IT'S quite a lovefest in the current issue of Time between President George W. Bush and Irish rock star turned Africa activist Bob Geldof, who interviewed our lame duck prez for the magazine during his trip to the African continent last week.
Sir Bob sure knows how to write an interesting, informative and eminently readable feature piece. And his admiration for Bush, despite opposing the war in Iraq, shines through. A mega-celebrity who actually likes Dubya - who would have ever thought!
Geldof opened his spread by sharing some light-hearted banter with his subject - why, he even insulted his intelligence!
"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."
Bush didn't bat an eyelid. Geldof continued, "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."
Not too many can get away with trash talking the president to his face, we have to assume, but Geldof and Bush are apparently old friends, at least when it comes to proactively working to solve the problems plaguing Africa. And Geldof is mighty impressed with Bush's achievements in that arena, rattling off a list of accomplishments that have made AIDS medicines and food programs more readily available to the population. Geldof also lauded Bush for proposing a "fantastic" fund of $350 million to combat other diseases that are rampant in Africa.
"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," Geldof wrote.
The former Boomtown Rat turned humanitarian hitched a ride on Air Force One, and was seemingly granted unfettered access to Bush. They even talked about doing the laundry on the presidential plane.
"How do they get the presidential shirts, socks, undies, etc., done on this thing? I'm used to rock-'n'-roll tours where there's a washing machine and dryers set up backstage, but this is gigging on a whole other level," Geldof wrote.
"Laundry, huh? Is this the interview, Geldof? It's certainly a different technique!" Bush joked.
It wasn't all fun and games, though. Geldof respectfully stated his disagreement with the Bush policy in Iraq.
"I have my views and they're at odds with his, and I don't want to spoil the interview or be rude in the face of his hospitality," writes Geldof, but naturally the subject came up.
"This is the person who has quadrupled aid to the poorest people on the planet. I was more comfortable with that. But his expression asked for agreement and sympathy (about Iraq), and I couldn't provide either," he added.
"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," Geldof said. "And that would make your hospitality awkward. The cost has been too much. History will play itself out."
"I think history will prove me right," was Bush's firm reply. Fascinating stuff.
What would a jaunt on Air Force One be without gathering some cool souvenirs? Geldof asked for some trinkets for his four daughters, and Bush - who also asked about Geldof's Dublin childhood and wondered what Bono's real name was - dutifully obliged.