It is insidious when Rachel Maddow suggests that Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 White House debates vaccines for air travel Senate lawmakers let frustration show with Blinken MORE is a racist. It is insidious when Paul Krugman, The New York Times and the Daily Kos imply that Sarah Palin is a domestic terrorist. But The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank’s suggestion that Ron Paul is a closet Confederate is just stupid. The only tools left in their toolbox are mnemonic slander, irony and demagoguery; thus the liberals’ call to late-night stand-up comics to run for office. It is prelude to a nervous breakdown.

Ron Paul might have called the brilliant James Grant of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer to talk about Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek (or Mick Jagger, for that matter, who is also a fan) and the legendary commodities investor and guru Jim Rogers to talk about the Fed. It would have been entertaining and informative. But Paul is ornery. It is his job.

Republicans made Ron Paul chairman of the House Financial Services subcommittee that oversees the Fed in recognition of his role in the rise of the Tea Party. But this will not be a job he will be good at. Ron Paul is to the new conservative/libertarian action as John Brown was to the Civil War: an instigator, a rabble-rouser. And Rand Paul is very much like his Kentucky hero Cassius M. Clay, the Southern iconoclast who single-handedly brought abolitionism from New Haven to Lexington, Ky. As Professor David L. Smiley pointed out in his biography of Clay, he was a pioneer in the movement that culminated in the creation of the Republican Party, but before his career was over it would make him a “pathetic anachronism.” Pauls take note.

What the Pauls have achieved was unimaginable just five years ago, when Ron Paul’s diatribes before Congress were dutifully transcribed only in small, esoteric libertarian journals. Today, if this week’s CPAC convention in D.C. is any indication, libertarianism is the creative rising karma in the Republican Party. Ron Paul will speak there with Mitt Romney. Rand with Rick Santorum.

The one person who could profit from this is Gary Johnson, an old-school libertarian like the Pauls who, according to a Gary Johnson 2012 fan site, when he was governor of New Mexico: never raised taxes in eight years; cut over 1,200 government jobs without firing anyone; cut taxes 14 times; vetoed over 750 bills; was the biggest advocate in the country for school vouchers; started his own small business and became a multimillionaire.

Johnson has always been a libertarian favorite. He was on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s “Freedom Watch” last night and for the first time in a long time, he was wearing a tie. His voice was raised an octave. He said he was going to come up here and visit us in New Hampshire one of these days.

Ron Paul is thinking about running for president in 2012 as he did in 2008. He should pass the torch to Gary Johnson. Johnson could bring it to the next phase. The Pauls cannot.

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