The Constant Charmer

The inside story of how the world's biggest rock star mastered the political game and persuaded the world's leaders to take on global poverty. And he's not done yet

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The G-8 Summit is an annual gathering of the world's most powerful people at which two things are always accomplished: an awkward group photo is taken and no one has any fun. On the July night that this year's summit began in Gleneagles, Scotland, Bono thought it might be nice to change things up a bit. U2 had scheduled a concert at a stadium in nearby Edinburgh, and Bono, as is his custom, invited pretty much everyone he thought would be interesting to drop by, which explains how George Clooney, Hollywood's leading lefty, and Paul Wolfowitz, president of the World Bank and an architect of the Iraq war, ended up in the same room backstage. "It could have been a little uncomfortable," says Clooney. "In fact, I was kind of expecting it to be."

A few minutes before U2 was due to perform, Bono strolled in and plopped himself down--not on the couch or near it but on top of it, like a household pet. Then he began talking about the one interest that Clooney, Wolfowitz and almost everyone else who had come to Scotland that day had in common: persuading developed nations to help lift 1 billion people out of extreme poverty. Bono's precise words on the subject are lost to history. "I couldn't stop looking at him," says Clooney. "He's so affectless. You felt like you're in the living room with your buddy who just happens to be a global rock star and has the world's best interests at heart." Says Wolfowitz: "Pomposity and arrogance are the enemies of getting things done. And Bono knows how to get things done."

Those kinds of pleasant collisions happen a lot when Bono is around. Ashley Judd mixes in the greenroom at a U2 show with Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway scooter and an aborning machine that makes even the filthiest water drinkable. Bill Gates goes to a nightclub, gets called a "bad mother______" by Diddy and understands that it is intended as a compliment. Of course, if Bono were to rely solely on his ability to get powerful people in a room with famous people and then hit them with a speech about moral obligations, he would be little more than the lead singer in the war on global poverty--a nice title but limited in its power. "If you really want to be effective, you have to bring something to the table beyond just charisma," says Rick Santorum, a conservative Republican Senator from Pennsylvania. "The important thing is, Bono understands his issues better than 99% of members of Congress."

Knowing the facts is crucial--"Everybody hates a dilettante," says Bono--but so is knowing your audience. When he lunches with President Bush, as he did most recently in October, Bono quotes Scripture and talks about small projects in Africa that have specific metrics for success. Then he asks for more money to fund them. In the office of Senator Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, he speaks of multilateralism and how development aid reminds the rest of the world of America's greatness. Then he asks for more money. In stadiums, he tells people that if they join together, they have a chance to make poverty history. Then U2 plays One.

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