There’s a remarkable article in the current Time
magazine by Bob Geldof, musician and activist, regarding a recent trip
he made to Africa with President George W. Bush. Geldof, a liberal,
disagrees with Bush on many things, especially Iraq. Geldof is also
fair. He has observed what Bush has done in Africa, particularly on
AIDS, and is enormously grateful for the president’s truly
unprecedented actions. To cite just one example: in 2003, only 50,000
Africans were on HIV antiretroviral drugs; today, thanks to American
relief, 1.3 million receive free medicine.
In an illuminating article, there are, however, two items Geldof left uncovered:
First, which Geldof acknowledges but doesn’t
look to explain, is how Bush gets no credit for this remarkable gesture
from liberals, who pride themselves on their compassion and sensitivity
to race, to Africa, to the poor, to the downtrodden, to AIDS victims,
to debt-ridden Third World nations, to genocide, to famine relief, and
on and on. If a Democratic president had done what Bush has done for
Africa, the New York Times would recommend a 100-foot bronze
statue on the Mall. Instead, there is utter silence concerning this
stunning, expensive act of human charity—one certainly beyond what
American presidents would ever be expected to do. Liberal college
professors and Hollywood types would be walking around with special
little ribbons on their lapels representing the president’s Africa
Second, this example of human charity by Bush is actually a case of Christian charity, directly linked to his faith, and has been from the outset. Here’s how it developed:
In a shocker in his January 2003 State of the
Union, Bush asked Congress for $15 billion for AIDS in Africa—not a
small sum, especially during a time of recession and record budget
deficits and with war approaching in Iraq on the heels of Afghanistan.
It meant billions in taxpayer dollars for drugs, treatment, and
Bush followed by launching a sustained
commitment. A few months later, on April 29, he issued a major
statement in the East Room, in which he assembled the press, the
secretary of state, and others, and urged Congress to “act quickly” on
his “emergency plan.” He tried to enlist the world in this “great
effort,” calling the AIDS “tragedy” the “responsibility of every
nation.” He said it was a “dignity of life” issue. This “urgent work,”
he said, was a “moral imperative” on which “time is not on our side.”
“[T]his cause is rooted in the simplest of moral duties,” he lectured
the press assembled. “When we see this kind of preventable suffering …
we must act. When we see the wounded traveler on the road to Jericho,
we will not, America will not, pass to the other side of the road.”
Just four weeks later, on May 27, he signed his
$15 billion plan into law. Few things have happened so quickly in
American politics—not even Marshall Plan aid occurred so fast.
When he signed the bill Bush challenged Europe
to match the U.S. commitment without delay. The following week, at the
Group of Eight summit for the world’s wealthiest nations, held in
France, he pleaded for help in this “moral” obligation. In late June
2003, he continued the cause in a speech at the Washington Hilton. In
July, he made a major trip to Africa, where he again spoke out on AIDS.
George W. Bush, devout Christian, in the role
of Good Samaritan, was doing what no leader of any country had ever
done for Africa.
I wrote on this in an op-ed for the San Francisco Chronicle in September 2004. The opinion editor of the Chronicle
was, like Bob Geldof, a fair liberal; he happily ran the piece,
thinking it would enlighten his readership, especially the faith
component—a bracing revelation to an angry left that insists Bush’s
“born-again faith” makes him a narrow-minded troglodyte.
What was the response? I received hateful
emails telling me that not only was Bush—and myself as well—a “moron,”
but the entire Africa AIDS thing was a ruse, a sham, and the money
wasn’t even being spent. Bush was a “liar,” and so was I. One emailer
acted like a child with his hands over his ears screaming, “Liar, liar,
pants on fire!” Facts made no difference whatsoever.
Likewise, there is denial or disinterest by
liberals who dominate America culture and shape perception: Hollywood,
academia, media. The left so detests this president that it will not
give him credit for anything. He is a new kind of Frankenstein’s monster: half Torquemada and half Boris Karloff.
Bob Geldof asked Bush “why doesn’t America know
about this?” Bush answered: “I tried to tell them. But the press
weren’t much interested.” That’s exactly right—no exaggeration.
I’m not surprised by the lack of credit Bush
has received on this from the right. Conservatives don’t like how this
president spends money like a drunken sailor, and his actions toward
Africa is viewed another such manifestation—a raft of do-gooder
poppycock that isn’t the job of the federal government.
The big story is why the left isn’t thrilled,
and then, beyond that, the deeper silence that refuses to acknowledge
the link between this work of Bush benevolence and his Christian faith.
For George W. Bush, this is simply a reward he will need to receive
much later—much like the Good Samaritan.