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The most politically effective celebrities of all time (George included).

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The most politically effective celebrities of all time (George included).

Post by watching on Fri Apr 29 2011, 23:07

I didn't find this - there was a link at Frenchies. Newsweek article discussing the 20 most politically effective celebrities.

The NJ 20
The most politically effective celebrities of all time.
By Ronald Brownstein
April 28, 2011 | 4:44 p.m.

Francis X. Bushman is almost forgotten now, but a century ago he was one of the first silent film stars, a handsome, powerfully built leading man. Traveling by train one day to a benefit in Boston with Mary Pickford, another star of the silent screen often called “America’s Sweetheart,” Bushman found himself summoned to a meeting with William Howard Taft, who was also on board.

To Bushman’s astonishment, the president told the actor that he “envied” him. “He’d watched the demonstration at the station—Mary had had her clothes almost torn off her,” Bushman told an interviewer decades later, “and I looked like the wrath of God.” Taft, who was heading for a landslide defeat in 1912, saw in the demonstration all the support that he had lost. “All the people love you,” the president lamented, “and I can’t have even the love of half the people.”

The encounter between Bushman and Taft is a reminder that the fascination between Washington and Hollywood—which will be on glittering display again this weekend at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner—is a much older phenomenon than is often recognized. Al Jolson, then a Broadway star but soon The Jazz Singer in Hollywood’s first “talkie,” led delegations of entertainers into the Republican presidential campaigns of Warren Harding in 1920 and Calvin Coolidge in 1924. (“Keep cool with Coolidge,” Jolson warbled.) Louis B. Mayer, the formidable final M in MGM (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) was a close friend and adviser to Herbert Hoover, not usually considered among the more starstruck presidents. Franklin D. Roosevelt, who wasn’t starstruck either, bedazzled Hollywood; even John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton couldn’t match the star power that assembled for FDR: immortals such as Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Humphrey Bogart, Orson Welles, Jimmy Cagney, and Groucho Marx.

The relationship between the capital of glamour and the capital of power has endured for decades, but it hasn’t remained static. From the 1920s to the 1960s, most stars (with such exceptions as Welles and Melvyn Douglas) saw themselves in supporting roles—they were more likely to wave from the stage than deliver a speech from it. As all institutions lost authority in the 1960s, that deference crumbled, and stars became increasingly willing to assert their personal views. “Who’s to say who’s an expert?” Paul Newman tellingly declared during the 1968 presidential campaign, when he invested his formidable fame in Eugene McCarthy’s primary challenge to President Johnson. “Just because I can sway more people than I have a right to, does that mean I’m not entitled to my opinions or to voice them?”

In the decades since, the star with a cause has become a mainstay of both political and cultural life. Rare is the political campaign or cause so obscure that it can’t attract even a single celebrity. Stars, in fact, now participate in politics so routinely that in their visits to Washington or campaign appearances most of them leave no more imprint than a breeze along the beach in Malibu. Not infrequently, celebrities have stumbled on political terrain, seeming self-righteous or shallow: think of Jane Fonda on the left or Anita Bryant on the right. Even as colossal a cultural force as Oprah Winfrey was seared by a scandal at a girls’ school she built in South Africa.

But over the years, some entertainers have made a lasting mark on politics and public affairs. In the special report that follows, National Journal offers its list of the 20 (22 if you include couples) most politically effective celebrities of all time. We defined celebrities as actual entertainers, not executives or producers. Our measure of effectiveness was this: Which stars made the greatest positive impact on their chosen causes or campaigns?

To answer that question, NJ interviewed dozens of staff members on Capitol Hill and asked the Republican and Democratic operatives whom it regularly consults on other issues for its Insiders Poll which contemporary stars have been the most effective advocates in Washington and the most valuable surrogates on the campaign trail. But the final list is inherently subjective. It represents the assessment of NJ’s editors and is intended not as a last word but as the invitation to start a conversation.

Like everything else in Hollywood, political activism has been in and out of vogue over the years. The past decade has produced a relatively high level of engagement, but activism of a distinct kind. Two important trends are driving contemporary activism among entertainers. One is a shift away from electoral campaigns toward direct philanthropic action. The second is a shift from domestic concerns toward international issues, particularly the intertwined challenges of poverty, health, and violence in Africa and other parts of the developing world. The cumulative effect is that the biggest stars today are less likely to be found campaigning for a candidate in Detroit than visiting a refugee camp in Darfur.

