speaks about immigration reform at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington December 10, 2014. REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY IMMIGRATION) Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) speaks about immigration reform at a news conference on Capitol Hill in 2014. (REUTERS/Larry Downing)

During 2015, we recognized Democrats from time to time who stood tall, defying the White House and liberal dogma. As we enter 2016, it is worth recalling Democrats who annoyed rigid leftists and got too little recognition from Republicans.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) was the best of the best Democrats, taking on the White House and his party repeatedly to oppose the Iran deal, normalization of relations with Cuba and President Obama’s indifference to human rights. On the Iran deal, the arguments he made were cogent and prescient (e.g., it would embolden Iran in the region, it would bolster Bashar al-Assad). Despite an indictment, he soldiered on and remains the most insightful Democratic voice on national security.

Also worthy of recognition was former CIA director and defense secretary Leon Panetta. Out of office, he continued to urge for necessary funding for the military and a more robust strategy to defeat the Islamic State. His candid assessment of the Obama presidency served to inform the public and help create bipartisan agreement on everything from Russia to defense spending. He also continued to vouch for intelligence officials who had used enhanced interrogation techniques approved by the Justice Department and to explain the importance of our anti-terrorism surveillance programs.

Former Virginia senator Jim Webb bombed as a presidential candidate, but he defended principles that moderate and conservative Democrats once commonly advocated — Second Amendment rights, a strong military and opposition to racial preferences.

And finally, Vice President Biden conducted himself with immense dignity in the aftermath of his son’s tragic and untimely death. Although he decided not to run for president, he delivered a classy speech with a much-needed reminder that political opponents are not our enemies.

To all of these pols, we can say, well done.