George Clooney Skips Oscars for Obama and Biden

White House photo

George Clooney skipped skipped the glitz of Hollywood’s biggest night to meet with President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden early Monday morning about the crisis in Darfur.

Clooney had just returned from visiting refugee camps in Chad on a privately arranged trip and doing some exploring on his own with New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof and NBC’s Ann Curry. The actor/activist had been denied a visa by the Sudanese government, so he stayed in Chad, though traveled close to border.

I was with journalists who wanted to go into some areas that weren’t particularly safe. And we decided that we would go. And that wasn’t necessarily part of what the U.N. was looking to do.

Clooney, who spoke with Larry King from the lawn of the White House, described the separate meetings he took Monday with Obama and Biden. He had previously discussed Darfur with Obama during a news conference on the issue when Obama was a U.S. senator. The actor is a longtime Darfur activist and a Messenger of Peace for the United Nations.

I actually met with the president in the Oval Office for about 15 minutes…They’ve been very involved…Basically, we were just talking about coming back from Chad and right on the border of Darfur. And we were talking about there’s a moment coming up relatively soon — probably by the middle of next week — where the International Criminal Court is going to indict the president of Sudan for war crimes, which has never happened before — a sitting president.

Clooney feels diplomacy–including persuading China, which is heavily invested in Darfur to push for peace; and urging Egypt, the African Union and Europe to strengthen diplomatic efforts in the region–is the way to go:

This isn’t about needing American dollars. I understand that it’s a very difficult time. It’s not about needing American troops. It’s about needing what we do best — what we have done best since the start of this country — which is good, robust diplomacy all across the world…Diplomacy has to start and it has to be aggressive and it has to start soon. We have an opportunity here.

He also brought public pressure to bear, delivering

250,000 postcards signed by people all across the country who wanted to help give some political capital to and remind this administration of how important this issue is. It was from the Save Darfur people. But it’s from all across the country. And we’re probably going to have another 700,000 by the end of the week.

Clooney has hopes the Administration will listen–and hopes they will act:

Vice President Biden has been incredibly vocal on the issue. We had a long talk about the idea of, first and foremost, appointing a high level, full-time envoy that reports directly to the White House so that it’s not just temporary. We need somebody working on this, you know, every day — getting up every morning with their sole job to find peace in the area.

According to the United Nations an estimated 300,000 people have been killed through direct combat, disease or malnutrition since the conflict began six years ago. An additional 2.7 million people have been forced to flee their homes because of fighting among rebels, government forces and the allied Janjaweed militias.

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Lisa Derrick

Lisa Derrick

Los Angeles native, attended UC Berkeley and Loyola Marymount University before punk rock and logophilia overtook her life. Worked as nightclub columnist, pop culture journalist and was a Hollywood housewife before writing for and editing Sacred History Magazine. Then she discovered the thrill of politics. She also appears frequently on the Dave Fanning Show, one of Ireland's most popular radio broadcasts.