Debra J. Saunders

CNN hit a new low in smarmy as it hyped a "special edition" of "Anderson Cooper 360" Tuesday night: "Angelina Jolie: Her Mission and Motherhood," featuring Cooper's big scoop, the "first interview" with Angelina Jolie since she had her baby.

Start with Cooper, the glam, my-precious-feelings correspondent whose ascent to cable TV news stardom steamrolled over avuncular veteran newsman Aaron Brown and depressed the news slot's ratings for months. Add Jolie, the tattooed ex-wife of Tinsel town bad boy Billy Bob Thornton, fresh from Namibia, where she had a baby with a trendy Hollywood name -- Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt -- sired by a movie star who just last year was someone else's husband. And here's an eye-roller: They're Talking About Poverty in the Third World.

It promised to be a package of everything annoying about celebrity culture -- the rich and statuesque preening as they bemoan the plight of the destitute and forsaken.

Not so. As a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Refugee Agency, Jolie, 31, is doing important work as she spreads the word about people who have nothing. They don't have homes. They don't have food. They don't have the medicine they need. The children don't have parents who can care for them. The parents have lost children to hunger or disease. They all lack a home country that can protect them.

Jolie was first exposed to the refugee issue at an amputee camp in Sierra Leone. "The child I met in Sierra Leone was the first child that I ever met who was about to die and who died the next day," she explained. It was heartbreaking to see a child "in that state" and "all by himself." The experience transformed her.

Was the interview silly? Sure, especially when Cooper wanted to know if childbirth was different than adoption. Duh. Still, Jolie seems to understand that she has to offer up nuggets on life with Brad Pitt in exchange for airtime discussing the sad plight of the world's refugees.

On the refugee situation, she was savvy and compassionate. Speaking on refugees from Rwanda, she noted: "They really are the most vulnerable people in the world. They really don't have an option for -- it's not just that they're poor. It's not just that they're hungry. It's not just that -- it's that they are in fear of -- of -- for their lives. They are going to be persecuted for their race, their religion, their nationality."

Jolie is one of many celebrities to focus on Sudan's Darfur region, "where the slaughter of Africans by Muslim militias -- the Janjaweed, they're called -- has created one of the worst refugee catastrophes on the planet today. And it's happening right now."

Debra J. Saunders

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