17 March 2009
Some of you may have read Rachael’s review/live blog of Jon Stewart’s recent Daily Show interview with Jim Cramer, the host of CNBC’s Mad Money. Having finally caught up on the Daily Show after a week away, I feel the need to join in the discussion.
Let me start off by saying that Rachael’s observation that Jon Stewart is currently the most challenging and daring interviewer in the business is absolutely on the money (forgive the pun). As a comedian, Stewart spends most of his time standing out on limbs, not caring about offending people or being in the minority on an opinion. Even when he’s deathly serious, he carries that over into his interviewing skills. Stewart was incredibly tough on Cramer, making him accountable for everything he, his network and everyone in his industry did and are doing. This uncompromising style has led to some of the most cutting interviews in recent history (a favourite of mine being Stewart’s challenge of Mike Huckabee’s anti-gay marriage stance), and the Cramer interview was every bit as intense, important and honest as those that came before it.
But even among all the fascinating moments and crucial social commentaries in the episode, what stood out to me most was not the fearless and intelligent skills of Stewart, it was Cramer’s unfailing and incredibly surprising grace under fire.
My mommy always taught me that manners matter. She would say that grace, dignity, humility and kindness will get you further in the world than almost anything else, particularly when the world is telling you not to walk with your head held high.
Last Thursday, Jim Cramer was under attack. The attack was arguably deserved, arguably fair and coming from the hero of the American liberal public, who had pages of facts and hours of B roll to support his ammunition. I think I would have cried. I may have broken down into hysterics, hung my head and gone mute, run from the building in a rage or terror, reacted hostilely and yelled at my challenger, sat with folded arms and a look of indignation or simply refused to admit that I was wrong in any way. I’m sure I would have done one of these things. But in a perfect world, somewhere where I could behave exactly as my mother taught me to, I would have reacted to an attack exactly as Jim Cramer did.
The man has made a career of being loud, obnoxious, immature, aggressive and ridiculous. And yet, when he was put in the hot seat and blamed for far more than he was responsible for, Jim Cramer took it like a man. He apologized for his mistakes, stood up for himself at points, humbly let Stewart speak his piece and suppressed any and all hostility about being pigeon-holed as the representative of everything that caused the current suffering of millions of Americans.
He may have struggled with articulating some of his points. He, in no way, was a match for Jon Stewart’s crafty smarts. He had some shady past statements he could do nothing to cover up and he simply was in the wrong on many points. But if more prominent people in today’s society could learn to compose themselves with the poise and humility that Jim Cramer showed on the Daily Show last Thursday, I think there may be some hope for us yet.