I saw an op-ed column in this morning's Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star by gay activist David Benkof. There wasn't a version online at the FLS web site, but I found one here. In the column, Benkof compares the administrations of Bush and Clinton and judges Clinton harshly against the work done by Bush in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
It is unquestionable that George W. Bush has done more to fight HIV/AIDS than any president in American history, including Clinton.But Benkof is a Republican, so lefties will dismiss his Bush defense as partisanship. So let's move on then to Bob Geldof, someone with better leftist credentials. Oddly, Geldof is the source of the most frank and open praise for Bush, even while condemning his Iraq policy.
Back in February, TIME ran this article by Bob Geldof, the musician now famous for his advocacy for African issues. Hardly a cheerleader for Bush, he does his level best to set the record straight about the President:
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.Geldof goes on to describe his conversations with Bush on Air Force One, as well as his visit with him to Africa.
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.
...Then, in what I took to be a reference to the supposed Chinese influence over the cynical Khartoum regime, Bush adds, "One thing I will say: Human suffering should preempt commercial interest."Geldof doesn't stop there, either. Of Bush's well-known speaking eccentricities, he says:
It's a wonderful sentence, and it comes in the wake of a visit to Rwanda's Genocide Memorial Center. The museum is built on the site of a still-being-filled open grave. There are 250,000 individuals in that hole, tumbled together in an undifferentiated tangle of humanity. The President and First Lady were visibly shocked by the museum. "Evil does exist," Bush says in reaction to the 1994 massacres. "And in such a brutal form." He is not speechifying; he is horror-struck by the reality of ethnic madness. "Babies had their skulls smashed," he says, his mind violently regurgitating an image he has just witnessed. The sentence peters out, emptied of words to describe the ultimately incomprehensible.
I have always heard that Bush mangles language and I've laughed at the satires of his diction. He shrugs them off, but I think he's sensitive about it. He has some verbal tics, but in public and with me he speaks fluently and in wonderful aphorisms, like:Only time will tell how George W. Bush will ultimately be judged. Whether it's on his Iraq policy, the economy or aid to Africa remains to be seen, and that judgment will be dictated largely by events taking place long after he leaves the White House.
- "Stop coming to Africa feeling guilty. Come with love and feeling confident for its future."
- "When we see hunger we feed them. Not to spread our influence, but because they're hungry."
- "U.S. solutions should not be imposed on African leaders."
- "Africa has changed since I've become President. Not because of me, but because of African leaders."