I was in a photo with President Bush because he'd put $10 billion over three years on the table in a breakthrough increase in foreign assistance called the Millennium Challenge. I had just got back from accompanying the president as he announced this at the Inter-American Development Bank.Although offering anything other than sneers at President Bush will lose Bono a lot of street cred with the Hollywood/celebrity set, I think Bono's praise for Jesse Helms has to be far more surprising.
I kept my face straight as we passed the press corps, but the peace sign was pretty funny. He thought so, too. Keeping his face straight, he whispered, "There goes a front page somewhere: Irish rock star with the Toxic Texan."
I think the swagger and the cowboy boots come with some humour. He is a funny guy. Even on the way to the bank he was taking the piss. The bulletproof motorcade is speeding through the streets of the capital with people waving at the leader of the free world, and him waving back.
I say: "You're pretty popular here!"
He goes: "It wasn"t always so . . ." Oh really? "Yeah. When I first came to this town, people used to wave at me with one finger. Now, they found another three fingers and a thumb."
Jesse Helms did me and everyone working on the global Aids emergency a great favour when he came out in our support. It was a great irony for me to find myself feeling such affection for this old cold warrior.Bono also admits that the left is not necessarily more "his friend" than the right in his mission to try to help tackle Africa's economic and health problems.
He did an incredible thing: he publicly repented for the way he had thought about HIV/Aids. Politicians rarely do that. He really changed the way people on the right thought about this disease.
I know, I know Bono's an overbearing egomaniac, but so are many mega-rich rock and movie stars. I think he's at least genuinely concerned with the people of Africa and doing his best to try to come to some understanding of what will make the place better. And he's obviously got an open mind, which is more than can be said of most wealthy celebrities.