WASHINGTON — As it turns out, an Irish rock star has a lot of nice things to say about South Carolina’s senior U.S. senator.
In an exclusive interview with The Post and Courier on Tuesday, Bono — frontman of the band U2 and founder of the ONE Campaign — spent nearly five minutes extolling Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham.
“He gets s--- done in a way, in a place, where it’s hard to get things done,” said Bono, whose group advocates for foreign aid, most notably in Africa. “It’s people like him that just give me hope in the political process.
“I’ve seen him fight for what you call ‘partisan causes,’ but then you see him search for a way of working with people in order to get stuff done for the world’s poor,” Bono continued. “He puts his ego away. He puts even his politics away and he goes to work for people he’ll never meet or know. And that’s amazing.”
During the nearly eight years Bono and Graham have been acquainted, the two men have traveled together to Rwanda, Mozambique and “some of the most obscure places on earth.”
They have gone to troubled countries to evaluate needs and propose solutions, with Bono taking the role of high-profile humanitarian spokesman and Graham as a high-ranking legislator.
What the two men lack in common ground politically and socially they make up for in a shared commitment to the value of foreign aid and constructive U.S. involvement in the international community.
The pair recently returned from a trip to Turkey and Egypt where they visited settlements of refugees fleeing the Islamic State in Syria. Graham, chairman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee on State and Foreign Operations, invited Bono back to Washington to testify Tuesday at a hearing on foreign assistance and combating Islamic extremism.
Graham wants to pass an “emergency” multibillion-dollar aid package aimed at Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel. He is also touting a 21st-century “Marshall Plan” to help those countries and others recover from the strain of war with IS. Graham faces an uphill battle getting his colleagues to go along, especially when it comes to a supplemental appropriations package without offsets elsewhere in the federal budget process.
The challenge isn’t lost on Bono but he thinks Graham could rise to the occasion, selling the plan to members of his party and his constituents back home in South Carolina.
“Charleston people understand the role of the military. They’re very respectful,” Bono said. “So I know they will hear that and go, ‘This is not some Irish rock star’s daydream. This is tough-minded, thought-through approach.’ ”
As throngs of fans waited for autographs and photos in the hallway outside the appropriations committee hearing room, Bono, in his trademark tinted glasses, told the newspaper that Graham has rhetorical skills he himself lacks.
“He’s very eloquent. I can write, but I can’t talk like that,” Bono said. “I’m just amazed at how he can sit there and be so succinct. Brevity is not a characteristic with the Irish!”
He also called out Graham’s “secret weapon” at the negotiating table.
“He is one funny sucker,” Bono said, shaking his head. “Of course, when you’re laughing, you don’t know what you’re agreeing to.”
Emma Dumain is The Post and Courier’s Washington correspondent.