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Mr Pitt goes to Washington ...

... but doesn't get a photo opportunity with a President reluctant to be seen with stars

Let's be clear – neither Brad Pitt nor George Clooney slept in the Lincoln Bedroom, so before anyone accuses Barack Obama of belatedly turning luvvie in the reflected glory of Hollywood's brightest stars, please know that, while both gentlemen amply qualify as such, they saw the big man on business.

Still, it was startling to see Clooney emerge from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue last week to address the media – had he been nominated for a cabinet post? – and it was even more startling when Pitt made his visit to the Oval office on Thursday.

In a fortnight, Mr Obama opened the door to arguably the two biggest – and best-looking – male stars in the land.

But Mr Obama was the candidate who mostly kept celebrity admirers at arms length. They have that dreaded 'L'-word attached to them, after all – liberal. Surely he is not becoming a Bill Clinton, who turned the White House into a B&B for his La-La Land fans.

Clooney and Pitt were not the first famous people to cross the White House threshold since the inauguration. Mr Obama and his wife, Michelle, presided over a concert in honour of Stevie Wonder; the Jonas Brothers treated the Obama girls, Malia and Sasha, to a surprise visit on inauguration day; and when Mr Obama hosted a governors' dinner last month, Earth, Wind & Fire provided the entertainment.

The notion that Mr Obama is immune to the dazzle of superstars is a bit phoney. Wonder appeared at his campaign rallies and has been honoured with a medal. And Oprah proved of use too. Aides insist the occasional partying at the White House has to do with Mr Obama using the building to highlight his commitment to diversity and to advance his policy goals. In recent weeks, the White House has also hosted chefs, students, teachers, community and union leaders and mayors.

The Clooney and Pitt visits were not about shoulder-rubbing so much as politicking. Clooney has established himself as an advocate for international action on the situation in Darfur and had just returned from the region. Pitt saw the chief executive and leaders of Congress on Capitol Hill – where his sunglassed presence halted work in almost every office and chamber for half of Thursday – to discuss his favourite charity, Make it Right, which is rebuilding parts of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, using eco-friendly, low-cost homes.

For now, Mr Obama seems not to be swooning for stars but using them for political gain. But if anyone spots Britney, Paris or Miley on the South Lawn, we will know he has gone soft.