Celebvocate: Ben Affleck finding his celebrity-groove as advocate for war-torn Congo
Ben Affleck has finally figured out how to do Celebrity. The writer-director who barely tolerates the obligations of Hollywood -- dragging through red-carpet photo ops, avoiding reporters -- was totally on during a wonky foreign policy panel Tuesday.
Affleck (blue suit, navy suit and tie) was the star attraction at the Center for Strategic & International Studies discussion on U.S. policy in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo. He's been to Africa several times, and founded the Eastern Congo Initiative earlier this year to help the troubled country.
He began by addressing the obvious: The only thing anyone famous can legitimately bring to the topic is awareness. "So I started off with the relatively modest goal of just trying to get people to listen to me talking about this issue," he told the audience.
Well, it worked. The ballroom was packed, cameras clicking as the panel got down to business. "It's great to see a full house thinking about the Congo," said foreign-policy expert Tony Gambino without a hint of irony.
Ah, but then it became like all those other Washington events -- dense, inconclusive, lots of conflicting opinions: like Ambassador Johnnie Carson, who saw "signs of progress" as well as "very disturbing trend lines." Everyone agreed there were critical issues and no easy answers. The only relief came when Affleck -- asked about congressional support for the country -- noted that both Sen. John Kerry and Sen.- elect John Boozman were late to the gathering. "We have a Republican senator and Democratic senator that are not here -- so that's bipartisanship." Whoa, went the room. "Just a joke," he said.
In fact, when Kerry finally arrived to give remarks, it was clear the two members of the Red Sox nation go way back. Not only did the Massachusetts senator lavish praise on the actor, but reminded everybody that the two campaigned together when he ran for president.
"We took it on the road in '04 -- we should do it again some time," joked Kerry. "Wait 'til that gets tweeted around." A nomination announcement? "Let's not get carried away. . . or let's."
The Reliable Source
| December 1, 2010; 1:04 AM ET
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