Looking permanently haggard beneath tousled hair and five-day whiskers, a low-slung tie his only concession to Congress, Irish rock singer Bob Geldof came to Capitol Hill yesterday to shrug off praise and awards and plead for more help for famine-wracked Africa.
"Congress can do a lot," said the 32-year-old who has spearheaded the $100 million rock against famine movement, including "using some of the military budget to try to get an airlift" of supplies to particularly hard-hit regions of the continent.
Deflecting questions about ancillary records and tapes being produced from the historic transatlantic concert ("It's a boring question"), he returned time and again to the logistical realities of hunger relief and urged Americans to put politics aside for humanity."The morality on which aid is based I really despise," he told an afternoon press conference.
"It is not our business to wag a finger and say this is the way you ought to behave. We did that for . . . years and it was called colonialism. It didn't work and the end result is what we see today.
"As far as I understand our brief, it is to keep people alive. Death doesn't respect geopolitical borders . . .
"If onerous conditions are imposed" on the relief efforts by politically sensitive African governments, "we will move elsewhere," he said. "We will keep people alive wherever we can get to them."
Dressed in a green specked suit, yellow high-top tennis shoes and white socks, Geldof sandwiched a brief ceremony at the Rayburn House Office Building between meetings with Peter McPherson, administrator of the Agency for International Development, aimed at speeding delivery of relief supplies.
He said Live Aid had recently purchased three freighters, 40 tractors and 60 trailers to facilitate deliveries of food and medicine by Live Aid and for use free by any relief agency.
"It's clear we can have a partnership to feed people," McPherson said. "There are things we can do" to help the Live Aid efforts "and frankly they have a perspective which is helpful to us as well. We will immediately begin to work together . . . "
Geldof appeared appreciative but unimpressed while receiving the Congressional Arts Caucus Award (the first to a non-American) and a framed copy of the unanimously passed joint congressional resolution, signed by President Reagan, declaring last July 13 Live Aid Day.
Rep. Mickey Leland (D-Tex.), chairman of the Select Committee on Hunger and a member of the Arts Caucus, praised Geldof for humanitarian efforts in raising millions for famine relief and focusing public concern worldwide.
"With the vision of an artist, the man we honor has shown that human beings are not powerless in the face of tragedy," Leland said. Though given by the Arts Caucus, he said, the award "is really from the children of Africa."
Geldof appeared uneasy with the personal praise and turned aside suggestions that his work might win him the Nobel Peace Prize.
"I'm a pop singer," he said, "so all that about the Nobel Prize and stuff, it's weird."
It is ironic, he said, that the "spurious glamor of pop music should draw attention" to such a basic issue as human hunger.
"The most shameful thing for me is that the price for saving a life this year," he said, "is a plastic record."