GRADING ON A CURVE…. Of all the reactions to Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) extreme beliefs, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch’s (R) take was my favorite.

“If I were you guys I’d give him a little leeway,” Hatch told reporters. “He just got elected. It’s a tough thing for him to get in the middle of this cauldron.”

Similarly, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) complained that Rachel Maddow asked Paul about his views during a television interview. “I think it was sort of a gotcha question,” Cornyn said. “If I’m walking down the street minding my own business and somebody sticks a microphone under my nose about a law that was passed 40 years ago, without more detail — I think it probably caught him a little bit by surprise.”

I can appreciate how tough it is to spin on behalf of a Republican nominee for the Senate who opposes the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Fair Housing Act, but this argument isn’t exactly compelling. To hear Hatch and Cornyn tell it, the public should simply go easy on Rand Paul because, well, he’s new at this.

Um, no. Paul has been running for the Senate for quite a while, and he won a statewide primary this week for an important public office. It’s a “tough thing” for him to talk about his own beliefs? If so, perhaps he’s not quite ready to serve in the United States Senate. Maybe he could start with city council or something and work his way up.

I can just imagine the reaction if a Democratic Senate nominee, soon after a primary, suggested in multiple interviews that public ownership over the means of production is underrated. If Dems argued that the candidate deserves “leeway” because he/she “just got elected,” would that be persuasive to someone like Orrin Hatch?

For that matter, no one stuck a microphone in Paul’s face while he was walking down the street minding his own business. Rand Paul articulated his beliefs to the Louisville Courier-Journal, and then again on NPR, and then again to Rachel Maddow. These are the same beliefs Paul stated as far back as 2002. This wasn’t, in other words, some slip of the tongue, or a rookie candidate flubbing a complicated question after getting caught “by surprise.”

Paul stated his beliefs accurately; he just happens to be an extremist. If Republicans are going to make excuses for his bizarre worldview, they’ll have to do better than this.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.