From the 90s Tech Age into this century’s Uh-OOs, politically outspoken George Clooney aimed his anger on two primary targets – U.S. Wars in the Middle East and Republicans. In January 2003, the actor accused President George W. Bush of making a backroom deal with Russia and France to ensure that the United Nations Security Council wouldn’t protest if “we go into a war and kill a lot of innocent people” in Iraq. Four months before the U.S. did invade Iraq, he asked, “Are we going to try and talk to Saddam Hussein without jumping in and killing people first? I don’t believe we’re going to wait until the last resort to do it. That’s what bothers me.” He disgustedly declared that Bush ran his presidency, “like The Sopranos,” the HBO series about a murderous and tactically-subversive Mafia family.
So, three years later, needing some star power to boost a project, who’d Clooney call for help? W.’s Dad, the former President.
Amid the worst period of unanticipated and deadly resistance by various Iraqi factions to his Iraqi War, Bush faced a second unanticipated crisis and heavy loss of American lives in the days following August 29, 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit the U.S. It wasn’t the only natural disaster to pummel the Gulf region, however. Overlooked in Katrina‘s wake was the devastation caused by Hurricane Rita, which hit twenty-six days later, September 24. George Clooney committed to helping rebuild South Cameron Memorial Hospital, an emergency-care center in Cameron, Louisiana destroyed by Rita. With so many big names already involved in the era’s natural disaster relief efforts, however, even Clooney realized Clooney wasn’t enough to jump-start his charitable ambition. So he personally made the call to ask the 41st President of the United States, George H.W. Bush for help.
As President, this Bush had dealt with no natural disasters of such magnitude during his term (1989-1993). As a former President, however, “H.” had joined former President Bill Clinton to lead a national fundraising effort which resulted in over $515 million for victims of the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami which hit the day after Christmas in 2004. Two years later, the former Presidents were in the midst of a repeat effort, this time for a fund they created for victims of Hurricane Katrina, when H. was asked to leave his Houston home five days before Christmas and join that Hollywood liberal who’d kept attacking his son’s war, but had starred in a film critical of his own, the Gulf War.
Seven years earlier, George Clooney had starred as the disillusioned Special Forces officer Major Archie Gates in the feature Three Kings, (1999) a cynical look at the U.S. incursion into Kuwait to fight invading Iraqis back to its border, the so-called Gulf War that was an especial point of pride for W.’s dad. “I don’t even know what we did here,” Clooney in character snaps to his superior, “Tell me what we did here? Fuck it, I’m retiring anyway.”
Sure, Bush said, he’d come down to Cameron, Louisiana and help Clooney out.
So, marking the ceremonial start of the hospital’s rebuilding, George and George stood together and spoke to a local crowd huddled together at the courthouse, the only local structure not destroyed by Rita.
Making no mention of war, Clooney told them, “I’m coming to remind people in the rest of the country that just because you’re not on the front page anymore, that all the problems that have been placed here from Katrina and Rita are not solved yet.” Referencing his famous television role as Dr. Doug Ross from the popular series ER, he assured the crowd, “”There is good news in all of this, which is that when the hospital gets up and running, I will not be doing any of the medical procedures.”
Making no mention of movies, Bush remarked, “I know there’s been a lot of tears shed over the past year. Hurricane Rita, like Hurricane Katrina, showed us the very worst in nature but they’ve also brought out the best in our human nature.”
In joint media appearances to publicize their effort the Georges ribbed one another. “I thought we could add a little spice to this event,” the former President quipped, “but I’m too old to ask about Britney Spears.” Clooney teased Bush by asking, “How’s Bill Clinton’s golf game?” Bush hastened to clarify that contrary to rumor, he had not hit his successor in the head with a golf ball during that duo’s recent adventure on the green. Trying to avoid reference to the controversy former First Lady Barbara Bush stirred during the Katrina crisis by her failed effort to sound hopeful about its victims finding haven in Houston, her husband only ended up reminding people about it when he told Clooney, “Don’t ask what Barbara thinks!”
To the surprise of Clooney, former President Bush couldn’t help getting emotional, remarking of the actor,“What he has done for the morale of this town is remarkable.”
To the delight of Cameron residents, he then presented a $2 million donation to cover operating expenses once South Cameron Memorial Hospital was rebuilt and open again.
- George Clooney Gears Up For Oscar Sunday With Guy Time (popsugar.com)
- Hurricane Katrina: How The Coast Guard Gets It Right (time.com)
- George Clooney To Receive Emmy’s Humanitarian Award (huffingtonpost.com)
- Pelosi praises George H.W. Bush at Texas school (sfgate.com)
- Pelosi Praises Elder Bush At Texas A&M (dfw.cbslocal.com)
- Sophia Bush Agrees With George Clooney on Gay Marriage: “It’s Absolutely a Civil Rights Issue” (eonline.com)