ABC News' Karen Travers reports: George Clooney met with President Obama and Vice President Biden separately tonight at the White House and they told him they would appoint a full-time, high-level envoy on Darfur that would report directly to the White House, he said.
“They assured me and wanted to assure the rest, whoever else is listening, this is high on their agenda,” the Academy Award-winning actor told reporters following the meetings. “This is a huge policy step for us.”
Clooney said that Obama and Biden told him that before the White House can send an envoy, there needs to be a full policy in place on Darfur.
Clooney has been an outspoken advocate on the issue of Darfur for several years and has traveled to the region a half dozen times. He was appointed last year as a United Nations Messenger of Peace and is a founder of “Not on Our Watch,” an organization that was started to bring awareness and resources to the conflict in Darfur.
Clooney came to the White House tonight to meet with Biden to discuss his trip this month to Eastern Chad, where he visited Darfurian refugee camps with New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, and to lobby the Obama administration to make Darfur one of its top foreign policy priorities.
“The vice president informed Mr. Clooney about the Administration’s ongoing review of Sudan policy and welcomed his observations from his trip. The vice president thanked Mr. Clooney for his work on this issue, which he believes is an important contribution to the public’s understanding of the conflict in Darfur,” Biden spokeswoman Elizabeth Alexander said.
Clooney was not scheduled to meet with Obama, but after running into him, the president invited him to sit down and talk in the Oval Office.
Clooney said Obama and Biden both said Darfur is one of several key foreign policies issues on the administration’s agenda.
“That’s good to hear because there was some concern this could fall off the radar. As you know there are quite a few other things going on in the world,” Clooney said.
During the campaign, Obama frequently spoke out on the Darfur crisis and criticized the Bush Administration for not doing more to prevent and stop genocide there. Around 300,000 people have been killed in the six-year conflict in Darfur and nearly 2.5 million people have been displaced.
Clooney said he brought with him to the White House 250,000 postcards signed by people from all across the United States urging the Obama Administration to work to end the crisis in Darfur.
“The administration has assured me that Darfur is one of a small handful of foreign policy reviews being undertaken at the senior most level,” Clooney said. “This is important -– it’s not about government money, not about government troops. It’s about involvement.”
I don't yet know how this summit was perceived in the diplomatic community. Bono is traveling in Africa and is unavailable for comment, and Angelina Jolie's spokeswoman did not return my calls.
I must say that George Clooney sure does look exactly like an Ambassador should, and looking the part is half-way there in this mass media age. He projects sincerity well, and has just enough grey at the temples to appear distinguished. And he's obviously mastered the patter: "this is high on their agenda" ... "there was some concern this could fall off the radar" ... "one of a small handful of foreign policy reviews being undertaken at the senior most level" ... "it’s not about government money, not about government troops." Why doesn't he just go for it and ask Obama for an appointment?
It would not be unprecedented. President Reagan appointed John Gavin, an actor friend, Ambassador to Mexico. I ran into Gavin several times at the embassy and he always appeared impeccably Ambassador-like. But I really saw what skills Gavin brought to the table when he was visiting the construction site of a new consulate office building in Hermosillo. He was wearing a business suit when he arrived at the work site, but then, the instant he spotted a local TV news crew coming down the street, he whipped off his suit coat, rolled up his shirt sleeves, loosened his tie, put on a hardhat, snatched up my sunglasses, and went strolling about pretending to be unaware of the news crew. I realized he had done a costume change in the blink of an eye and was now wearing inspecting-the-construction-site garb that was perfect for unposed action photos. Pro is pro, and he hadn't lost any of his performance abilities even though he hadn't made a movie in ages. Truly, these actors are not to be underestimated.
Clooney is old enough and wealthy enough to spend a few years in public service. Who better for Obama to appoint as that promised high-level envoy to Darfur? Or, better yet, appoint him Ambassador to Something or Other. It would be worth it just to see the resume the 'H' Bureau would have to write for his - no doubt fawning - confirmation hearing.