Okay, we’re now at the point where conservative U.S. Senators are defending Herman Cain as some kind of victim of a massive media smear — and bashing Politico for using the quotes of anonymous accusers to bolster the case. Here’s Rand Paul, speaking to National Review:

Sen. Rand Paul says the sexual harassment accusations made against Herman Cain are unfair because of their anonymity. And he speaks from experience.

“In my election, I had an anonymous girl from college — who I still don’t know — make accusations against me,” he tells National Review Online. “I don’t think you should print stuff like that. To libel someone’s character and not put your name on it, I think is inappropriate and shouldn’t be printed.”

Others have made similar charges. But look, this is just absurd. What happened during Paul’s campaign has absolutely nothing in common with what happened to Cain this week. The woman who accused Paul of over-the-top hazing rituals during their college years actually did hide behind anonymity to lob her charges. In other words, if she hadn’t originally been granted anonymity, she would hever have spoken out.

By contrast, the women who accused Cain of inappropriate behavior did attach their names to the accusations when they first made them. Politico got wind of allegations that had already been made, and subsequently concealed their names for the sake of their privacy — and not in order to give them cover to make accusations they might otherwise not have made.

What’s more, Politico actually did supply Cain with the name of at least one of the accusers during the reporting process.

It’s fair to ask whether Politico should have published these accusations, given that we have no way of assessing their veracity or significance. That’s an editorial judgment call, and it seems to me the reporters did try their best to nail those elements down. Reasonable people can certainly disagree on this point, but the existence of these allegations seems like valid info to report in the context of a presidential race, provided the reporters tried to learn all they could about them, which they seemingly did.

I certainly don’t agree with all of Politico’s editorial decisions by any means. But to point to the story’s protection of the privacy of accusers — who had already made these charges in their own names — in order to bolster some kind of ongoing Cain victimization narrative is just silly.