Exclusive: Bono on "Spiderman", Mitt Romney, U2, Ireland, the undocumented, and more


Then there’s Bono the political lobbyist, meeting leaders of the world’s wealthiest nations and urging them to do the right thing, to look at the African nightmare – poverty, AIDS, war -- not as something happening on another remote continent, but as a human atrocity that should never be allowed to occur in a world as wealthy as the one we live in. U2 has given Bono a platform to inform and educate millions of people who would otherwise never comprehend the ongoing African tragedy. 

“I’m sure it’s insufferable to have me on my soapbox so I try not to take it out unless it’s absolutely necessary,” Bono said.

“It can be a bit of a bull’s wreck for a rock and roll singer.  A rock and roll singer is about taking people to the other side, it’s about getting them to the next level, it’s about transporting them.  It’s about all that stuff. “

And so, U2 has been at times weighted down by a lot of moral baggage – and those are my words – and I feel the band has been very patient with me about it. But the truth of it is that they share those same convictions.“You know, the first rule of a rock and roll band is not to be dull. And I think U2 is interesting. It’s certainly the most interesting band on the planet because there are so many dimensions to it. 

“It’s interested in politics, matched by an interest in theology, and matched by an interest in commerce, matched by an interest in the things that change the world.

“It’s about the zeitgeist. And I hope that makes it fun for our fans. Some people look at me like, ‘What, you’re a singer in a band and you’re interested in technology? What’s that about?’“Or, ‘You’re a singer in a band and you have the time to lobby lawmakers in capital cities? What’s that about?“But that’s who I am. And that’s kind of who we are as a band.”

Bono’s activism – and that of many others, he’s quick to point out – is making a difference.  But there’s a long way to go.“I look back . . . it’s years since the debt cancellation movement, Jubilee 2000. There are over 46 million children going to school who otherwise wouldn’t be,” he says.

“It’s been us, and working with others in a movement that we were a part of that brought that home. We were very educated by that experience and uplifted by it.  Fighting for access to antiretroviral pills for people with AIDS who couldn’t afford it.  That’s amazing. “And it’s all, by the way, part of who we are as a band.  And I hope it adds to the music, and not takes away from it.

“We’re still a rock and roll band. We still want to make a lot of noise. We’re still a bunch of messers. There’s a lot of mischief in the band.”PRESIDENT Obama has impressed Bono. They’ve met on several occasions – U2 played at the ceremonies leading up to Obama’s inauguration in 2008 – but Bono doesn’t endorse political candidates per se.  If they’ve got solid track records when it comes to African debt relief, and if they’re committed to spending money for things like AIDS prevention and poverty elimination, then Bono is on board no matter the political affiliation. 

He worked well with President George W. Bush and counts a number of U.S. Democratic and Republican politicians as allies.President Obama has made a commitment to lift Africans out of poverty, Bono said.  “And it’s interesting that his approach is in partnerships.

Lots of countries in Africa have ideas on how to get their agriculture more efficient, how to help farmers, so he has a very interesting angle on that.

“The U.S. should be proud, extremely proud. You’ve led the world in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and it’s really a monumental achievement – 6.6 million people are alive thanks in large part to American investments and leadership.”

Is Bono keeping an eye on the race for the White House this fall?“Well, it’s interesting".

The ONE campaign (the movement Bono co-founded to fight poverty and disease) is probably the only thing that the two sides of the aisle agree on,” he says.Bono speaks about meeting a bi-partisan group of senators in Ghana earlier this year who visited the African nation to see exactly how U.S. funds were being used.“These are tough senators. Senator Lindsey Graham, tough guy, asking hard questions about where taxpayer money was going to be spent. And that’s great. The conviction that he could come with, that he had been fighting for these people,”

Bono says.“Then we have had Democrats like Senator Patrick Lahey leading the charge for years.  They’ve all been fighting to save lives. And it’s a small percentage of the overall budget. People think it’s like 10%, but really it’s less than 1%.“So America can be very proud of that. And Ireland, by the way, on hunger Ireland has been at the top.  (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny has retained his commitment, and the Labor Party has retained its commitment.”