The Washington Ideas Forum Convenes


Each year it is held, the Washington Ideas Forum brings together influential figures from the worlds of politics, business and academia in hopes that the resulting conversations help to clarify the challenges America faces, and to evoke solutions, whether from participants or audience members. The difference this year is that the event, sponsored by The Atlantic in partnership with The Aspen Institute and the Newseum, begins little more than a week after a presidential election.  

That doesn't mean related subjects will be the only ones covered. Bill Gates is scheduled to speak, as is renowned chef Jose Andres. They're just some of the participants whose expertise and insights extend to other subjects. But having spent the last 18 months or so covering Election 2012, I couldn't help but survey the list of participants with American politics in mind.

Under the rubric of ideas, its possible to gather folks who don't ordinarily appear at the same events -- Nancy Pelosi and Marco Rubio, Grover Norquist and Larry Summers -- and it'll be interesting to see both what they're saying on the cusp of Barack Obama's second term, and how they respond to whatever questions are posed by moderators, journalists in attendance, and audience members. What role is Pelosi planning to play in Democratic leadership? How coy is Rubio going to be about his presidential ambitions? How does Norquist feel about the prominent conservatives defecting on the issue of tax hikes for the rich? What does Summers have to say about the "fiscal cliff"? What would each of them do differently if they could redo the last 10 years? I'll also be curious to see what Obama biographers Ron Suskind, David Maranass, and Jonathan Alter disagree about when they appear on the same panel. Suggested discussion subject: why did Obama break so many of his national security promises?   

There are plenty of other interesting panels besides -- too many to name all the noteworthy people and subjects. The full schedule, along with The Atlantic's coverage (articles, photos, a live blog, a live video stream, and selected video clips), is available here and will be updated throughout Wednesday and Thursday.

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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