Rand Paul joined Mike Johanns, Richard Shelby, and Thad Cochran as the four Republicans voting to confirm Hagel, who is now secretary of defense by a vote of 58-41. Senator Paul had said he believes in giving the president a fair amount of leeway in choosing his cabinet, and this vote is certainly consistent with that. Needless to say, one should not read it as suggesting that there’s no daylight between Hagel’s views and Paul’s, but it’s not just a gesture of reasonable deference to the president, either: this is a vote that may come with some real costs for Paul. It’s brave—and right.

I think Paul will continue to surprise doubters and admirers alike: he has his own way of doing things, and while it’s not a way I’m in agreement with on every point, I like the fact that he’s nobody’s robot. Surprises like these are a sign of actual reflection, not just checking boxes on somebody’s ideological list. Bravo.