by Michael Fragoso
March 13, 2009
Jim Cramer went on The Daily Show last night to be grilled by Jon Stewart. Liberals everywhere are singing the praises of Stewart, who went in loaded for bear. (See video here-Stewart’s language is saucy: you’ve been warned.) Stewart deftly illustrated the multitudes contained within Cramer-both a loudmouth performer, and a cool, savvy Wall Street operator-and excoriated CNBC, Cramer, and market capitalism in his characteristically self-righteous and crypto-Marxist way (“When are we going to realize in this country that our wealth is work? That we’re workers…”). Apparently finance is serious business and Cramer’s goofy “Mad Money” persona makes Stewart mad. Mad enough that he felt the need to embarrass Cramer for 3 segments in front of his audience of clapping New York sycophants.
And yet, Cramer has been at this for years (I recall watching Mad Money with my friends in college because Cramer’s histrionics and questionable stock advice could be quite entertaining). Why did Jon Stewart decide to take Cramer to the woodshed on March 12, 2009? Why not a month ago-or six months ago, or a year ago, or four years ago? It turns out that Cramer and Stewart have been feuding ever since Stewart began taking shots at Rick Santelli for his “Chicago Tea Party” outburst. This feud, like Stewart’s previous one with Tucker Carlson, is predicated on his infuriating bait-and-switch routine: 1.) Sanctimoniously deliver a sucker punch about a serious political or cultural matter in which there is substantive disagreement; 2.) Respond to counter attack by saying “I’m just a comedian, don’t hold me to high standards! I make jokes! I’m no expert!” 3.) Behave like a smug expert and deliver more substantive criticism. 4.) Respond to next counter attack by saying “I’m just a clown! Watch me make funny faces!” 5.) Repeat until plaudits pour in from Gawker, Huffington Post, and other snark-mongers.
The fact is that Cramer’s shtick has not changed, and yet it is now that Stewart decides to declare Sicilian vendetta. Since Mad Money premiered, and in many ways going back to his stint on Kudlow & Cramer, Cramer has been a clown for the masses and a savant for the privileged-and Whitman-like in his ability to embrace the contradiction. What has changed is this: Cramer, like Santelli before him, went after the “wealth-destroyer,” President Obama. When the self-described liberal Jim Cramer was jumping around, biting the heads off toy bulls, yelling, “BUY! BUY! BUY!” and supporting Barack Obama, Stewart was nowhere to be found. When the self-described liberal Jim Cramer does all the same things but now dares to criticize the patently horrendous fiscal policies of the new President, that’s when Jon Stewart gets mad. Stewart insists it’s “not political,” and yet the timing is anything but.
Perhaps this explains why Obama tolerates the constant bumbling of Robert Gibbs: who needs a Press Secretary when your cult of personality is enough to turn a late-night comedy show into a camera stellata?