ILLUSTRATION BY JOE CIARDIELLO FOR USN&WRLittle makes the White House team crazier than when critics, pundits, and reporters raise President Bush's legacy without mentioning his efforts in Africa and his $30 billion AIDS program. Like the Lost Continent itself, Africa gets forgotten in the mix of other legacy issues headlined by 9/11, the war, taxes, and partisanship. "It's frustrating," says a former top aide, "because it's one of the things he's most proud of."
This is an issue that involves all of the administration. "It's a family affair," says an aide. "When the president talks about all the reasons America is important, it's one of them." Bush's top aide, Josh Bolten, is described as "passionate" on the issue, first lady Laura Bush has toured African nations, and daughter Barbara Bush has cared for African AIDS babies. In the "Who knew?" category, Bush has met with more African leaders than any other president.
Well, enough waiting: We hear that Bush plans to talk up his Africa and AIDS efforts in the State of the Union address and will travel to Africa next month. His wish: Americans will hear voices like Zambian Bridget Chisenga, who credits the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief with saving her life. "I've seen the Lazarus effect," she told Bush privately last November. "I'm alive because I have received this help from your initiative."