Wednesday, March 05, 2008


Bob Geldof in February 28th Time magazine:
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.

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. . .

I don't know how, but eventually we arrive at the great unspoken. "See, I believe we're in an ideological struggle with extremism," says the President. "These people prey on the hopeless. Hopelessness breeds terrorism. That's why this trip is a mission undertaken with the deepest sense of humanity, because those other folks will just use vulnerable people for evil. Like in Iraq."

I don't want to go there. 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. "Ah, look Mr. President. I don't want to do this really. We'll get distracted and I'm here to do Africa with you." "OK, but we got rid of tyranny." It sounded like the television Bush. It sounded too justificatory, and he doesn't ever have to justify his Africa policy. 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, and I couldn't provide either.

"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. The cost has been too much. History will play itself out." "I think history will prove me right," he shoots back. "Who knows," I say.

It wasn't awkward. It wasn't uncomfortable. He is convinced, like Tony Blair, that he made the right decision. "I'm comfortable with that decision," he says. But he can't be. The laws of unintended consequences would determine that. At one point I suggest that he will never be given credit for good policies, like those here in Africa, because many people view him "as a walking crime against humanity." He looks very hurt by that. And I'm sorry I said it, because he's a very likable fellow.


OBloodyHell said...

Geldof's lack of ability to appreciate the part of his (Bush's) actions which he does approve of shows, in typical form, how childish and immature The Left is, in all things.

He knows Bush believes he is doing right, and certainly grasps that SOME of what Bush is doing is right, by his (Geldof's) own lights -- but he just can't gete past the fact that he doesn't approve of everything Bush has done and credit him with what he DOES approve of.

I, personally, might despise both Clintons, but I'm certainly mature enough to give them credit for anything which they might do which is right.

Carl said...

I disagree. Geldof does praise and publicize Bush policies with which he agrees (i.e., funding for Africa, AIDS, etc.). And Geldof's way more adult than the vast majority of lefties.

Still, you're right that Geldof can't allow the President's view on Iraq to be honestly held--meaning he must think Bush dishonest or dumb. It's rarely wise to presume your opponents are acting in bad faith.

SR said...

It is also rarely right to be as monumentally rude as Geldorf openly admits to being. It possibly worse than being wrong, as Geldorf will probably ultimately be shown to be, but will never be interviewed by time Magazine 25 years from now, and would never admit it in any event.

OBloodyHell said...

> I disagree. Geldof does praise and publicize Bush policies with which he agrees (i.e., funding for Africa, AIDS, etc.).

I'd argue that this is only because it gives him access to channels and resources which are to his benefit in promoting those causes. It's clear from his comments in the article and the statements made to Bush that he does not give any real credit to Bush for his interest in these policies and/or goals. I'm willing to be that Geldof believes Bush's only reason for supporting these causes is because of political expedience, not because Bush might actually consider them to be a worthwhile objective. That would require that Bush actually have a heart, and, well, Geldof may not have full-blown BDS, but you can sense the seedcorn of it in there: Bush cannot have a heart -- Bush cannot possibly believe that Iraq is The Right Thing to do.

I respect Geldof far more than most liberals -- after We Are The World, after LiveAid, he actually noticed that the money and food were not doing what they were supposed to be doing, and cared, one or both of which are false for most Liberal Idiots.

About 10-odd years ago, I went to a speech at the local university by Gorbachev. I thought he would speak in favor of the capitalist system, in favor of command economies and free trade. I was disappointed to find that, while he was not a hard-line socialist by any means, all of his beliefs still managed to encompass, not just the thread of socialism, but the central tenets, still fully intact. He had seen the absolute and utter failures of the Soviet system up front and probably better than most -- but still could not give up the idea for bad.

Geldof is much like Gorby -- he has seen the failures of unconstrained generosity and "kindness", but refuses to grasp that maybe -- probably often -- there can be adequate reasons for constraining such. He's a cause-blind lefty for all his experiences. This is one reason I think the key feature of The Left is not a lack of intelligence but an almost utter lack of wisdom.

Wisdom is the ability to learn from one's mistakes, and, ideally, from the mistakes of others -- great wisdom includes the ability to extend those lessons from the immediate causes to proximate and even distant causes. The Left simply does not display this quality in any way, shape, or form.