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Saturday: Jon Stewart, heal thyself

Jon Stewart took on Jim Cramer of Mad Money a couple of nights ago and raked him over the coals about the uncritical journalism of the press that failed to uncover the chicanery of the financial giants.  From the interview, we get this exchange (from Glenn Greenwald, who I’ll get to in a second):

STEWART:  This thing was 10 years in the making . . . . The idea that you could have on the guys from Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch and guys that had leveraged 35-1 and then blame mortgage holders, that’s insane. . . .

CRAMER:  I always wish that people would come in and swear themselves in before they come on the show.  I had a lot of CEOs lie to me on the show.  It’s very painful. I don’t have subpoena power. . . .

STEWART:  You knew what the banks were doing and were touting it for months and months.  The entire network was.

CRAMER:  But Dick Fuld, who ran Lehman Brothers, called me in – he called me in when the stock was at 40 — because I was saying: “look, I thought the stock was wrong, thought it was in the wrong place” – he brings me in and lies to me, lies to me, lies to me.

STEWART [feigning shock]:  The CEO of a company lied to you?

CRAMER:  Shocking.

STEWART:  But isn’t that financial reporting?  What do you think is the role of CNBC? . . . .

CRAMER:  I didn’t think that Bear Stearns would evaporate overnight.  I knew the people who ran it.  I thought they were honest. That was my mistake.  I really did.  I thought they were honest.  Did I get taken in because I knew them before?  Maybe, to some degree. . . .

It’s difficult to have a reporter say:  “I just came from an interview with Hank Paulson and he lied his darn-fool head off.”  It’s difficult.  I think it challenges the boundaries.

STEWART:   But what is the responsibility of the people who cover Wall Street?  . . . . I’m under the assumption, and maybe this is purely ridiculous, but I’m under the assumption that you don’t just take their word at face value.  That you actually then go around and try to figure it out (applause).

Here’s my problem with this exchange: About a year and a half ago, I *loved* Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. I had Colbert’s devastating take down of the press at the WH Correspondents dinner on my DVR for a long time. And I still have the interview that Jon gave Bill Moyer’s Journal on my iPod. Back then, Jon Stewart was one of us. He was fighting the consensus reality in the only way he could- with humor and wit. He was the jester who could get away with murder in the court of a murderous king. I faithfully recorded The Daily Show and The Colbert Report every night on my DVR.

Then, primary season started. I don’t know if Viacom decided it was going to go for a much younger demographic or what but Jon Stewart left me behind. I have often heard it said that Stewart was initially a Hillary Clinton fan but I couldn’t tell. It would have been nice if he had just remained neutral. That I could have taken. But night after night, it seemed to *this* viewer that he was falling for the same crazy crap that everyone else was hearing. His dings on Hillary took on the same general flavor of rest of the news media that decided that Clinton was the old regime and was running a ridiculous campaign. Those of us who were paying attention know that it was the Obama campaign that was poorly executed, so poorly in fact that it required the assistance of the RBC to gift him with 59 delegates from MI, including 4 of his opponent’s delegates.

Back in the day, that RBC hearing would have been comedy gold for Stewart. Think of it: the candidates are pretty much even with the older, more experienced female candidate having the edge for actually participating in the primaries which conveeeeeniently don’t count (except that everyone knows that this is really Kabuki because they will *have* to count before it’s all over). And what does the RBC do? It takes delegates away from the real winner and gives them to the loser and gives him 59 delegates from a state where he wasn’t even on the ballot, so that he will beat her by a mere 17 delegates when the primaries finally end a few days later. Then, they make it sound like it’s a big landslide, giving him the edge all the way to the convention.  She *should* have taken it to the convention floor and had a knock down, drag out fight for the nomination.  But how could she do it if the one guy she really needed to be critical, Jon Stewart, was out to lunch?

How could you miss that, Jon? That was the epitome of ‘fuzzy math’. You should have been rolling your eyes and should have gotten someone like the RBC’s Allen “this is the thing I am most proud of” Katz or Alexis Herman on your show to eviscerate them, just like you did to countless others. This committee should have been the butt of ridicule for at least a week.  Think about what an incredibly UNdemocratic thing that was for the Democrats to do to their voters. But you said nothing. And why was that, Jon? Were we old, uneducated, working class, sino-peruvian lesbians no longer in the target demographic? Or is it the case that when women are represented by only one member in the ensemble, Samantha Bee, it’s easy to forget that they might have their own sense of honor and fair play?

