Stewart 1, Cramer, 0
I'll shake your hand, but I refuse to look in your direction. I hate you.
I kinda felt bad for Jim Cramer on Thursday night ... like, for a second.
That's because the much-publicized Cramer-Jon Stewart face-off wasn't at all what I expected.
Instead, it reminded me of the scene in "Fight Club" where Jared Leto is getting ready to grapple and is clearly thinking, 'Oh yeah, this'll be a fun way to get rid of some aggression' and then WHAM ... his face is beaten beyond recognition.
Oh, is that a tooth sticking out of his nose? Yeah ... all fun and games, pretty boy.
The "Mad Money" host -- whose show I've never watched, but know about -- was EVISCERATED during his "Daily Show" tete-a-tete with funnyman Stewart. There he sat, sometimes in stunned silence, sometimes just mumbling something about CNBC's culpability, at one point conceding "it's your show" when Stewart shouted instructions to air another damning clip of Cramer talking about deceptive practices he knew had been employed by Wall Street bullies.
True, it was one of Stewart's finest moments as a commentator. But like I said, I felt bad for a moment while thinking, "Hmmm, is Jim Cramer really the source of evil Joe Bankrupt should be shaking his or her fist at?"
Yes, Cramer is responsible in some capacity since he works for a large financial network. Yes, as Stewart pointed out, it's readily apparent folks like Cramer knew they were being lied to as the financial bubble began to burst.
Yet as each bit of criticism was leveled from Stewart -- with barely a smirk or touch of humor from the "Daily Show" host -- I kept waiting for a referee to streak in and stop the bleeding.
Cramer swallowed every spoonful of (bleep) shoved in his face last night. And while he didn't have any solid arguments to make it a fair fight, at least he was a professional about it, at least he took the beating without resorting to any Bill O'Reilly-style back-bullying or contrived indignation.
True, Cramer drew from that playbook when he badmouthed Stewart during media rounds throughout the week (though admittedly, Joe Scarborough was a bigger jerk ... and I like Scarborough.) But Mad Jimmy didn't see this smackdown coming. No way.
When David Letterman piled on John McCain prior to the Republican presidential candidate making up for canceling a last minute appearance, you figured the two would reconcile, be entertaining, trade some thoughtful barbs, but largely play nice. Cramer probably anticipated something similar.
Hey, "The Daily Show" wants some ratings. Everyone is talking about this on blogs. Stewart's a nice guy and will get tough, but ultimately, play to his strength -- comedy.
Stewart was in no mood to play nice, though.
“They burned the (bleeping) house down with our money and walked away rich as hell, and you guys knew that that was going on.”
“I understand you want to make finance entertaining, but it’s not a (bleeping) game ... I can’t tell you how angry that makes me, because what it says to me is you all know ... (There’s) a game you know is going on but that you go on television as a financial network and pretend it isn’t happening.”
“I can’t reconcile the brilliance and knowledge that you have of the intricacies of the market with the crazy (bleep) I see you do every night."
“It feels like we are capitalizing your adventure.”
“It’s easy to get on this after the fact.”
Stewart was hardcore, Cramer got hit by a populist truck of righteous outrage.
Yet I can't help but feel -- without naming names -- that it would have been nice to put a few more important folks in Cramer's chair Thursday night in hopes we could get some straight talk on the same depressing topics.
But no, Jim Cramer as whipping boy and Jon Stewart as serious journalist will have to do these days, I guess. That doesn't sound like much of a victory to me.
-- Thomas Rozwadowski, email@example.com