- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 2, 2002

We aren't going to grouse about the ludicrous spectacle of the treasury secretary and the rock star trekking across Africa for two weeks, ending Thursday, in a shared delusion of policy-making as "Odd Couple" episode. Or at least not much. We're already long weary of the reportorial focus on one-wears-pressed-pants, the-other-has-a-soup-stained-tie. And we'll withhold comment, mostly, on such idiotic moments as when, at an elementary school in Uganda, following speeches by a local school official, the American ambassador, and U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, U2's Bono arose from a slump and took his turn at the microphone, not to speak, but to belt out an a capella rendition of the Beatles tune, "A Long and Winding Road." And then sat down again. How meaningful.
The school visit may well have been the turning point of this ill-defined mission as Bono, the supposedly dynamic part of this touring duo, appeared to have entered an extended fit of pique. The rock star, it seems, was getting progressively hotter under his never-starched collar as he registered his failure to convince Mr. O'Neill to scatter billions of dollars in new aid and support large-scale debt relief. Citing the plight of the Uganda students who go hungry during the day as "an example of how you need big money for development," Bono told the press, "If the secretary cannot see that, we are going to have to get him a pair of glasses and a new set of ears."
There was no response from Mr. O'Neill on the efficiency of his eyeglasses or hearing. Meanwhile, reporters noticed the treasury secretary becoming a trifle testy over Bono's repeated attempts to turn photo-ops into mass pledging sessions. "There's a surface of cooperation, but underneath there's a clash," one aide on the tour told Canada's Globe and Mail. "If the next few days do not see a reconciliation of their disparate views, the trip is likely to be seen as a clash of opposites rather than a meeting of minds," said the Financial Times.
What else could anyone expect? Put a left-wing Irish rock star and an establishment American treasury secretary together for almost two weeks, and it shouldn't be surprising that safariwear soon becomes the safest topic of conversation. This may come as something of relief to the rest of President Bush's Cabinet, lest other celebrities have tried to follow Bono's example. Barbra Streisand, for example, has always made a hobby of foreign affairs and might have put in for globetrotting with Secretary of State Colin Powell. George Soros, for instance, might have been sent out with drug czar John Walters. Susan Sarandon has always taken an interest in police work and might have volunteered to help the Justice Department reorganize the FBI.
But no. The African tour just wasn't racking up kudos, at home or abroad. "They are following in what I call 'Tarzan's footsteps,'" Kenyan sociologist Katama Mkangi told Reuters. "The visit is based on a Big Brother attitude that says it's for the white race to develop Africa. And Bono is a bigger threat to Africa than O'Neill, because his thinking about more aid will just increase our dependence on the West."
Bono is a bigger threat to Africa? Guess he headed home none too soon.

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