The Corner

Meet Robert P. George

The candidates had better be ready for class:

When Robert P. George, a Princeton University professor of jurisprudence, moderates the Palmetto Freedom Forum on Monday, he won’t ask about deep-dish pizza. Instead, he will urge GOP presidential contenders, as he does his students, to explore their constitutional beliefs. “The idea is to break the mold, to get away from the standard, media-run debates with their gotcha questions,” he says in a phone interview. In turn, he hopes, the candidates will drop “their stump speeches and canned answers.”

George, a Roman Catholic scholar who frequently teaches a course with liberal favorite Cornel West, will be sharing his duties with a pair of tea-party Republicans, Rep. Steve King (R., Iowa) and Sen. Jim DeMint (R., S.C.). Both men are considered GOP kingmakers in their respective states. George, for his part, is a kingmaker of a different sort, an academic titan with deep ties to the conservative movement.

How candidates respond to George’s queries, which will focus on the political and philosophical, could shake up a primary season that, so far, has been dominated by platitudes. The race for the GOP nomination, he says, is often cast as a scramble for the highly coveted but nebulous tea-party crown. But few voters, he laments, have a sense of how leading Republicans interpret the principles that inspire tea-party activists.

George aims to clarify the often blurry positions of Republican candidates on issues of political, moral, and philosophical importance. If they give him a stock or evasive response, he will follow up with sharper questions. It won’t be a fishing expedition for red-hot quotes, he emphasizes, but a quest for paragraph-length answers about America’s founding principles in an office-hours-type setting.

Read the rest of the interview here.

Robert Costa — Robert Costa is National Review's Washington editor and a CNBC political analyst. He manages NR's Capitol Hill bureau and covers the White House, Congress, and national campaigns. ...

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