Whatever. That’s when I removed TDS from my DVR and erased all old episodes. I, and the rest of my demographic, were no longer cool enough to be respected. Not only that but we kept saying over and over again that what we objected to with Obama was that he was inexperienced and unready to be president. But consensus reality said that we were ‘racists’ and ‘Reagan Democrats’, not the smart and professional, thinking liberals we actually are. Jon, the psychology major, should have known better. He should have seen the peer pressure, psychological warfare, and the pandering and flattery frenzy of the Whole Foods Nation, his own audience, and tried to rebalance their perspective. That was what he tried to do with Bush and Cheney and we admired him for it. But when it came to Obama and Hillary, Jon had a blind spot.

Well, thanks, in part, to the effort of Stewart and Colbert, we now have President Obama, a man who never met a multimillionaire, finance guy, banker campaign donor he didn’t like. We now have former Senator Obama, a man who ran and hid any time there was a difficult decision to make or a political controversy to avoid, in the midst of a financial maelstrom where he is dithering, afraid to commit. He appointed finance guys who were insiders, or at least passive observers of the fraud, who are trying to navigate their way out of the problem without upsetting the very guys who were responsible for it. And they are failing.  Who would have thought?  Their anti-Change!™, cautious approach and inexperience are taking the country and the world to the very brink of disaster with economist after economist screaming for them to change course and do something. We have a major catastrophe on our hands and it was all entirely predictable. WE predicted it. But last year, we were the losers and the stupid racists. No one was listening to us, least of all Jon Stewart.

It is all Jon Stewart’s fault?  No, but he’s too smart a guy to not understand what part he played in the nomination of Barack Obama last year.  Glenn Greenwald is just as guilty.  He suffered from a similar blindspot.  Glenn carried a snobby assumption that Hillary was just not viable.  He didn’t really bother to spell it all out so that the rest of us would understand what it was that made Hillary so objectionable.  I never bought the argument of ‘corporatism’ since there wasn’t anything in Hillary’s voting record to suggest that she could be bought.  Obama, however, almost immediately showed us his true colors when he reversed his promise regarding the FISA bill.  Sorry, Glenn, you should have seen that coming.  Obama is not a boat rocker and he demonstrated that over and ovcr with his “present” votes and abstentions.  Once the nomination was cinched, there wasn’t anything you could do to stop him.  His accountability moment had passed.

The idea that now Jon Stewart and Glenn Greenwald are going to start taking on the press again is laughable.  They had their chance last year and they blew it.  They challenged nothing.  They are now as responsible for what plays out as the Jim Cramers, David Gregorys and Brian Willams’s they now decry.  It’s time they spent some time thinking about why they so quickly abandoned intelligence, competence and experience for an empty suit.  For Stewart, maybe it was pressure from Viacom, which makes him no better than his targets.  For Glenn, it may have been part of the pressure of being an A list blogger.  For both, maybe there was a touch of unacknowledged sexism.  But whatever reason, they should know that whatever happens from here on out is partially *their* responsibility for failing to be sufficiently critical.  And we Conflucians and PUMAs, who have been critical of the press since our inception, will hold them accountable for it.

(I’m back.  Thanks for your thoughts and prayers.  We survived the night.  We had cabin 14, right on the other side of the wall from cabin *13*, on the eve of Friday the 13th, at a campsite, on a lake.  Cue the theremin music.  Three of the giggly girls in my charge stayed up half the night communicating with cabin 13 through Morris code and screaming periodically at every bump in the night.  Happily, Jason passed us by.  Anyway, the temperature never got above freezing the whole time and, as a chaperone, I was forced to participate in every activity that the kids did.  When I got home late yesterday afternoon, my entire body was exhausted and frozen.  I’m now thawed out and just stiff in every muscle.  It was a lot of fun but thank gawd it’s over. )

Another one bites the dust during Pod 7C's great Into the Wild 2-day fieldtrip

Another one bites the dust during Pod 7C's great Into the Wild 2-day fieldtrip