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Justice is finally served

  • March 15, 2009 - 1:14 PM

JUSTICE IS FINALLY SERVED

Madoff, Cramer face their judges

Disgraced, downbeat and about to face judgment, one of the people most associated with the financial crisis had his cultural comeuppance under the bright lights of TV cameras yesterday.

Bernie Madoff? No, Jim Cramer, the CNBC host who stole the only thing Madoff didn't make off with -- the pop culture spotlight. But instead of a judge in robes behind a bench, Cramer faced Jon Stewart in a suit behind a talk-show set.

The host of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" excoriated Cramer and his colleagues for missing - or worse yet, being accomplices to - the financial crisis.

And it wasn't just rhetoric, but reality, as clips from a shaky camera showed how shady the game is played. Grainy footage showed a grinning Cramer regaling his days manipulating the market as a hedge fund manager. Chastised, Cramer copped to many of the charges Stewart leveled, and pledged to try to do better.

The scheduling serendipity of Madoff's court appearance and Cramer showing up on "The Daily Show," was a rare, albeit brief, cultural catharsis for a nation reeling from the rapidity of the economy's meltdown. And while it won't raise anyone's 401(k), it might have raised spirits, as it shows that although the justice and journalistic systems grind slowly, they can still work.

But the key difference between the two is that while the justice system is still rightfully confined to official channels, the journalistic system - partly because of so many channels of communication - is wide open, which allowed a satirist like Stewart to seize the news narrative and declare that both the financial and media emperors (or as novelist Tom Wolfe would call them, "Masters of the Universe") have no clothes.

JOHN RASH

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