WASHINGTON — Before getting on stage before his fans in a Wednesday night concert, U2 frontman Bono bent President Bush’s ear about the world’s poor.
The rock star and the president had lunch in the private dining room off the Oval Office, ordering from the menu at the same mess hall where White House staffers get their lunch. Bush, dressed in the classic presidential uniform of suit and red tie, also showed Bono, dressed in his trademark black jeans and sunglasses, around the Oval Office.
Bono told Rolling Stone magazine in an interview before they dined that he had no fear of meeting Bush or any other world leader.
“They should be afraid, because they will be held accountable for what happened on their watch,” Bono told the magazine for an article on newsstands Friday. “I’m representing the poorest and the most vulnerable people. On a spiritual level, I have that with me. I’m throwing a punch, and the fist belongs to people who can’t be in the room, whose rage, whose anger, whose hurt I represent.
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“The moral force is way beyond mine, it’s an argument that has much more weight than I have. So I’m not feeling nervous.”
Over an hour and 40 minute meeting, Bono and Bush discussed debt relief, AIDS, malaria and world trade, said presidential spokesman Scott McClellan. McClellan said they also talked about the concerts that U2 was preparing to put on at Washington’s MCI Center Wednesday and Thursday night.
Bono ‘capable of having a row’
In the Rolling Stone interview, Bono heaped praise on Bush for providing $15 billion to help fight AIDS in Africa, money that is helping pay for anti-retroviral drugs. He said he was disappointed that Bush and Congress had cut the Millennium Challenge program that gives foreign aid to countries that pursue political, economic and human rights reforms, but he’ll keep pushing them to fund the full amount that the president promised.
Bono said he is “capable of having a row” if he doesn’t get what he wants. He said he once criticized Bush for not getting the Millennium Challenge money out quick enough and was rebuked for it.
“One senator threw a newspaper at me in a meeting. ’How dare you disrespect the president of the United States!”’ Bono told the magazine.
Bono said he doesn’t support any president from the left or the right, but he has a hard time criticizing Bush after he has sent the money to Africa. He said he’s made it clear that he doesn’t support the war in Iraq, but he doesn’t campaign against it because his main priority is helping the poor and disadvantaged.
“I work for them,” Bono said. “If me not shooting my mouth off about the war in Iraq is the price I pay, then I’m prepared to pay it.”
But, he added, “I’m a big-mouthed Irish rock star. Of course it frustrates me.”
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