Jon Stewart’s Rant About Rick Santelli – A Mirror Image of Bill O’Reilly?

On February 21, we wrote an article* about the now famous rant of CNBC’s Rick Santelli and the arrogant response by the White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

Rick Santelli had simply stated his passionate criticism of President Obama’s housing plan and his fellow traders at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange had loudly voiced their agreement. The speed with which Rick Santelli’s statement flew across the country showed that he had given voice to the anger in the American mainstream about the unfairness of the plan. 

The Obama team moved quickly to ridicule Rick Santelli personally in an attempt to squelch the uprising. The White House Press Secretary tried to do it with a smug arrogance. Chris Mathews of MSNBC tried to scoff at Rick Santelli on his show to cut him down to size. None of these attempts worked.

So this week, the biggest media gun of the left swung into action and fired on Rick Santelli. Jon Stewart, the semi-mythical cult leader of the left, called Rick the new Howard Beale (of the famous rant  “I am as mad as Hell and I’m not going to take this any more” in the movie Network). Then he compared Rick’s transformation from an analyst to a public spokesman to that of David Banner turning into the Incredible Hulk.

In a way, Rick Santelli should be feel proud. He clearly has touched a nerve, not just among the American people but among those closest (both in a political and spiritual sense) to the Obama Presidency. They are frightened that the American People will listen to Rick Santelli’s message and heed its appeal to their common sense and deep belief in fairness.

This fear dictated that Rick Santelli be discredited and that was Jon Stewart’s job. You have to hand it to Mr. Stewart. The man is a professional. He realized Rick could not be credibly attacked without linking him to a real issue. So, Jon Stewart put the entire CNBC Network in the witness stand and showed clips of CNBC’s hyping of the bubble in 2007 and early 2008. Then he linked Rick Santelli to the Wall Street CEOs and banks by making it seem that Rick was for the bailout of the banks. Jon delivered the punch line as only he can “…but when it looked like President Obama wanted a small part of the money to go to actual homeowners, Ho! Ho! (John Stewart yelled), David Banner became the Incredible Santelli”.

This was Jon Stewart’s version of the classic Willie Horton strategy. He knew that Rick Santelli was against the bank bailouts but that was beside the point. Like the creators of the Willie Horton ad, facts were not relevant to Jon Stewart, only the objective mattered.

Jon Stewart did his job for the left just as Bill O’Reilly, his mirror image at Fox, did his job for the right during the Bush Administration. These two brilliant men exploit their niche effectively for their own beliefs and agendas. It has been a great business for them.

There was a time when the major TV networks were uniformly liberal and tended to look down on conservative middle America (sort of the way Fareed Zakaria & company look down today at Americans who do not know much about the Middle East or Asia). This liberal smugness provided an opportunity for people to become conservative radio hosts and to start cable TV programs like Bill O’Reilly’s Factor on Fox.  

During 2003-2005 period, these conservative shows became the mainstream. Major TV networks followed their lead and provided glowing coverage of the Iraq invasion. The only show that seemed truthful about the Iraq situation was Jon Stewart’s Daily Show. By 2006-2007, the Iraq invasion had become deeply unpopular in America and Jon Stewart had reached his pinnacle. Candidate Obama saluted Jon Stewart when he laughingly said on the Daily Show that he, Barak Obama, was the only man in America more hyped than Jon Stewart. 

During the Bush years, Bill O’Reilly became a follower of the Bush agenda. He was smart enough to keep up appearances of neutrality but we could see that he was riding shotgun for the Bush stagecoach.

Jon Stewart is following the same path that Bill O’Reilly did. Mr. Stewart has become a follower of the Obama agenda even though he tries to keep up an appearance of neutrality. But we can see that he rides shotgun for the Obama Stagecoach. It was in this role that he blasted Rick Santelli with the buckshot of false, misdirected rhetoric – no fair play for any one who tries to slow down the Obama stagecoach. 

Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly are similar enough to be a mirror image of each other. A mirror image transforms the right into left and vice versa. In the same vein, Bill O’Reilly’s right fits his mirror image Jon Stewart’s left and vice versa. 

Jon Stewart’s attack on Rick Santelli worked because Rick Santelli did not show up for the debate on The Daily Show. Mr. Stewart said in his intro that his guest of the day was supposed to be Rick Santelli and added after his attack that Rick Santelli has accepted first and then “bailed out”.

If we had to take a guess, we would say that Rick Santelli was eager to go on Stewart’s show but CNBC Management got cold feet and told him not to go. If we wrong, we apologize to CNBC Management and we rebuke Rick Santelli for his cowardice. If we are correct, then CNBC Management made a big mistake. In our opinion, Rick Santelli would have done a very good job in laying out his case for all of America to see. He would have been feisty and rational. He would have countered Jon Stewart’s heckling with his passion and conviction. 

It could be that CNBC thought that Rick Santelli would not get fair play on Jon Stewart’s show.  After all, guests on The Daily Show are expected to be sycophants (like Joe Nocera of New York Times was) or they are hung out to dry.

If that is a concern, we suggest a neutral venue – an independent studio with a moderator for a no holds barred debate between Jon Stewart and Rick Santelli. There would be no shortage of moderators for this show. (Heck, we would do it for free. As avid viewers of both Jon Stewart and Rick Santelli, we are confident about riling them both to create a verbal smackdown.)

Rick Santelli is a tiger when he debates his colleague Steve Liesman surrounded by his buddies on his home court, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.  Debating the master, Jon Stewart, is a different ball game. Are you up for this fight, Rick? 

Jon Stewart is a barracuda when he tears into his guests on his Daily Show to the glee of his faithful cheering audience. But debating Rick Santelli, CNBC’s REF, on the bailout and its impact on markets is in a different league. Are you up for this fight, Jon?

The American people need this debate and they would love it. The question is whether the combatants have the stomach for it!

* See out article “Kudos To You Rick Santelli,The REF Of CNBC & Shame On You Robert Gibbs, White House Press Secretary” – February 21, 2009 ––shame-on-you-robert-gibbs-white-house-press-secretary.aspx

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