Actor George Clooney talks to reporters at the White House
George Clooney brought a dash of glamour Thursday to Washington—long mocked as "Hollywood for ugly people"—as he emerged from a meeting with President Barack Obama and discussed the crisis in South Sudan, Obama's re-election prospects, "Kony 2012" and how long he'll keep the beard.
Surrounded by reporters in the sun-drenched White House driveway, Clooney also took a question on whether he might consider joining the administration.
"I don't find that I would be much help in any other position than the one I am in," he said, pouring cold water on the prospect there could one day be an Undersecretary Clooney.
"I don't make policy. All I can really do is amplify the situation and hope to bring a spotlight to it so that we're talking about it for at least a brief period of time," added Clooney, a fervent advocate for helping South Sudan.
How do Obama's elections prospects look?
"I don't know. I hope they're very good. I'm a Democrat and I'm a supporter of the president. So I hope he has a successful election," Clooney said.
Asked about the controversial Kony 2012 video—a viral, 30-minute documentary on guerrilla leader Joseph Kony that chronicles the atrocities of his Lord's Resistance Army in Central Africa—Clooney said he had not yet seen it but gave the effort a thumbs-up.
"Anytime you're making the names of people who are charged for war crimes famous, I think that's good. I think the name Omar al-Bashir should be famous. I think people should know it," he said, referring to Sudan's president, who is under indictment by the International Criminal Court in the Hague in connection to atrocities committed in his country's western region of Darfur.
Clooney—who was flanked by human rights activist John Prendergast—said he talked with Obama about the urgent humanitarian needs in South Sudan and emphasized the urgent need for the creation of a "humanitarian corridor" to ensure deliveries of aid to populations at risk for starvation.
"There is a very, very great possibility of … a lot of people starving to death in the next few months if we don't act soon finding some way to get the government of Khartoum to open up some form of a humanitarian corridor," he warned. "Obviously that's not something that we do unilaterally—it will have to be done with the help of many different countries."
And he described Obama as optimistic about getting Chinese President Hu Jintao to help. China normally imports roughly 6 percent of its oil from Sudan, but the president of independent South Sudan, which holds most of the country's reserves, recently shut off the spigot as a negotiating tactic amid disputes with the north about borders, oil revenues and alleged human rights abuses.
"For a moment, there is a moment that we can appeal to China—not on a humanitarian issue, which, a lot of us have gone to China and tried to do and it has oftentimes fallen on deaf ears," Clooney said.
George Clooney sees 'donor fatigue' on Sudan
The actor, a founder of the Satellite Sentinel project to monitor alleged atrocities in Sudan, said he saw some "donor fatigue" with regards to the crisis in Sudan.
"Anytime the economy is going through a difficult time there will always be donor fatigue. There is no question that there is donor fatigue. There is misery fatigue. I think people turn on the news, and they see an awful lot of bad stories, and they think, Oh, this is another terrible story,'" Clooney said.
"On the other hand, having traveled around the world, and having tried to raise money in other parts of the world, this is still the most generous country in the world, and truly the most compassionate," Clooney went on to say.
So, a journalist wanted to know, how long will he keep the beard?
That drew a chuckle from Clooney, who sat next to First Lady Michelle Obama at Wednesday's state dinner at the White House in honor of visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife, Samantha.
"I have to buy a new razor now."
Reporters cover Obama decision to release Clooney from the Strategic Handsome Reserve
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- George Clooney
- President Barack Obama
- South Sudan