Jon Stewart has two kinds of angry. There's the "Aww Come On" anger, and his "Mad As Hell" anger. You don't want to be on the wrong side of the second one.
For the past few weeks, Stewart has been delving into the dark secrets of the stock market -- looking for a way to both reveal the hidden villains and unearth the actual unease that Americans feel with the market.
Last night -- Jim Cramer wandered out into the line of fire. It was a massacre.
Following the avalanche of twitter comments as the show was broadcast, the outrage and anger that average Americans feel toward what Stewart characterized as "The Two Stock Markets" was stunning.
If you didn't watch the interview, you should -- the entire uncut piece is here.
And before I go into the argument Stewart made, and Cramer ratified -- let's regroup and remember who the players are.
Stewart has done this before. When he took aim at the quality of political discourse on cable TV -- his target was CNN's Crossfire. A pointless political scream-fest that was a harbinger of the now deeply divided political system that is entrenched in Washington. Stewart then begged the so-called political analysts to "Stop Hurting America." His request resulted almost immediately in the cancellation of Crossfire.
Expect no less from last night's tirade. Cramer's Mad Money will be off CNBC, that's almost a certainty. But here, Stewart may be hunting truly big game.
Cramer lamely sat sleeves rolled up and sweaty in the guest's chair and responded with "We could have done better", Stewart's basic line of questioning came back, time and time again, to the simple refrain: Is CNBC a news network? -- and If so, do they have any obligation to investigate, report, question what they put on their air? This is no small matter. What Stewart charged last night was that CNBC was in fact a co-conspirator in the meltdown of the US Stock Markets. That while Cramer and his 'in the know' buddies operated a fast moving, highly leveraged, game of "Credit Default Swap Poker", Cramer on air was preaching the standard -- long market vision, keep your money in -- buy and sell shares, but overall accept that the markets are sound.
Using an interview that Stewart turned up, in which Cramer in 2006 talked about how he often broke the rules, because the SEC doesn't enforce them, and how he cheated because "everyone does", Stewart conducted a live, point by point, indictment of both Cramer and the system he represents. By all accounts, it wasn't even close. What is clear now is that Cramer at the very least was presenting a view of the market on air that couldn't have represented what he knew to be true. As he explained in one of the taped 'instructions', Cramer said you can move to market with rumor and innuendo. No surprise, but does CNBC endorse that Cramer's Mad Money show is entertainment, or financial advice? There's no doubt they're meeting to throw him under the bus this very morning.
But that isn't what Stewart is after -- and he as much as said so on the air.
Remember that Cramer is more than a carnival barker. He was the founder of TheStreet.com, a seasoned hedge fund operator, and perhaps the most visible insider on financial cable today. So the fact that Jon Stewart can present Cramer's repeated financial advice as little more than a cablecast side show raises some real questions about how, and where Americans are supposed to get serious, balanced, journalistic financial information. After all, it was CNBC's own promos that promised; "In Cramer We Trust".