“Cramer Versus Stewart...
and President Obama,”
By now everyone's heard about or seen the dust-up between Jim Cramer and John Stewart on "The Daily Show." If you're one of those rare people who haven't seen it... let me just give you the Cliffsnotes... Jim Cramer of CNBCs has a sit down with John Stewart who is obviously furious about the current state of the economy and the market. Stewart points at Cramer and CNBC for being responsible for this crisis, and there's much cursing and name calling. Mr. Stewart plays some clips of an interview Mr. Cramer did back in April in some obscure back-water media outlet which, seems to me, there was obvious creative editing of off-air chatter. If you enjoy watching the beginning of the end of someone's career and people squirm, then this interview is a special treat. Cramer spends what must have felt like an eternity agreeing "we should have done more, we should have done better reporting." and less cheerleading for the market before it collapses.
If you really have to see this video, I recommend seeing the unedited version: Hulu - The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Jim Cramer Unedited Interview, Part 1, Unedited Interview, Part 2 and Part 3
The most important part of this news item isn't what was said during that interview but what commentators have said about it since the dust up. What I've heard during these past couple of days is that none of this is really about what Jim Cramer said on CNBC about how "great" the market was back in April of 2008 or some shady advice he gave to someone else during an off-air conversation. The frustration John Stewart vents about is working people losing everything while white-collar criminals and investors gamble and trade with vast piles of other people's money every day. That is something we can all agree to - we all have the same frustration. But why Jim Cramer of all people to go after? What the commentators who are critiquing both Cramer and Stewart are saying is that all of this angst really about is what Jim Cramer said about President Barack Obama....
Look at the incredible decline in the stock market, in all indices,
since the inauguration of the president, with the drop accelerating
when the budget plan came to light because of the massive fear and indecision
the document sowed: Raising taxes on the eve of what could be a second
Great Depression, destroying the profits in healthcare companies (one
of the few areas still robust in the economy), tinkering with the mortgage
deduction at a time when U.S. house price depreciation is behind much
of the world's morass and certainly the devastation affecting our banks,
and pushing an aggressive cap and trade program that could raise the
price of energy for millions of people.
The market's the effect; much of what the president is fighting for is the cause. The market's signal can't be ignored. It's too palpable, too predictive to be ignored, despite the prattle that the market's predicted far more recessions than we have. ... But Obama has undeniably made things worse by creating an atmosphere of fear and panic rather than an atmosphere of calm and hope. He's done it by pushing a huge amount of change at a very perilous moment, by seeking to demonize the entire banking system and by raising taxes for those making more than $250,000 at the exact time when we need them to spend and build new businesses, and by revoking deductions for funds to charity and that help eliminate the excess supply of homes...
The entire rant written by Jim Cramer is pretty brutal, written by one of the most listened to financial experts in the country (if not the entire English speaking world) who claims to be a moderate Democrat who's written checks to the DNC while hammering George Dubya Bush and his administration. Cramer's thesis in this rant is that you can't raise taxes in an economic down-turn and take away the financial tools that allow people to afford homes in the first place. Think the housing market is horrible now, just imagine how horrible it's going to be when the mortgage deductions are gone. Cramer goes on to say that rising taxes on companies of all sizes when they're already struggling to make budgets and meet goals is going to have a permanent chilling effect on hiring practices and will not help unemployment numbers. To try and solve social problems and social-injustice with economic policy during this crisis is a formula for a Second Great Depression. That's Jim Cramer's argument.
I've watched Jim Cramer's Mad Money show. There's no way anyone can make the case that Jim Cramer carries the water for any political party... he's an equal opportunity cut-throat and throws his own under the bus when they make bad policy. The implication of this situation starting with a beating by John Stewart is staggering... "The Media" will go after you and ruin your reputation the minute you start to accuse the current President of any wrong doing. The mere mention that maybe this well-meaning Administration might be making a mistake is causing media pundits like Chris Matthews, Keith Oberman, and the comedian John Stewart to foam at the mouth and go for your jugular vain.
Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck, Michael Savage and the usual Conservative suspects have been hammering the current President long before he took the oath of office. What makes Jim Cramer a special case is that he's the first pro-Obama commentator to point to his first policy miss-step. Cramer is the first on-air personality that campaigned or championed Obama and is now openly criticizing him. This scares a lot of people, especially since his honeymoon with rest of the main-steam media during his first 100 days in office hasn't expired yet. There are more then a few people in the main-stream media who are becoming unhinged at the notion that one of their own is screaming that perhaps "Emperor Barack Has No Clothes."
... And the notion that the world is beholden to John Stewart, a comedian on Comedy Central? Mull that over in your mind for a couple of minutes.
I made a secret promises to my readers that I would not publish a rant that's harsh or critical towards Barack Obama during the first 100 days while he's in office. Many folks have asked me to give our new President a chance, which I am. I'm being more fair to him then many of my contemporaries had been towards George 'Selected Not Elected' Bush during his first 100 days. I've already written two articles about giving this guy my support, "Medicine Called Hope," and "Et Tu, Barack?" But I said nothing about not writing commentary about the media or what people are saying for or against Barack Obama. Some people are going to get confused with what I'm saying here and in an earlier rant about people who are so quick to throw President Obama under the bus for honest mistakes or campaign promises reversals of the for practical reasons.
For this rant, I'm asking do you really want to live in a country where you can't criticize the President... no matter what? Do you really want there to be a environment here in The United States and the rest of the free world where our dear leader is above criticism whether it's something mundane like a mispronounced word or using the wrong fork at dinner, or something more severe like a policy decision that you don't agree with? If you think it's perfectly acceptable to censor and silence anyone who has a negative word to say about "Mr. Hope And Change," then imagine what the last 8 years would have been like if nobody was allowed to say a bad word about Dubya or the war in Iraq. Imagine your outrage if you or someone you were listening to made a legitimate but negative comment was publicly humiliated by a comedian and commentator with the intent to destroy his or your career.
When is Obama's "chance" we're all asked to give him is over? When is it going to be safe for all of us to fairly criticize Barack Obama for any wrong-doing? I'm not talking about calling for his impeachment at any guffaw, but the genuine concern or critique of a new law or executive order we find questionable. The Conservative commentators are given marginal pass because that's what they do. They'll yank his chain even if he does fix this current economic crisis but for the rest of us, from moderates, libertarians and even die-hard supporters who will be disappointed, when will it be safe to say "I don't agree with The President?"
No President of The United States, or any leader, is capable of ruling with out making mistakes. No leader should be immune from criticism. Barack Obama is going to make mistakes and people are going to call him out for them. If that type of censorship is unacceptable just because Barack Obama has a nice smile, gives wonderful and empowering speeches, he's black or just because he's a liberal or even a 'socialist,' then this isn't a Democracy. It's a few steps removed from being a dictatorship. What's going to happen to me and The Fedora Chronicles after the First 100 Days are over and start publishing unfavorable rants about his policy choices? I can't wait to find out.
At what point is it safe to critique a new leader, when is the honeymoon over and the criticism allowed to begin?