Irish rocker and AIDS advocate Bono came to Capitol Hill on Thursday, leaving star struck fans (reporters) and rare praise for Congress in his wake.
Visiting for World AIDS day, Bono and R&B singer Alicia Keys met privately with lawmakers to push for continued support for foreign aid and express appreciation. With a keen eye for the current partisan climate on the Hill, Bono struck just the notes to charm beleaguered lawmakers. He noted support from both Republicans and Democrats.
“This is probably the one thing that America seems in agreement about. We’re so eternally grateful and maybe only an Irish rock star can get away with saying that,” Bono told reporters after the meeting. “You’re very good at beating yourself up in this country, but just for today you should realize that you have personally -- every taxpayer in this country – has paid for 5 million people to stay alive. The United States has done that. And you should be very, very proud.”
Cutting government spending has been the primary focus of this Congress, and foreign aid has become a new target, particularly among Republican deficit hawks. Bono and Keys acknowledged the difficulty of making the case for AIDS programs.
“Unless the American people decide to go the next step, it’s going to be very, very hard,” he said, adding that Republicans sent a clear message.
“No inefficiencies will be tolerated. If you can show the American people real value, that money is being spent well, then they’ll run with it. But if there’s any sense of this being misspent there is a zero tolerance. And we agree with that.”
Asked about what it was like to meet with the powerful top appropriators – a group known as on the Hill as the Cardinals – the Irishman came prepared with a quip.
“I always bless myself before I meet [Sen.] Pat Leahy,” he said.