Brownback joined Academy Award-winning actor George Clooney Thursday at a news conference to highlight the ongoing genocide in the Darfur region of the Sudan.

Also there: Sen. Barack Obama, an Illinois Democrat who has worked closely with the Republican in trying to bring Darfur to the forefront of the congressional agenda and the American consciousness.

For all the efforts of the two senators over the past three years, though, both conceded Clooney’s aura probably could do more than they’ve been able to thus far — as the overflow crowd at the National Press Club indicated.

“I really want to thank George Clooney for investing your political capital — your star power — in this topic,” Brownback said.

“You’re giving voice to people who don’t have a voice. You have a lot of things you could do. You could just sit at home. But you didn’t. By you going, you draw attention, and we get this. … You give voice to people who don’t have a voice. And without this, they die. They die.”

About 400,000 have died so far. Two million more are displaced and risk starvation. Even Thursday, there were reports of helicopter gunships heading into Darfur to attack more villages, Obama said. ~Kansas City Star

I suppose now the Clooney hate-fest that has animated some portions of the right will come screeching to a halt as we all realise that in this case Clooney’s entry into the political field is deeply moral and wonderful? Except that it isn’t. It’s the same ill-informed “humanitarianism,” sentimentality and politics of victimisation that informs so much liberal activism. The Sudan is a timely target for these reflexive, unthinking reactions. It is what Thomas Fleming calls the “pornography of compassion” acted out as high policy debate. Sen. Brownback, Ross Douthat’s poster boy for “theoconservatism”, is not doing the cause of “Darfur awareness” any favours by prominently linking it to Clooney, when it is something close to axiomatic among ordinary Republicans that George Clooney is the obnoxious political celebrity par excellence these days. A lot of people may become more aware of the situation in Darfur because of Clooney’s fame and conclude (not unreasonably) that activism on behalf of Darfur is more the same liberal internationalist bleeding-heart nonsense that informs the politics of most actors and pop stars, and which pulled us into the Balkans and suckered more than a few people into supporting the invasion of Iraq. The presence of the South Side’s own Barack Obama will not improve matters. At the Oscars, Clooney exulted in being “out of touch” for the sake of upholding certain progressive ideas. Now he and the senator can be out of touch together.