The Campaign Spot

Let Him* Who Has Never Erred in Predictions Cast the First Stone

Jon Stewart is mocking Jim Cramer, newly minted Obama critic, by pointing out his praise for Bear Stearns in the weeks before the Wall Street giant collapsed.

The obvious insinuation is, “Well, if Cramer was so far off in assessing Bear Stearns, he must be way off in his assessment of Obama administration’s management of the economy.”

Of course, show me a stock-picker who has never recommended a stock that lost value. If a wrong prediction is all it takes to deem someone not credible in their assessments, then no one has any credibility.

I mean, if you think of what President Obama said about the surge . . .

I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there . . . In fact, I think it will do the reverse. I think it takes pressure off the Iraqis to arrive at the sort of political accommodation that every observer believes is the ultimate solution to the problems we face there. So I am going to actively oppose the president’s proposal.

. . . we saw how that turned out.

Obama said the night of his Iowa caucus victory:

The time has come for a president who will be honest about the choices and the challenges we face; who will listen to you and learn from you even when we disagree; who won’t just tell you what you want to hear, but what you need to know. And in New Hampshire, if you give me the same chance that Iowa did tonight, I will be that president for America.

New Hampshire didn’t give him that chance, and he still went on to win the presidency.

(For that matter, Jon Stewart jokingly predicted that the New York Mets would go 162-0 in 2008.)

* UPDATE: Several readers argue it should be “let him.”

ANOTHER UPDATE: Several readers point out that Cramer has addressed this:

Both seize on the urban legend that I recommended Bear Stearns the week before it collapsed, even though I was saying that I thought it could be worthless as soon as the following week. I did tell an emailer that his deposit in his account at Bear Stearns was safe, but through a clever sound bite, Stewart, and subsequently Rich — neither of whom have bothered to listen to the context of the pulled quote — pass off the notion of account safety as an out-and-out buy recommendation. The absurdity astounds me. If you called Mad Money and asked me about Citigroup, I would tell you that the common stock might be worthless, but I would never tell you to pull your money out of the bank because I was worried about its solvency. Your money is safe in Citi as I said it was in Bear. The fact that I was right rankles me even more. I never said the same thing about Lehman, where your accounts weren’t safe. I expect a skewering from the comedian Stewart. I was shocked, however, that the rigorous Rich wouldn’t investigate further and relied on the show’s truncation of the truth. After all, how many times were the pull quotes from reviews by Rich used against him when he may have been panning a play in his former role as entertainment critic?

This is accurate, but separate from my point. The argument put forth by Stewart in this case is, “Cramer said X, but he was wrong about Y, so he must be wrong about X.” But under that line of argument, ever being wrong about anything means any potential statement is wrong. Cramer makes dozens of stock picks on his program, some right, some wrong. His erroneous assessment on any one stock is not sufficient to dismiss him as an economic analyst, or else every investor who’s ever taken a loss anywhere on any financial move is unfit to comment on economics.


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