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Geldolf on Bush

February 29th, 2008

I read a fair number of biographies and autobiographies, especially in the music field. I offer not a word of a lie when I tell you that Bob Geldolf’s Is That It? is bar none the best written autobiography I have ever read. He had a very minimal career inpop music, but when you consider what he’s turned that into, you know he a bright guy. Interested in him or not, if your a reader, I recommend his book.

That all said when you hear that Irish pop has-been Bob Geldolf flew with G.W. Bush on a recent trip to Africa, and then wrote a piece in Time about his meetings with teh President, you assume hatchet job.

It’s not to be. Geldolf’s interest is, and has been since the 80’s, African poverty. He knows his stuff, he judges based on action. He makes it clear he is not a natural supporter of GW, but he also seems to genuinely have liked him and is very fair in his comments:

I gave the President my book. He raised an eyebrow. “Who wrote this for ya, Geldof?” he said without looking up from the cover. Very dry. “Who will you get to read it for you, Mr. President?” I replied. No response…

I have always wondered why it was never told properly to the American people, who were paying for it. It was, for example, Bush who initiated the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) with cross-party support led by Senators John Kerry and Bill Frist. In 2003, only 50,000 Africans were on HIV antiretroviral drugs — and they had to pay for their own medicine. Today, 1.3 million are receiving medicines free of charge. The U.S. also contributes one-third of the money for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria — which treats another 1.5 million. It contributes 50% of all food aid (though some critics find the mechanism of contribution controversial). On a seven-day trip through Africa, Bush announced a fantastic new $350 million fund for other neglected tropical diseases that can be easily eradicated; a program to distribute 5.2 million mosquito nets to Tanzanian kids; and contracts worth around $1.2 billion in Tanzania and Ghana from the Millennium Challenge Account, another initiative of the Bush Administration.

So why doesn’t America know about this? “I tried to tell them. But the press weren’t much interested,” says Bush. It’s half true…

Bush adds, “One thing I will say: Human suffering should preempt commercial interest.” It’s a wonderful sentence, and it comes in the wake of a visit to Rwanda’s Genocide Memorial Center. The museum is built on the site of a still-being-filled open grave. There are 250,000 individuals in that hole, tumbled together in an undifferentiated tangle of humanity. The President and First Lady were visibly shocked by the museum. “Evil does exist,” Bush says in reaction to the 1994 massacres. “And in such a brutal form.” He is not speechifying; he is horror-struck by the reality of ethnic madness…

Read it all, it gets behind the scenes on Air Force One, talks about the Presidential Laundry, including Geldolf’s respectful dis-agreement on Iraq: “Mr. President, please. There are things you’ve done I could never possibly agree with and there are things I’ve done in my life that you would disapprove of, too. And that would make your hospitality awkward.”

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