Bob Geldof pens an unusual article for Time Magazine today, extolling the intellect and virtues of President George Bush. He starts off by noting -- as have we conservatives since early in the administration -- that Bush has no talent for marketing. Geldof instead assigns himself that task and reminds people that Bush may be the most significant President in modern times for the lives he has saved:
The Most Powerful Man in the World studied the front cover. Geldof in Africa — " 'The international best seller.' You write that bit yourself?"
"That's right. It's called marketing. Something you obviously have no clue about or else I wouldn't have to be here telling people your Africa story."
It is some story. And 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. There are always a couple of lines in the State of the Union, but not enough so that anyone noticed, and the press really isn't interested. For them, like America itself, Africa is a continent of which little is known save the odd horror.
Geldof doesn't pull punches where he disagrees with Bush. In fact, he spends most of the article outlining his disagreements. However, he also paints a picture of a man of intellect and deep belief, and one who has been shortchanged by the media, at least on Africa. He also understands that while he disagrees with Bush on many policies, Bush is motivated by his own sense of what is right.
The Anchoress notes:
But I do like that he gives the president serious credit not just for his humanitarian aid to Africa, but for his smarts in general. The press narrative since 1999, has been that Bush is “incurious and slow.” Geldof writes precisely the opposite, noting after a discussion of Africa and trade tariffs, “he’s curious and quick.”
And while in not engaging the president on is a bit unfair because does not allow rebuttal to Geldof’s own meme’d musings, the Irish rocker does allow Bush to make his case as to the steadiness of his interest in Africa, going back to his debates w/ Gore.
Indeed. Rather than the two-dimensional caricature that so many pundits and journalists have created, Geldof gets much closer to describing Bush as he is -- intelligent, emotional, combative, and unusually open. In the end, Geldof and Bush have to agree to disagree on Iraq, but Geldof obviously has some affection for Bush despite the media-driven cardboard cutout most people choose to see.
This does not surprise me much. I have had the pleasure of participating in two round-table conference calls with Geldof, and he surprised me with his openness to all points of view. Like Bush, he has grown a thick skin through years of political combat. His last project, a series of concerts intended to produce pressure on the G-8 nations to forgive African debt and pledge more assistance, drew a lot of naysayers -- and Geldof almost seemed to relish engagement with them, in order to change minds.
In some ways, Geldof appears to recognize a bit of that in Bush, and has a difficult time not liking it.