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Comments by YACCS
Tuesday, December 23, 2003

George Clooney (and his dad) vs. George W. Bush

George Clooney (and his dad) vs. George W. Bush

You'll hear that same note of skepticism -- minus the profanity -- from Clooney's father, Nick, a congenial Ohio Valley media star who's running for Congress as a Democrat in Kentucky's conservative 4th Congressional District.

"We sent 300,000 of our best and brightest on a snipe hunt," the elder Clooney says of the current situation in Iraq. "I seem to hear the people in our administration saying one thing and meaning something entirely different. When we say 'weapons of mass destruction and imminent danger,' what we really mean is 'not a sniff of weapons of mass destruction and apparently no imminent danger.' Saying something does not necessarily make it true, and simply saying it more often does not make it truer."

Like son, like father? Life and politics are definitely imitating art in this staunchly conservative swath of northern Kentucky. A Clooney is bashing a Bush -- only this time, it's for real. And though the election is still more than 10 months away, the congressional race here is already attracting national attention as a match-up of Hollywood star power vs. tough, homegrown conservative strength.

By all accounts, the Clooneys are aristocracy in this part of Kentucky. Nathan Smith, Democratic chairman of Kenton County, the largest county in the district, calls them "the Kennedys of Kentucky" (though that certainly isn't the compliment it once was). Nick's sister, Rosemary, was one of the iconic American singers and actresses of the post-World War II era; she starred with Bing Crosby in "White Christmas," and she remains a legend to older folks here. As a newspaper columnist and veteran television personality, Nick Clooney, now 69, has been a star in his own right. And young George is one of the globe's most eligible bachelors.

He'll almost certainly be back here in the months to come to help his dad campaign and raise money. But early indications are that President George W. Bush may visit the district to campaign on behalf of the Republican nominee to replace U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas, a conservative Blue Dog Democrat who's retiring after three terms in office
That leaves the candidate and his handlers to develop a subtle campaign plan, one that exploits George's celebrity while keeping the campaign firmly on a moderate course and avoiding the risks that arise when George talks about politics. "He would be here every day if I asked him," Clooney said of his son. "He has his own life, but surely we'll try to set aside a moment when George can come back and do a [campaign] walk-through or fundraiser."

Taken together, the Clooneys are "a Republican nightmare," gushes Smith, the Kenton County Democratic chairman. "The older voters love Nick and the women love George. They don't care if he is a right-winger, a left-winger or a damn Russian. They just know he is the hottest single man in Hollywood, he's from Kentucky and his dad is running for Congress. As a party chairman, I'll take that any day."

The GOP is mighty freaking arrogant about this race, and they shouldn't be. The Clooneys have been living in that region for what, 150 years? Nick Clooney is the Regis Philbin of Cinnicinatti, he's been on TV and in the papers since before George Clooney was born. He also did a stint as AMC's host.

I think trying to tar him and his son as hollywood liberals isn't going to work. First of all, Clooney is fiercely loyal to his dad and I wouldn't want to be the GOP functionary who attacks him. This is a guy who has a reputation for picking and winning fights. Ask Bill O'Reilly. He still sputters at the mention of the name George Clooney. Second, Nick Clooney has worked with and helped lots of people over the years. His family, not just George, can attest to his character. There are a lot of people who can say Nick Clooney helped me. Third, these people are well-liked. Unlike a lot of people, Clooney has never been shy about his Kentucky roots or his family. It's not like he's dropping in and saying "hey, I used to live here." He still visits, still watches the Reds, still has friends there.

This race could easily boil down to who can help the region over who has the right politics. They won't ever be able to match Clooney's money, for one thing. I think when you make $15m a film, you can spend the GOP into the gutter. Yes. the region is conservative, but the GOP isn't going to find anyone who's better liked or better known. And I think that's important. These people know everyone, been to every dinky church. People know the uncles and the aunts and the cousins and the family. Sure, the GOP can talk politics, but come on, this is a guy who has a real connection to the people of the area.

Also, yes, they can talk about George Clooney's politics, which have been the same since he was a teenager, but considering the seat is in play, I don't think this is a straight politics race. As long as Nick Clooney makes it clear he'll represent the people of the region honestly, the GOP will have a tougher time than they think. George Clooney is not just amazingly charsimatic, and reasonably intelligent, he's got a solid reputation in Hollwyood. He's the anti-Arnie. People love the guy, actors and crew and that is rare.

The Salon article mentions Three Kings, but doesn't mention the key moment of the production. While they were filming in Utah,
the director, David O Russell was abusing the extras. Just flipping out on them. Clooney writes the guy a letter, tries to talk to him. He setltes down, for a while, but then, a few days later, flips out on a crew member. By pure coinicidence, Clooney had gone to high school with the guy and I think the school was small, like 200 people. So he knew him and was friendly with the family as well. Russell at some point either humiliates or puts his hands on the guy and Clooney flips. Not in the Hollywood, call my agent, way, but in the I will fucking kill you way. The next thing anyone knows, Clooney is choking the director with his bare hands. They pull him off Russell and calm things down, but people were stunned. Actors don't choke directors to make a point. This was an issue of basic human decency. Besides, if he didn't say anything, it's not like people wouldn't know at home.

So yeah, he's a liberal. And he also stands up for himself and others. I think trying to make Clooney an issue would be a very stupid thing. People, even in that district, pay good money to see him work. They like him and liked his dad. Attacking them on the issues might work, attacking them on their personalities is going to blow up on them.

This is going to be an issue of trust and if Nick Clooney can remind the voters that they know and trust him, he could well win, regardless of the region's politics.

posted by Steve @ 1:34:00 AM

1:34:00 AM

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