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I never thought I'd say this, but poor Jim Cramer.
Ever since late-night comedian Jon Stewart ripped into CNBC last week -- singling out some of the horrendous market calls on the business network over the past year -- Cramer has emerged as Public Pinata No. 1.
The problem with Cramer is that he's a moth to publicity's flame. Instead of letting Stewart's parade of embarrassing CNBC video clips -- most of them unrelated to Cramer -- rest, TheStreet.com's (Nasdaq: TSCM ) fiery rock star took to the airwaves to defend himself. This has only escalated matters, and now Cramer will face off with Stewart on The Daily Show tonight.
"Jackpot," Cramer is probably thinking, with a shot to redeem himself and win over a new audience.
"Idiot," I say, fully aware of the trap that he is about to step into.
The Daily Show isn't just a misnomer because it's on four nights a week
Stewart, I'm sorry to say, is a financial ignoramus. His comedic timing and satirical jabs are impeccable, but he couldn't dollar-cost average his way out of a wet paper bag.
Stewart has screwed up before when he ripped into Cramer last year. He and his guest completely misinterpreted the meaning of short covering. After playing a clip that had the "Baron of Boo-yah!" saying that it was a "great moment to start covering those shorts and take a shot on the long side," they inexplicably concluded that Cramer was betting on stocks to head lower.
Cue the Mess-Up-otamia graphic!
It's the stupid, economy.
Stewart and his writers blew it again this time. They rightfully found clips of Cramer pumping shares of Bear Stearns shortly before last year's collapse, but then they seemed to conclude that Bear Stearns was acquired by JPMorgan (NYSE: JPM ) for $2 a share.
Nope. The investment banking giant quickly sweetened its bid to $10 a share. It was still a brutal swan song for Bear Stearns, but if you're going to skewer the news, at least get your source material right.
Hit me up. I'll proofread the financial zingers for free so you don't fire blanks next time.
The fling of all media
At its heart, this is a battle between two media giants. CNBC majority parent General Electric (NYSE: GE ) has had no problem sending Cramer on a redemptive publicity tour through its media properties over the past few days. Stewart was waving his Viacom (NYSE: VIA ) flag Tuesday night.
Cramer thinks having a few extra spotlights on him are great. Just wait until he wakes up Friday morning, shuffles off to the bathroom, and sees Octomom staring back at him in the mirror.
He doesn't get it. When Rick Santelli bowed out of his appearance on The Daily Show -- leaving the show with little to do but go on its rant against CNBC's biggest blunders -- he knew what was coming. The hero worship would end once Stewart exposed Santelli's speculative underbelly.
Cramer doesn't seem to realize he's RSVP'ing to his own crucifixion.
When you're a financial pundit, you're going to be wrong. You're going to make bad calls. Just because you're given the national stage to defend yourself doesn't mean you should take the stand, especially when Bear Stearns is really just the tip of the iceberg.
See, Cramer's biggest problem isn't just that he's human so he's occasionally wrong. No, his Achilles' heel is that he has more turns than a NASCAR speedway. He can probably dig into his bag and find clips where he was bearish on Bear Stearns before the meltdown. It wouldn't surprise me.
Three years ago, I wrote one of the first articles that were critical of Cramer's on-air flip flops. In Cramer vs. Cramer, I took a look at how he would move investors in and out of Intuitive Surgical (Nasdaq: ISRG ) , where the less dizzying "buy and hold" approach would have produced far superior returns.
Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of consistency in his advice. Earlier in the show he rates Visa (NYSE: V ) as a "solid buy" right now and a "screaming buy" if it dips below $50. Later in the show, a caller wants to know about MasterCard (NYSE: MA ) . Cramer retreats. "Both MA and Visa have spiked," he says, reaching for a cash register sound effect. "When things spike in the market, we have to wait for it to come down."
Yes, he turned on Visa in a matter of minutes. It went from "buy, buy, buy!" to "bye, bye, bye!"
It didn't take me long to find that single nugget. Just because Stewart's crack crew has been sloppy in the past doesn't mean that they can't redeem themselves and find real poison to smear on their arrowheads this time.
Don't do it, Jimbo
In defense of Cramer, I don't want to see him get mauled. As the poster child for financial journalism, if his ambassadorial skills take an uppercut to the face, we're all yelling "cut me, Mickey" after a losing round.
Cramer may come off as a brash loudmouth, but the guy has done more than any other financial talking head to get the masses excited about the market. And lately he has even beefed up the educational components of his show, and that's huge from a guy who often boils down due diligence to a soundboard button.
So I guess my pro bono offer applies to Cramer as well. Hit me up and bulletproof your armor.
However, my real advice would be to run. Don't let the public find new reasons to dislike you. You've got eight babies to feed. You don't need to be Angelina.
Other ways to brush up before the inevitable showdown: