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.”
Hilarious. And this is funny too:
We sat in the large, wood-paneled conference room of Air Force One as she cruised the skies of the immense African continent below us. Gathered around the great oval table, I wondered how changed was the man who said in 2000 that Africa “doesn’t fit into the national strategic interests, as far as I can see them.”
“Hold on a minute. I said that in response to a military question. Condi! Canya get in here,” the President shouts out the open door, leaning back in his chair. The Secretary of State, looking glamorous and fresh despite having been diverted to Kenya to articulate the U.S.’s concern over matters there before jetting back to Rwanda to join her boss, sits down. “Hi, Bob.” “Hi, Condi.” It’s like being inside a living TV screen.
Rwanda brings him back again to Darfur. In an interview with African journalists, Bush explained the difficulties there now that the “rebels” had broken up into ever-smaller factions, no longer representing their own clans but their own warlord interests. What should we do in this very 21st century asymmetric situation? Impose a wall of peacekeepers first, stop the massacre and rape, and begin negotiating? “The U.N. is so slow, but we must act,” Bush says.
Action may very well be his wish, but because of the U.S.’s intervention elsewhere and his own preemptive philosophy, it is now unacceptable for the U.S. to engage unilaterally. By his own deeds, he has rendered U.S. action in Darfur impossible. As for the rest of the world, for all their oft-spoken pieties, they seem to be able to agree on precisely nothing. Meanwhile, the rape and killing continue, Khartoum plays its game of murder and we won’t even pay for the helicopters that the U.N. forces need to protect themselves. Pathetic.
Indeed. And maybe if the rest of the world would cut him a break, he wouldn’t be in that bind, eh?
Earlier, in his private lounge, which is just behind the bedroom with the twin beds with blue blankets, complete with Presidential Seal, we’d talked of personal stuff. I’d been asking about the laundry arrangements. How do they get the presidential shirts, socks, undies, etc., done on this thing? I’m used to rock-’n'-roll tours where there’s a washing machine and dryers set up backstage, but this is gigging on a whole other level. At least 20 military transporters haul presidential necessities around the planet. At our hotel in Ghana, the porter carrying my bag said they had thrown out all the other guests because “the President of the World was coming.”
“Laundry, huh?” the President mused. “Y’know, I’ve never asked that. I usually just wear the same thing all day, but if I need to change, there’s always a room I can go to. Laundry, huh? Is this the interview, Geldof? It’s certainly a different technique!” He’s showing me around because I’ve asked if I can get Air Force One stuff to bring home to the kids. “Hey guys, get Geldof the links and pins and stuff. And the M&M’s. Didja know I got my own presidential M&M’s?” Wow. “Yeah, cool, right? They’ll love ‘em.” They did. They’re in a presidential box with his autograph on them. The Queen doesn’t have that. Or the Pope. And I muse later from Car 25 in the 33-car motorcade that there are probably only three people in the world who can bring crowds like this out onto the street — the Queen, the Pope and the President of the United States, and only one’s a politician. “Jed,” the President says to the man doing the ironing between the twin beds. “How do we do the laundry on this thing?” “We use hotels, sir.” Ah.
This article is a riot. And Very Important!