George Clooney Defends Clinton’s $353k-Per-Plate Fundraiser

While he's at it, actor admits he wasn't great as Batman

George Clooney on 'Meet the Press.'

George Clooney on ‘Meet the Press.’ (Photo: Meet the Press/NBC)

Actor George Clooney isn’t a professional politician, but he played one on TV Sunday when questioned by Chuck Todd of NBC’s Meet the Press.

Mr. Clooney was interviewed because he sponsored two fundraisers in California over the weekend with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who is running against Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in Tuesday’s New York primary.

As Ms. Clinton’s motorcade headed to the benefit in Los Angeles, supporters of Mr. Sanders threw real dollar bills at her limousine to mock the fact that a couple could pay as much as $353,000 to sit at the head table to dine with Ms. Clinton and Mr. Clooney.

The money shower was a nice bit of agitprop, sort of like when Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin and other Yippies rained money down from the balcony upon the brokers of the New York Stock Exchange in 1967.

Perhaps appreciative of street theatre, Mr. Clooney even tried to debate one of the demonstrators, who told Mr. Clooney he was a “corporate shill.” After Mr. Clooney dismissed this accusation, the man hit him with another charge.

“Then he just said, ‘You sucked as Batman,’ ” Mr. Clooney said. “And I was like, ‘Well, you kind of got me on that one.’ ”

When the conversation turned serious, Mr. Clooney said much money needs to be raised not only for the Clinton campaign but for down-ticket races against Republicans backed by the Koch Brothers.

“The Koch brothers would profit if they get their way,” Mr. Clooney said. “There’s no profit for us in this.” In fact, he said, a Democratic victory would probably mean higher taxes for people in his financial bracket.

Mr. Clooney went on to say that Republican leaders Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are “making this a campaign of fear” and that this violates the spirit of the nation.

“We have to be afraid of refugees,” Mr. Clooney said with disdain. “We have to be afraid of Muslims. We have to be afraid of minorities. Are we really going to be scared of the very things that have made our country great?”

Mr. Clooney went on to say Mr. Sanders is right that big donations of corporate money to candidates is “obscene” and worse since the Supreme Court authorized it in the “Citizens United” decision.

He said he would avidly support Mr. Sanders if he wins the nomination. Asked by Mr. Todd about calling Mr. Trump a “xenophobic fascist,” Mr. Clooney responded, “Trump and Cruz are making this a campaign of fear,” and, “Fear always works.”

Continuing to refute the right-wing Republican response to terrorism, Mr. Clooney said, “We’re not going to ban Muslims from this country. That’s never going to happen. And we’re not going to go back to torture. We’re not going to kill the families of terrorists or suspected terrorists because that is not who we are. Our grandparents and their parents would be ashamed of us.”

Around the dial…

MEET THE PRESS Democratic chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz defended the feisty tone of the Democratic debate on Thursday in Brooklyn.

“Compared to the Republicans, who are in utter chaos, our candidates have been substantive and robust,” she said. “They’ve kept largely to the issues.”

When her Republican counterpart, Reince Priebus, appeared, Mr. Todd asked him if he would allow Mr. Trump to bully him at the convention in July in Cleveland. Over the weekend, Mr. Trump vowed a “rough July” if he doesn’t get his way. In the past, he’s warned of riots.

“No,” Mr. Priebus said of being bullied. “Listen, the rules are set. I’m not going to allow anyone to rewrite the rules of our party.” (Majority rules, Mr. Priebus often says).

‘Hillary’s the one who is vulnerable. All bets are off. She looks really tired. I don’t think she looks inspired. Sanders has damaged her.’

Bernie's Vatican Detour.

Bernie’s Vatican Detour. (Illustration: Clay Jones)

THIS WEEK Ms. Clinton’s only live appearance Sunday was on ABC with George Stephanopoulos, who asked her about raising the national minimum wage from $7.25 to either $12 or $15. Mr. Sanders wants the high number now. She said the Sanders campaign was “trying to make something where there is nothing.”

Then Mr. Stephanopoulos showed a clip of Mr. Trump insulting her as “Crooked Hillary.”

“I don’t respond to Donald Trump and his string of insults,” she said via remote camera. “He goes after women. He goes after Muslims. He goes after immigrants. He goes after people with disabilities. He is hurting our unity at home. He is undermining the values that we stand for. He can say whatever he wants to say about me. I really could (sic) care less.”

When Mr. Sanders stopped by the studio, he was asked by Mr. Stephanopoulos about redactions to a government report about the mostly Saudi Arabian airplane hijackers who led the terrorism of 9-11.

Mr. Sanders replied that some members of the extensive royal family of Saudi Arabia have funded terrorism and that the United States is “not taking a hard enough look at Saudi Arabia” and the “extreme, right-wing, fundamentalist ideology” of Wahhabi Islam.

Recently, Mr. Sanders urged supporters of Israel to respect the rights of the Palestinians. No Jewish candidate has ever advanced this close to the presidency as Mr. Sanders, who woke up at the Vatican Saturday and spoke with the Pope. He seems to understand the power and symbolism of religion in the current atmosphere.

