Frank Cannon

Cruz Backer Robert George No Fan of Trump, But Group He Founded Is

Princeton University professor Robert George was a co-chair of Catholics for Cruz; when Cruz was a student at Princeton, George supervised his junior-year independent project and senior thesis. Along with George Weigel, George wrote an anti-Trump letter signed by other conservative Catholics that was published in National Review, part of the magazine’s failed effort to derail Trump’s campaign.

That letter declared Trump “manifestly unfit to be president of the United States.” It decried his “vulgarity” and “appeals to racial and ethnic fears and prejudice” and his promises to order the American military to torture terror suspects and kill terrorists’ families — “actions condemned by the Church and policies that would bring shame upon our country.”

The letter went on:

And there is nothing in his campaign or his previous record that gives us grounds for confidence that he genuinely shares our commitments to the right to life, to religious freedom and the rights of conscience, to rebuilding the marriage culture, or to subsidiarity and the principle of limited constitutional government….

Mr. Trump’s record and his campaign show us no promise of greatness; they promise only the further degradation of our politics and our culture. We urge our fellow Catholics and all our fellow citizens to reject his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination by supporting a genuinely reformist candidate.

When Cruz dropped out, George tweeted “God help us.”

George expanded on that sentiment in a despairing interview with the Daily Princetonian:

Professor of Jurisprudence Robert George, who authored an endorsement for Cruz earlier this spring, said that with Cruz’s withdrawal from the race, it is now clear that voters will be choosing in November between Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“For many Americans, including myself, these are dreadful alternatives. We regard neither of these individuals as fit – morally or otherwise – to be president,” he said.

The two presumptive nominees have told appalling lies to advance or protect their political interests, George said.

“A number of people have written to me this evening asking, ‘Which should we support?’ I answer: If you believe that Ted Cruz’s dad was involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, then vote for Trump. If you believe that the murders of Ambassador Stevens and the others at Benghazi were committed by a mob inflamed by a movie trailer, then vote for Clinton,” he said.

Since then, he’s continued tweeting criticism of both candidates, such as this one from May 4: “Dreadful Donald and Horrible Hillary are both products of the culture of narcissism which is the me-generation's true and lasting legacy.”

But in spite of all that, it is not clear whether George will remain in the #NeverTrump camp. George is connected to an extraordinary number of Religious Right groups, and it is difficult to overstate his role in shaping the anti-gay movement’s “religious liberty” strategy.  But at least one of those groups is on a different page.

George is the founder of the American Principles Project, which is embracing Trump based on a letter he sent the group last year saying he would sign the First Amendment Defense Act – the Religious Right-backed legislation to give special legal protection to anti-LGBT discrimination – if Congress would send it to his desk.

On Thursday, APP put out a press release defending Trump against criticism from the Human Rights Campaign and saying that given a choice between Trump and the “extremist” Clinton, “the choice is incredibly easy – we have to, and will, back Trump.” APP President Frank Cannon’s statement said:

Donald Trump deserves credit from social conservatives for his principled position on protecting freedom of religion…Trump has demonstrated a commitment to the concerns of social conservatives on issues like life, marriage, and religious freedom, and he has promised to appoint conservative justices to the Supreme Court in the mold of the late Antonin Scalia.

On Friday, APP’s communications director Jon Schweppe published “the moral case” for Trump in the Daily Caller. Schweppe says he votes on one issue – abortion – and that the election of Hillary Clinton would be “devastating to the pro-life cause.” Under a Trump presidency, Schweppe writes, “we have the opportunity to protect the court, replace Justice Scalia with a conservative justice, and eventually overturn Roe v. Wade…He is committed to getting this right.”

The APP bio of George ends with this disclaimer: “Views expressed by the American Principles Project and/or on this website are not necessarily those of Professor George.” Not necessarily.

 

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