Several factors explain this shift. The intense polarization of American politics probably encourages celebrities to focus on international issues that don’t divide their audiences as sharply. “There’s hardly a person who is going to blame you for going to Uganda; those issues don’t have any political downside,” says Lara Bergthold, who has organized celebrities for liberal causes since the 1980s. Further, as the entertainment industry has grown more global, so has the incentive for stars to pursue global causes, notes Craig Minassian, a former HBO producer who consults with the Clinton Global Initiative (and who also recently produced Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity). “To the extent they are addressing issues that are important in Africa or Asia, it also helps them from a global-brand perspective,” he points out. Both Bergthold and Minassian note that involvement in development issues also provides stars with more-tangible evidence of effectiveness for the time they commit. “[Fighting] cancer feels like you never get over the hump, but you really can get clean water to 1,000 villagers in Malawi,” Minassian says.

Two individuals have also had a powerful impact in shaping the contemporary pattern of Hollywood activism. One is President Obama. Although Obama has many Hollywood admirers (as demonstrated by his lucrative fundraising visit there last week), he has generally kept his distance from celebrities. That’s an eminently logical response after Republicans attempted in 2008 to portray Obama himself as a vapid celebrity. But the president’s caution has reinforced the tilt toward philanthropy over campaigns. The other, even more consequential figure, is Bono, the frenetic front man for the global rock band U2. Bono, to a remarkable extent, has cut the mold for modern celebrity activism: The other most effective contemporary celebrities (from George Clooney and Angelina Jolie to Matt Damon and Ben Affleck) have followed his path of focusing on international poverty and health, building institutions, emphasizing direct action over campaigning, and working politically with both parties. This isn’t a ranking, but if it were, Bono unquestionably would have topped NJ’s list as the most politically effective celebrity of all time.

National Journal Editorial Director Ronald Brownstein is the author of The Power and the Glitter: The Hollywood-Washington Connection (Pantheon 1990). Some of the material in this article was adapted from that book.


On screen, Clooney represents a throwback to a bygone age of Hollywood elegance—the closest thing to another Cary Grant that the film community has produced. In his political life, Clooney is helping to forge the emerging model of 21st-century celebrity activism. Following a mold cut primarily by Bono (whom he freely acknowledges as an inspiration), Clooney is global in his orientation (his principal political cause has been the violence in Darfur); disciplined in his commitments (the relief telethon he organized after the Haitian earthquake was a rare break from his focus on Africa); interested more in direct action than in electoral politics (although he supports President Obama he wasn’t a visible figure in his campaign); willing to work with political leaders from both parties (in NJ’s Insiders Poll, Clooney placed third among Democrats and fourth among Republicans when the Insiders were asked to rank the most-effective celebrity activists); measured in his public comments; and creative in his use of modern communications tools to advance his causes. Clooney became perhaps the first celebrity with his own satellite when he partnered with Google, Harvard University, and the United Nations to fund one to monitor potential violence during the voting on independence for south Sudan earlier this year. He has also been an institution builder, joining with actors Don Cheadle, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, and others to found Not On Our Watch, a group that aims to mobilize global attention in the wake of humanitarian disasters and atrocities. In NJ’s poll, Insiders praised his “sincerity,” “hard work,” and “strictly humanitarian [effort] with no taint of self-promotion.” Witty, self-deprecating, and dogged, Clooney is acquiring a reputation in the political world that parallels his on-camera persona—something like a car that attracts with its style but ultimately impresses for its reliability.

Practically on first name terms with Mr Clooney

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Re: The most politically effective celebrities of all time (George included).

Post by lolo"layla" on Sat Apr 30 2011, 00:37

all he need two wings Basket

Ooh, Mr Clooney!

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Re: The most politically effective celebrities of all time (George included).

Post by melbert on Sat Apr 30 2011, 02:14

and a halo!!!
George Clooney fan forever!

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Re: The most politically effective celebrities of all time (George included).

Post by lucy on Sat Apr 30 2011, 04:57

Don't forget the cape to hide that devils tail!
Clooney Zen Master

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Re: The most politically effective celebrities of all time (George included).

Post by Katiedot on Sat Apr 30 2011, 05:35

And his Superman underpants to wear over his tights!

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Re: The most politically effective celebrities of all time (George included).

Post by melbert on Sat Apr 30 2011, 17:16

What a visual!!!!
George Clooney fan forever!

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Re: The most politically effective celebrities of all time (George included).

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