- The Washington Times - Friday, July 11, 2003

Republican presidents — George W. Bush, in particular — are used to taking their lumps from a rock elite steeped in infantile leftism. Image-conscious and conditioned by vocation to think in imaginatively symbolic terms instead of hard realities, rockers tend to be more impressed by political posturing and rhetoric than by deeds.

Thus, as Mr. Bush winds up his trip to five African nations today, it comes as something of a shock that both U2 frontman and roving international humanitarian Bono and Band Aid veteran Bob Geldof have bucked the rock establishment’s tacit party line by applauding Mr. Bush’s AIDS relief efforts in Africa.

Mr. Geldof, the Irish rocker who has been much praised for his dedication to famine relief in Africa, surprised more than a few music fans during a recent trip to the continent when he called Mr. Bush’s administration “the most radical — in a positive sense — in its approach to Africa since Kennedy.”

The former Boomtown Rats frontman went even further, declaring that Mr. Bush is more committed toward battling AIDS and famine in Africa than, gasp, his predecessor, Bill Clinton.

Mr. Bush pledged $15 billion to fight AIDS in Africa during his State of the Union address and then backed it up by squeezing the money out of a deficit-minded Congress.

This week, Bono told a group of reporters during a teleconference he was ready to stand behind the Bush administration, should it stick to its word.

“If President Bush delivers on his one-two punch — the Millennium Challenge Account, $10 billion over three years, this AIDS Initiative, $15 billion over five years … — I am ready to trumpet that and give him the applause he deserves,” Bono told the reporters.

The Millennium Challenge Account is a Bush initiative that recognizes — and rewards — developing countries that embrace fair democratic actions and open markets.

“I’ll tell you, there will be very few things he will do in his tenure as president of the United States that will impact more lives,” Bono added.

Not that Mr. Bush is going to win the Rock the Vote primary anytime soon. In his recent Wolf Trap concert here, Elvis Costello, for one, made a pointed gesture of solidarity with pop’s unlikely new First Amendment martyrs and queens of political dissent, the Dixie Chicks.

Yet maybe, just maybe, there are some rock stars whose politics are motivated by genuine, disinterested altruism.

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