Robert P. George is not a political consultant. “I’m not Karl Rove or David—what’s his name?—Axelrod.” In fact, he says, “Any candidate who’d ask me for campaign advice should drop out immediately, because he’s too stupid to be running for president.” Yet few advisers are having more influence on conservative thinking this presidential campaign cycle. The McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton, George is an unofficial counselor to several Republican hopefuls, including Ben Carson, Senator Ted Cruz, and Jeb Bush.
Senator Marco Rubio’s staff calls George, too, mostly on religious liberty issues, and Mike Huckabee has named him as the thinker whose work has most influenced him, though they’ve never met.
He’s also helping conservative officials all over the country wrestle with the recent ruling on same-sex marriage, or, as he puts it, “how ought we to think about, say, a Supreme Court decision where the Supreme Court has clearly overstepped its authority. And I might discuss that with, say, Senator Cruz, or anyone else who wanted to talk to me about it.”
A traditional Catholic in a secular academic world, George believes that almost all of the answers supplied by faith can also be arrived at through reason—or, as he tells students, by “using the old noggin.”
“What he brings to the debate is even more method than ideas,” says his friend Mary Ann Glendon, of Harvard Law School. That method being his commitment to the proposition that, as he explains it to students, “when two people who are well disposed engage in debate, despite their differences they are bound together as a little community integrated around a common good. What is that good? Getting at the truth.”
Nick Arnold is a researcher for the American Principles Project.