“Saudi Arabia is playing a very dangerous role in fomenting fundamentalism around the world,” Mr. Sanders said.

Paul Manafort, a recent addition to Mr. Trump’s staff, is eclipsing the role of Corey Lewandowski, the campaign manager. (Mr. Trump avoided TV for the second consecutive Sunday, but Mr. Manafort spoke on his behalf).

In that Mr. Trump has been foaming at the mouth recently about how the Republican system is “rigged” and “dirty,” Mr. Manafort was asked about the Republican establishment.

“They’re not playing by their own rules,” Mr. Manafort said.

“But you knew the rules going in,” the host said.

“And we’ve played by them,” Mr. Manafort said. “And we’re winning. That’s the point.”

Opposing him a few minutes later was Cruz supporter Ken Cuccinelli who said, “When we win, Trump whines.”

Mr. Stephanopoulos asked him about recent Cruz campaign allegations that the Trump campaign uses “Gestapo tactics.” Mr. Cuccinelli was ready.

“How about calling for riots in the streets?” he said. “How about threats we’re going to go to the hotel rooms of delegates? This is a banana republic approach from the Trump team.”

In the panel portion of the program, Matthew Dowd said the nomination races are “rigged on both sides… the system is broken.”

Conservative Mary Matalin, asked if the Republican Party would suffer if Mr. Trump is denied the nomination, replied, “The party’s going to blow up anyway. It’s been blowing up for a long time.”

Roland Martin said of Mr. Trump’s complaints, “You can’t handle this process? You’re unfit for being president. So shut up and stop complaining.”

Robert Reich added that John Kasich, running third in the Republican race, might make a good compromise candidate if the convention goes into several ballots.

“He’s not crazy,” Mr. Reich said

(Hmmmm. “He’s not crazy.” Best campaign slogan since “I Like Ike.”)

STATE OF THE UNION Dana Bash subbed for Jake Tapper on CNN and opened with a similar “money shot” of dollar bills falling on Ms. Clinton’s motorcade. She followed with a clip of Mr. Todd’s interview with Mr. Clooney.

An interesting sidelight showed Vice President Joe Biden riding on a train and discussing Mr. Sanders’s visit to Rome.

“To suggest that the Pope embraces Bernie’s policies, I don’t think that’s the case,” Mr. Biden said. “I don’t know. I doubt it.”

Mr. Sanders, when interviewed later, replied, “No one is suggesting that the Pope is embracing my policies.” But he said he admires Pope Francis for “his willingness to take on special interests, to talk about climate change.”

Mr. Kasich, invisible everywhere else, submitted to an interview with Ms. Bash recorded earlier. Of Mr. Trump’s complaints of a “rigged” system, Mr. Kasich said, “C’mon, act like you’re a professional. Be a pro. I’m not going to whine.”

On the panel, Bakari Sellers said, “If they take this race away from Donald Trump, they’re going to watch the Republican Party disintegrate.” Nina Tuner added, “This is a disruption election.”

RELIABLE SOURCES On CNN, Brian Stelter talked a lot about Megyn Kelly of Fox, whose feud with Mr. Trump may be nearing a truce after last week’s peace meeting. (Hey, anyone else skeptical about how their “feud” has bolstered both?)

“We had a meeting,” Mr. Trump said. “She was very nice.”

Frank Sesno told Mr. Stelter, “There he is yet again, playing the media like a fiddle.”

Jane Hall of American University, noting that Ms. Kelly might leave Fox at the end of her current contract, said that Fox’s Sean Hannity “has been unrelenting in his support” for Mr. Trump.

Mr. Stelter said, “Hannity has had him on many, many times and is a very soft interviewer because that’s an advocacy show.”

Michael Oreskes of NPR said Ms. Kelly “is a journalist. She’s quite a good journalist.”

Two more female journalists—one on top of her profession, the other on the outs—were covered in one of the show’s well-produced segments.

Mr. Stelter showed video from Friday morning on Morning Joe on MSNBC when co-host Mika Brzezinski started the 6 a.m. hour in a grouchy mood as if she’d arisen from the wrong side of the bed.

Her target was Michelle Fields, a journalist now departed from the Brietbart site after having the audacity to complain of being manhandled by Mr. Lewandowski when she tried to question Mr. Trump. Because Florida authorities declined to prosecute Mr. Lewandowski for battery, Ms. Brzezinski took the side of the bully.

“Women have a responsibility to make sure that we bring to the table valuable credibility,” Ms. Brzezinski said. “Something that is sort of hard to talk about happened here…This was a joke from the beginning.”

Mr. Stelter than interviewed Ms. Fields, whose arm bruises may have healed but her bruised feelings remain.

“Corey lied,” she said. “Donald Trump lied. They defamed me. They went on this huge smear campaign against me. I think it sheds light on the character of the campaign.”

Her biggest complaint, she said, was not so much the grabbing of her arm as the words that followed.

