RAND PAUL LEARNS HOW NOT TO ANSWER A QUESTION…. Senate hopeful Rand Paul has generally been loath to talk to reporters lately — they keep asking pesky questions about his beliefs and background — but the estimable Dave Weigel was able to chat with the Kentucky Republican yesterday.

In particular, Dave asked whether Paul supports the $20 billion fund President Obama secured from BP for victims of the oil spill disaster. Paul replied:

“Well, I don’t think there are many people who don’t believe in any regulations, myself included, and even my dad — I don’t think you’ll hear him say he doesn’t believe in any regulation. But I’m not sure I have the answer to that, sincerely. I think everyone in the country wants BP to pay for the clean-up, myself concluded. I’ve never had any argument with that — it’s amazing how you say things and they get blown into things you didn’t say! I’m not even sure I can talk to some people anymore because they take things out of context.”

Those are a lot of words loosely related to the fund, but it didn’t answer the question. So, Dave tried again.

“There should be some regulations, but I want to do it in a rational, reasonable way, and ask: Did they obey the regulations? Do we not have enough regulation, and do we need two blow-out preventers from now on? These are the things scientists and inventors should tell us. Should we be drilling at that level? There are a lot of issues, but we shouldn’t react in an emotional way and say no more drilling. I see some of that emotionalism happening because the president feels trapped — his advisers say you’ve got to be tough, you’ve got to have tough language. I’m not sure that’s a rational way to handle this.”

Still unclear, Dave tried a third time, asking, “To finish up, though: Do you oppose the fund?”

“I was listening to some people on the Hill today, and they were looking for the justification for setting it up. I don’t know what the legal justification is — I’m not an expert in whether Congress has to give you authority or the president has authority to do it. Those issues take research and time, and I’m not going to make an off-the-cuff response.

I haven’t spoken to Paul directly, but from what I can tell, he’s an extremist, but he’s savvy enough to know that extremists have trouble getting elected to statewide office. Paul holds radical beliefs, but he’s not so detached from reality that he thinks his brand of radicalism is popular.

What’s evident, then, is that Rand Paul has learned how not to answer questions. Given his bizarre and offensive worldview, it’s a quality he’ll have to cling to if he expects to prevail in November.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

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.