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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To ensure that DATA was divorced from the stigma of vanity, Bono refused to bankroll it. After coaxing $1 million grants out of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, George Soros and software businessman Ed Scott, DATA got real office space and hired lobbyists--Tom Sheridan, a Democrat who had been a star of the domestic AIDS lobby, and Scott Hatch, a former Tom DeLay aide who ran the National Republican Campaign Committee. DATA employees churned out policy papers, while Hatch, Sheridan and Shriver organized intimate, bipartisan dinner parties (sample guest list: Senators Jesse Helms, Patrick Leahy and Orrin Hatch; former World Bank president Jim Wolfensohn; Clinton Treasury Secretary Larry Summers) to cement relationships and encourage the sense that at least on one issue, everyone could break bread. Spouses were invited, and to spice things up, Bono might ask a friend from another sphere, like Jordan's Queen Noor, to drop by. "Your first responsibility is not to be dull," he says. "Why don't the poor deserve flash in their representation?"

All that helped prepare Bono for the most daunting challenge to his powers of persuasion: the Administration of George W. Bush. When Bush took office in 2001, development groups presumed that debt, AIDS and trade for Africa would be at the bottom of his agenda, largely because Bush said they would be. But Bono had forged too many productive odd pairings to simply give up. And as it turned out, a few White House doors were already open.

"The key to some extent is faith," says Mike Gerson, the President's assistant for policy and strategic planning. Gerson and Budget Director Josh Bolten are evangelical Christians who believe there's a biblical imperative to help the world's poor. Along with then National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, they opened a dialogue with Bono and ultimately persuaded Bush to meet him. "I took my boys, 8 and 10, to their first rock concert--U2 here in Washington," says Gerson. "We met Bono beforehand, and he says, 'I'm so honored that you would pick me for your first concert. I'm a little hoarse tonight. I need you to do me a favor. If you hear my voice going out, I want you to pray for me.' He's just obviously a good guy."

Born to a Protestant mother and a Catholic father, Bono describes his faith as "promiscuous." He quotes Scripture and counts meetings with Pope John Paul II and Billy Graham among the most significant of his life. "I try to live it rather than talk about it because there are enough secondhand-car salesmen for God," he says. "But I cannot escape my conviction that God is interested in the progress of mankind, individually and collectively."

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