Thursday, March 12, 2009

Jon Stewart swings and misses in showdown with Cramer

Jon Stewart flopped Thursday night in the final battle of his much-hyped "war" with CNBC and Jim Cramer.  Stewart was neither funny nor insightful in his attempted grilling of Cramer.  The only comedy was watching two non-journalists talking about the presumed guilt shared by real financial journalists in not foreseeing the financial crisis (see March 4 post).  In his attempt to be serious, Stewart lost the art of what makes him so effective -- the ability use humor to point out the serious, even insidious hypocrisy in politics, business and society.   

Stewart has interviewed people with whom he has more philosophical differences than Cramer.   John Sununu, Mike Huckabee, Dana Perino, Bill O'Reilly, Bill Kristol, Ari Fleisher, to name a few.  But he reserves the long knives for Cramer and despite his domination of the conversation (Cramer doesn't get too many words in edgewise), completely whiffs.  The result is an interview that is just as superficial and farcical as the CNBC body of work Stewart was lampooning in the first place.

I don't blame Cramer for agreeing to the interview, but he was unprepared and let Stewart set and dominate the agenda.  Poor media training.  Maybe he was blindsided, expecting Stewart to be more like his playful real self.  Maybe he didn't know what he wanted to achieve in agreeing to the interview.  Bottom line is that Cramer hasn't learned his lesson from his longer-running, much more serious feud with Barron's.  The bad blood there began to be spilled in 2007.  Barron's won't let go of this "story" and recently revisited its critique of Cramer's stock picks.  

Cramer's problem is that he doesn't know what his show is really about and has not found an effective way to put his stock "picks" into perspective.  He needs to admit to himself that his picks and pans are NOT what the show is about.  His show is about speaking to (mostly) young investors about how the market works and how to do research on investments.  It's not a stock picking show, stupid!  On The Daily Show, Cramer should have said, "Jon, I don't think you understand my show" and taken control over the interview from there.  

Cramer needs to understand that what he does is not very serious and very serious at the same time.  Not serious because he cannot have an informed micro-level opinion about all of the equities covered in the Lightening Round and very serious because he is communicating with an audience ignored by the financial community in a way they understand and connect with (could Suze Orman fill the basketball arena at any university like Cramer routinely does?)  

Oh, in my ranting, I almost forgot:  Bank of America (one of the institutions supposedly coddled by CNBC and Cramer) advertises on The Daily How's that for irony?  

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