04/16/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

CNBC Can See Russia From Its House, And Other Fin de Siecle Follies

Sarah Palin can see Russia from her house.

CNBC can see Russia from its house. It's just one example of a fin de siecle folly, albeit one of the most recent and dramatic.

This is clearly end-of-an-era time, but some of the old era standbys haven't gotten the memo. Or been able to read it.

CNBC star Jim Cramer, taken down by Jon Stewart for his and his network's extraordinarily bad reporting as the nation's financial system was in the process of melting down, ended up apologetic.

Jon Stewart's already legendary takedown of the CNBC financial "news" network was an extraordinary rebuke of a fitting stand-in for a clueless money culture.

It should have been obvious the era was ended with the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, not to mention the sweeping victory of Barack Obama. But the old attitudes -- which represent a sort of intellectual entropy -- have been very persistent.

CNBC's blowhard promoters -- never take a shouter about high finance at all seriously -- continued their bleatings, and the feckless but aptly named Cramer (perhaps believing he'd get the one-celeb-to-another treatment from Stewart) ambled on to his Daily Show doom.

Those extraordinary executives at AIG earned a presidential rebuke today.

Like the clown show commentators, the execs at AIG thought they'd just go on and continue to get their "due" as well. Only to find that the American public really is fed up by the idea of hundreds of millions in guaranteed "performance" bonuses to folks who are taking over $170 billion in public money to make up for their incredible mistakes.

Though they undoubtedly believe, being masters of the universe and all, that they are smarter than Sarah Palin, their grandiloquent delusions of adequacy reveal that they imagined that they could see their own private Russia from their houses, too.

Which brings us to Sarah Palin herself. This poor soul, who did less in local government (her claim to fame until she got herself elected governor of Alaska) than I did when I was in high school -- and that sure wasn't much -- is still the toast of the far right. Which means she is the toast of the Republican Party. Still. Despite her multiple intellectual failures as the candidate to be a John McCain heartbeat away from the Presidency.

She's going to headline the Republicans' biggest fundraiser of the year, the annual Republican Senate-House Dinner at the Washington Convention Center on June 8th.

This is the biggest single fundraiser for the party's candidates for US Senate and House of Representatives. And a good way for the Democrats to tie Palin's politics into all recipients of the campaign committee funds, in other words, all serious Republican candidates for both houses of Congress.

But it does show how enduring a hold Palin and the party's right-wing base have on the national Republican apparatus.

Despite the embarrassment of pregnant teenage daughter Bristol breaking up with her teenage fiance, the reprimand of her husband for abuse of power, her oil-financed popularity at home falling in tandem with the decline of Alaska's oil revenues, and the revelation of this anti-earmarks reformer's own big earmarks requests.

Palin's real running mate last year, Joe the Plumber, is still hanging on, too. Elevated by a sort of desperate reverence for a semi-mythical entrepreneurial working stiff that in the past campaign became a cartoon caricature, the workin' stuff dude became a war correspondent who declared that war correspondents shouldn't be allowed to cover wars. You know, just have gushy newsreels, like at the old-time movie theaters. Still he was cheered on at last month's Conservative Political Action Conference and is a hot ticket in Republican circles.

Part of Rush Limbaugh's 75-minute stemwinder at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Of course, there's Rush Limbaugh, the gift that keeps on giving. For Democrats. This literal embodiment of the "Party of No" is for Obama Democrats what Reagan and Bush Republicans hoped they could make of Jesse Jackson. A polarizing, very high-profile symbol that defines the opposition because he just can't stop talking. Which, unfortunately for Republicans, is only true of El Rushbo.

But this is no surprise for a party so embroiled in its own inertia that its choice for national chair boiled down to the hapless Michael Steele -- who had the limited utility of being African American at a time of the first African American president -- or Katon Dawson, a white male Deep South state party leader who once belonged to a whites only country club.

Given the choice between a more acceptable token (who a few years ago was hailed by neoconservatives) or an unacceptable representative of the party's geographic, demographic, and ideological base, the choice was obvious enough. After six ballots. Not that Steele, with his multiple gaffes and near instantaneous kow tow to Limabaugh after some mild criticisms, is likely to last.

Even the trademark triumphalism of the past era is still on ample display.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney said yesterday on CNN that his administration did a great job.

For that, one need look no further than yesterday's remarkable CNN appearance by former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Cheney, against all odds and normal perceptions of reality, still insists that things went great for the past eight years. He and George W. Bush bear no responsibility for the near-meltdown of the financial system. Their policies of torture kept America safe and strong, notwithstanding the general unreliability of torture as a means of interrogation, or the international opprobrium it brought America. Oh, and the Iraq adventure, which has kept the American military pinned down for six years and empowered Iran? A smashing success.

He sees Russia from his house, too.