WASHINGTON – U2 singer Bono says he has a new nickname around the White House: "The Pest."
The Irish rocker met with President Bush in the Oval Office on Thursday to discuss AIDS and Bush's new initiative on U.S. aid to poor countries. Afterward, he accompanied Bush to a speech, then had another session with White House officials.
"I am a pest, I am a stone in the shoe of a lot of people living here in this town, a squeaky wheel," he told reporters.
"It is much easier and hipper for me to be on the barricades with a handkerchief over my nose -- it looks better on the resume of a rock 'n' roll star," he said. "But I can do better by just getting into the White House and talking to a man who I believe listens, wants to listen, on these subjects."
Bush saluted Bono in the speech for his willingness "to lead to achieve what his heart tells him, and that is nobody -- nobody -- should be living in poverty and hopelessness in the world."
Bono called the global AIDS epidemic "the defining crisis of our age," and said Bush branded it "genocide."
It wasn't clear who Bush believed was perpetrating the genocide. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the president "was using it figuratively as a way to describe an immense tragedy."
Bono said he interpreted Bush's word to mean that "through our inaction, we are complicit."
The rock star, in a little shot at Bush, said AIDS is "a bigger threat than rogue states. It's a bigger threat than Saddam Hussein."
Bono never removed his trademark wraparound shades during his day with the president.
"I thought the president looked at them quite jealously," he joked. He wasn't about to lend them to Bush.
"The last time I did that was with the Pope, and he took them away with him," he said.