“I didn’t touch Trump,” she said. “I didn’t grab him…I felt someone pull me back. I’m in high heels. I’m not expecting anyone to yank me…they were trying to defame me. It shows malice.”

FOX NEWS SUNDAY The other side—Mr. Lewandowski—was the first guest of Chris Wallace, who read back to Mr. Lewandowski one of his Twitter messages to Ms. Fields.

“You are totally delusional,” Mr. Lewandowski tweeted to Ms. Fields. “I never touched you. As a matter of fact, I have never met you.”

WALLACE: “Do you acknowledge you touched her, and she’s not delusional?”

LEWANDOWSKI: “Candidly, I didn’t remember this incident. The whole incident lasted less than three seconds.”

In that Ms. Fields has hinted she would prefer an apology over a lawsuit, Mr. Lewandowski was asked if one might be forthcoming.

“I’d be happy to have a conversation with her,” Mr. Lewandowski said.

Turning to the “rough July” promised by Mr. Trump, Mr. Wallace asked Mr. Lewandowski if that meant violence in Cleveland if Mr. Trump doesn’t get the nomination.

“No,” Mr. Lewandowski said. “What we’re talking about is a fractured party.”

During panel time, George Will offered his weekly taunt of Mr. Trump. This one was about Mr. Trump’s ignorance of delegate selection procedures, especially in Western states.

“This is a man who boasts that he has thrived in the cutthroat New York City real estate market,” Mr. Will said. “And he finds Casper, Wyoming, mysterious.”

Fellow right-winger Laura Ingraham found it convenient to boost Bernie Sanders for his rally in Washington Square Park Friday night. “The reverberation throughout the city,” she said. “You heard the echo of Sanders.”

Ms. Ingraham offered her wisdom: “Hillary’s the one who is vulnerable. All bets are off. She looks really tired. I don’t think she looks inspired. Sanders has damaged her.”

On the subject of Saudi Arabia and information redacted from documents pertaining to the 9-11 terrorists, Ms. Ingraham began to speak as if reading the script of the Michael Moore movie “Fahrenheit 9-11.”

“We have to know what was in this,” she said, “and if there is facilitation, which it certainly looks like.” She also asked why the U.S. was in such a hurry to get certain Saudis out of the country after 9-11. Mr. Will added, “It is now clear, probably out of the Los Angeles Saudi consulate, they were helping these hijackers.”

Mr. Wallace concluded that it would be interesting to see what comes of President Obama’s trip to Saudi Arabia this week

FACE THE NATION One of the reasons John Dickerson of CBS has the best Sunday show is his talent for firing pointed questions quickly. (Keith Olbermann used to be the best at this.)

This was on display again Sunday when Mr. Dickerson asked Mr. Priebus about predictions of trouble at the convention coming from the Trump campaign. It contained seven, one-syllable words.

DICKERSON: “Do you take that as a threat?”

PRIEBUS: “Not particularly. I don’t know if it’s hyperbole or positioning.”

When asking Mr. Priebus about Roger Stone’s threat to circulate the room numbers of delegates in Cleveland, Mr. Dickerson asked in six one-syllable words, “What do you make of that?”

“Yeah, it’s not helpful,” Mr. Priebus said. “I don’t find it to be an appropriate threat.”

Best guest of the show was David Axelrod, the former Obama aide who now works for CNN.

He started with lighthearted remarks about Mr. Sanders in Rome.

“I suspect he was looking for some divine intervention,” Mr. Axelrod said. “He’s going to need a minor miracle.”

On the serious side, Mr. Axelrod said Mr. Sander has pushed Ms. Clinton to the populist left: “I think she’s responded to that and probably to her benefit.” When asked if Democrats would prefer to run against Mr.Trump or Mr. Cruz, Mr. Axelrod said, “Trump, in theory, is more vulnerable, but he also is a guy who can land the unexpected blow. He plays by his own set of rules and that make him a little bit more frightening.”

The CBS sense of history showed up in convention footage of 1952 when Dwight Eisenhower defeated Robert Taft for the nomination. The main camera positions were off to the sides of the podium, creating for the viewer a feeling of looking in.

Now, speakers stare straight at the camera. Also, do you think, in this mature television era, a bald man could ever get nominated for President?

“I accept your summons,” Ike said on kinescope. “I will lead this crusade.”

Imagine how loaded that last word would sound in the current campaign.

Next week, Mr. Dickerson said, will feature Barry Goldwater in 1964.

MEDIA BUZZ Howard Kurtz on Fox devoted considerable time to an HBO drama recreating the confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas and accusations of sexism by Anita Hill. How timely, what with a vacancy now due to the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

On the pundit panel, Juan Williams predicted that Ms. Kelly would eventually do a long interview with Mr. Trump.

“There is going to be fireworks in Media World when she and Donald Trump sit down to talk,” Mr. Williams said. “I can imagine the ratings will blow the roof off this building.”

Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.

George Clooney Defends Clinton’s $353k-Per-Plate Fundraiser