George W. Bush delivered remarks this morning at an event in New York. Speaking at the Bush Institute’s “Spirit of Liberty” forum, Bush called for continued support for democracy, while slamming Russian interference in the 2016 election and sounding a concerned note about deepening divisions in American politics.
The former president warned about forces — both foreign and domestic — that he said threatened democracy. He noted the ongoing fight against terrorism before turning his attention to Russia, which, he said, sought “to exploit our country’s divisions” with its effort to influence the 2016 election. Bush said that “cyberattacks, disinformation and financial influence should never be downplayed or tolerated,” and called Russian interference “broad, systemic and stealthy.” In response, he advocated a paper released by the Bush Institute calling for ramped-up cybersecurity policies.
Events in Europe, Bush said, pointed to “a trend in Western countries away from global engagement and democratic confidence.” In his view, that trend includes the United States. Bush worried that support for democracy was waning for the young, “who never experienced the galvanizing moral clarity of the Cold War, or never focused on the ruin of entire nations by socialist central planning.” For our current politics, Bush reserved his sharpest language: “Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seem more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.” He continued:
We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism and forgotten the dynamism immigration has always brought to America. We see a fading confidence in the value of free markets and international trade, forgetting that conflict, instability, and poverty follow in the wake of protectionism. We have seen the return of isolationist sentiments, forgetting that American security is directly threatened by the chaos and despair of distant places. In all these ways, we need to recall and recover our own identity. . . . To renew our country, we only need to remember our values.
The speech, and the rest of the Bush Institute event, can be seen below.