Nov 12, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Former Presidents Bush, Obama to hold back-to-back democracy conferences

Photo: Former Presidents George Bush and Barack Obama/ Photo by Alyssa Pointer-Pool and Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Former U.S. Presidents George Bush and Barack Obama are headlining back-to-back democracy conferences next week, highlighting rising threats from authoritarianism and disinformation — and how to combat them globally and at home.

Why it matters: Bush and Obama — a Republican and a Democrat respectively — didn't coordinate their timing, organizers say. But their events — Bush's is Nov. 16 in Dallas and Obama's is Nov. 17 in New York — are happening the week after the U.S. midterm elections.

  • They follow a Nov. 14 meeting set for President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping — and what former President Trump is hyping as a "very big announcement" on Nov. 15, which may address his 2024 plans.
  • That's four days of messaging from four U.S. presidents (Day Two may stand out from the others).
  • The conferences also precede a coming fight on Capitol Hill over how much support to continue to provide to Ukraine in its defense against Russia's attack.

Details: Former President Bush, from Texas, will interview President Volodymyr Zelensky live via feed from Ukraine. Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen will address the conference in taped remarks.

Former President Obama spoke at the Copenhagen Democracy Summit in June, and at Stanford University in April about disinformation. The New York event is the Obama Foundation's own inaugural Democracy Forum with Columbia University and the University of Chicago.

  • Obama will speak on the state of democracy and participate in a conversation with emerging leaders from around the world.
  • Panels with domestic speakers will highlight the challenges of polarization, climate change, capitalism and disinformation.

What they're saying: "I actually think it's terrific that we will have these back-to-back conferences," David J. Kramer, executive director of the Bush Institute, told Axios.

  • "We're very mindful of what's happening in the United States, and we have to make sure we stay on a democratic path. At the same time, we have to help and support others around the world. So we can't simply fold up our tent and focus on everything at home. We have to focus on both things."

Obama Foundation CEO Valerie Jarrett told Axios that as democracies around the world are challenged “the potential of the next generation of leaders needs our full support... We are delighted to see the Bush Center — another institution doing the hard work to strengthen democracy — convene in Dallas to advance our shared values."

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