Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Voice of Experience

Hoisted By His Own Picard


The community in cyberspace is all abuzz over the video of Jon Stewart from Comedy Central's The Daily Show, savagely attacking CNBC's Rick Santielli and the network's shortcomings as a financial prognosticator.

It's certainly not my purpose to defend CNBC but I think it's worth noting that by its very nature, financial advice of the type offered by organizations such as CNBC does not carry with it the exactness of a mathematical proof.  If all financial advice was 100% accurate nobody would ever loss a dime in the markets and I defy the brilliant researchers of The Daily Show to find anybody who accurately predicted the current crisis.  But that being said, I'd like to call attention to Stewart's particularly vicious implication that CNBC, which has unrivaled access to the financial movers and shakers of the world, was somehow complicit in their failures by not asking these people tough questions.  We all laugh as Stewart shows video of CNBC reporters asking CEO Rick Wagnoner of the troubled automaker General Motors about Kid Rock's performance at a GM Style Event or asking financial advisor Sir Allen Stanford, who was subsequently shown to be running a Ponzi scheme, this softball question, "Is it fun being a billionaire?'


Of course, the writers for The Daily Show were able to put together this bit due to the vast wealth of video available on the internet of CNBC interviews.  But Stewart and his show have also left a trail of video out in cyberspace that some other smart ass, like me, can probe for his failings.  And sure enough, it only took about five minutes to find.


On August 23, 2007, presidential candidate Barack Obama was a guest on the The Daily Show. Now certainly a man who could be the leader of the free world and weld more power than all the financial wizards interviewed by CNBC combined surely deserves some critical examination.  And don't forget, even then, King Hussein Obama I didn't sit down for an interview with just anybody.  Throughout the whole campaign, our current King boycotted the entire Fox Network, save an interview with Bill O'Reilly which only took place after negotiations worthy of the SALT treaties.  So by agreeing to this interview, Stewart was gaining access to a man that was inaccessible to many.


Stewart started the interview with this tough one:


The effect you have on a crowd is unusual, there's an inspirational quality.  Is that something American is going to go for?


Way to go Jon, that's really nailing him to the wall..  It gets better.  Here's the next one:


The process of picking a candidate is so insane.  Has the insanity of this process sunk in on you yet?


Without his security blanket, i.e. Tele-Promp-Ter, handy, Obama blathered on about the debates and how they weren't really about a serious exchange of issues and then he dropped this bomb.


Obama:  So much of what we talk about, so much of what we say, it's not true, people know it's not true, all the insiders understand that we're just game playing and in the meantime we've got these serious problems, which are true.


When I first saw this I was blown away.  Was Obama admitting that he was a liar?  Or was he saying all the other politicians were liars but he was telling the truth?  Who knew, but the one thing I was sure of was that Stewart, that relentless pursuer of the truth, would pounce all over this statement.  His next question was a gem:


Do you feel you're stuck in a narrative now and the narrative is:, Hillary is experienced but unlikable and Obama is inexperienced but brings change.  


Wow, what a follow up question!  I bet the King was really sweating over that one.


Further on in the interview, in response to yet another ridiculously soft question, Obama talked about how much criticism he took over his comments about Pakistan.  And just in case the stupid liberals in The Daily Show audience had forgotten what the whole stink about Pakistan was, the King took the time to tell them.  He complained that his comment that it was wrong to use nuclear weapons against terrorist camps in Pakistan was unfairly attacked but that once people thought about it they realized he was right.


Now as indefatigable monitor of current events, I'm sure Jon Stewart was aware that the whole stink about Pakistan actually concerned Obama's comments that the U.S. should invade Pakistan if necessary to pursue a-Qaida terrorists, a completely different matter.  So how did Mr. Stewart respond to this obvious lie from a man who but moments earlier basically admitted to being a liar?


With the experience thing (i.e., his lack of it) have you thought about running a smaller country first?


After this rigorous grilling, I'm sure you, like I, thought that Obama would never go on The Daily Show again but you would be wrong.  On October 29, 2008, just days before the election, King Hussein Obama I granted another audience to Jon Stewart, this time via satellite from Florida.  By this time of course, Obama had a comfortable lead in the polls and Stewart wasn't going to do anything to change that.  Most of the questions are so inane that they're not even worth mentioning.  Stewart asked the King things like:


I thought you'd be playing a four corner offence, but you're really going at it.  Tell us about this infomercial (Obama's campaign would run a half hour campaign commercial that evening on network television).

Will it annoy us?

Can you and McCain like each other after the campaign?

With the kind of issues that face the country now, is there a sense that you don't want this?


Unlike CNBC, which makes predictions and faces the consequences when they don't pan out, critics like Stewart generally don't take positions on the issues.  Without offering anything of substances, they stand on the sidelines and laugh and ridicule.  With his soft-ball coddling and open endorsement of Obama, Stewart has crossed the line from sideline buffoon to political advocate and it's only fair that he is held accountable for the King's reign.  Perhaps in two to three years, when unemployment is over 10%, the country is mired in a deep recession, and we're a laughing stock in the international community, someone will dig up all the pro-Obama comments of Stewart and interpose them with the miserable headlines of that day and see how he likes it.


By the way, before we leave this topic, at the end of the second interview Obama revealed perhaps more than he intended to with this comment:


We tend to be a pretty conservative country, I don't mean conservative politically per se but conservative in the sense that things are going along pretty well and we don't want to mess with it too much.  And then every once in awhile we have these big challenges and big problems and it gives an opportunity for us to really move in a new direction.  I think this is one of those moments on things like energy and healthcare and the economy and education where I think that people recognize that what we've been doing isn't working and that means people are going to be more open to change.


Remember that one next time Obama's talking down the economy.

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