Like his widely acclaimed, highly overrated Good Night, and Good Luck, writer and director George Clooney’s political drama, The Ides of March, is another abstraction that lulls you into a false sense that something important is happening. It isn’t. Like most of what Mr. Clooney (Leatherheads) does, and I’ll always appreciate his outspoken defense of Princess Diana in assailing the paparazzi, which he rightly claims killed her, it’s a major bore.

Based on the play Farragut North by Beau Willimon, this muddy, long-winded tale of a political staffer going against his own political campaign stinks to high heaven. Not a single person is worth knowing, let alone rooting for. The upstart, capably played by Ryan Gosling (The Notebook), is a vain liar with no discernible principles. He’s a follower looking for a fuhrer, and he finds him in a presidential candidate (Mr. Clooney, directing himself in one of his better roles), who may not be what he appears to be. Not that the candidate’s even outwardly consistent. He’s a walking replica of President Obama, complete with MSNBC propagandists, calls for mandatory “national service,” and posters urging faith-based Democrats to believe in the welfare state messiah.

They are both joined by a salty campaign veteran (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote) and ostensibly opposed by his nemesis (Paul Giamatti, Win Win) and it also features Max Minghella (Agora) as a staffer and Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler) as a journalist. None of the characters are any good, including a slutty intern (Evan Rachel Wood, The Upside of Anger) that bats her eyelashes with the subtlety of a hooker on Fifth Avenue and she forms the would-be climax, which is as involving as swatting an insect and about as profound. That the fake-lofty Ides of March features a main character as vacant at the end as he is at the start doesn’t explain the laughable cinematic cliches, such as clandestine meetings, an overly ominous score by Alexandre Desplat, and shots of defeated figures against gigantic American flags that only remind the viewer that a whole lot of nothing’s going on. As Mr. Clooney’s presidential candidate seriously proposes banning oil (also the internal combustion engine), expecting such backwardness to suddenly turn jihadist Moslems peaceful, MSNBC‘s automatons keep popping up and nothing makes us care about this band of leftist neanderthals and liars. The Ides of March is merely another ill-conceived picture from Mr. Clooney, more persuasive as a cure for insomnia than a pulse-racing thriller as advertised.