Americans who didn’t witness filmmaker Michael Moore’s appearance Tuesday night on NBC’s “The Jay Leno Show” missed one of those rare moments when the vast wasteland gives way to an oasis of realism.

Rarely since the days when author Gore Vidal regularly appeared on the “Tonight” show with Johnny Carson has a popular television program on a commercial broadcast channel provided such extended and respectful treatment to a scathing critique of the corrupt status quo.

Leno hailed Moore’s new movie, “Capitalism: A Love Story,” as “the best film he’s done.”

The talk-show host described “Capitalism: A Love Story” as “completely nonpartisan” — and he’s right: Moore goes after sold-out Democrats and sold-out Republicans — before declaring: “I was stunned by it, and I think it is the most fair film.”

Even more meaningful than Leno’s review of a movie he had obviously watched and considered seriously was this exchange:

LENO: Now it’s one year since Lehman Brothers collapsed. We’ve had all, OK, we’ve handed out… Is Wall Street any better? Have they learned anything?

MOORE: No, not at all. It’s, it’s probably worse. They’re still doing these exotic derivatives. They’re now trying to do it with life insurance. They’ve got all these crazy schemes. I mean, that’s what I’m saying about capitalism, it’s like a beast. And no matter how many strings or ropes you try and tie it down with that beast just wants more and more money. And it will go anywhere. It will try to gobble up as much as it can. The word ‘enough’ is the dirtiest word in capitalism, ‘cuz there’s no such thing as enough with these guys. And we haven’t stopped them. We haven’t passed the regulations that President Obama has suggested. I mean, I think he’s really on top of this. And he said yesterday, he told Wall Street, ‘That’s it, boys. No more free ATM machine at the U.S. Department of Treasury.’ And I think that’s something we all support, right?

The audience responded with enthusiastic and sustained applause.

The applause rose again when Moore explained that: “I’m actually suggesting go back to our roots of this country, democracy. What if we had an economy that you and I had a say in? Right now, we all don’t have much of a say in this economy. What if we applied our democratic principles and said, ‘We, the people, have a right to determine how this economy is run.’ I think we’d be in much better shape than what we’re going through right now.”

Moore gets credit for stating economic truths that are rarely aired on commercial television. But Moore can usually be counted on to get things right, when he gets a microphone.

Leno gets credit for something a good deal more remarkable. He provided a forum for an American artist and thinker to describe the current economic order as “insane.”

Tuesday night’s program gave new meaning to the term “reality TV.”

Here’s the video of Leno’s interview with Moore.

And here’s the transcript, which really is worth a read:

JAY LENO: The film is called Capitalism: A Love Story.

MICHAEL MOORE: Yes, it’s Capitalism: A Love Story. The love refers to how the wealthy love their money except this has a new twist. They not only love their money now, they love our money.

LENO: Right.

MOORE: And they want our money.

LENO: Right, right.

MOORE: So, uh…

LENO: Well, it’s interesting in the film. You say capitalism is evil. I think greed is evil, but I think capitalism is OK as long as you, I mean, moderation in all things. I mean, uh, explain.

MOORE: Yeah, well, capitalism, capitalism is actually legalized greed. Uh, it’s, it’s, it… There’s nothing wrong with people earning money, doing well, starting a business, selling shoes. That’s not what I’m talking about here.

We’re at a point now, Jay, in this country where the richest one percent, the very top one percent, have more financial wealth than the bottom 95 percent combined.

LENO: Really? Wow.

MOORE: That’s insane. We live in a democracy. We’re supposed to have like fairness and equality. And, you know, when you have a pie on the table, you know, something you and I know something about.

LENO: Right. We’ve both had pie on the table.

MOORE: But when you have a pie on the table, there’s ten slices, and one guy at the table says, ‘Nine of those slices are mine…

LENO: Right.

MOORE: And the other nine of you, you can fight over the last slice,’ I mean, that’s essentially the kind of economy we have now.

LENO: Well, the one thing I like about this film, the main thing was, it’s completely nonpartisan. Other people have had opinions, ‘Oh, he’s a liberal, he’s doing this,’ but you go after both the Democrats and the Republicans, I think, equally in this film. Maybe you’ve hit the Democrats a little bit harder because they get into that culture of… they’re all Wall Street guys that run everything now. That didn’t used to be the way it was, was it?

MOORE: It didn’t used to be that way, and now both parties take huge sums of money from Wall Street, from all corporations. They’ve really bought both of our parties. And it was funny, you know, they tended to skew Republican when they hand out their money, but as soon as it looked like Barack Obama might win then they all of a sudden go, ‘Whoa, wait a minute.’ And they started throwing money at him during the campaign, hoping, you know, that he’ll do their bidding once he gets into office.

LENO: Now it’s one year since Lehman Brothers collapsed. We’ve had all, OK, we’ve handed out… Is Wall Street any better? Have they learned anything?

MOORE: No, not at all. It’s, it’s probably worse. They’re still doing these exotic derivatives. They’re now trying to do it with life insurance. They’ve got all these crazy schemes. I mean, that’s what I’m saying about capitalism, it’s like a beast. And no matter how many strings or ropes you try and tie it down with that beast just wants more and more money. And it will go anywhere. It will try to gobble up as much as it can. The word ‘enough’ is the dirtiest word in capitalism, ‘cuz there’s no such thing as enough with these guys. And we haven’t stopped them. We haven’t passed the regulations that President Obama has suggested. I mean, I think he’s really on top of this. And he said yesterday, he told Wall Street, ‘That’s it, boys. No more free ATM machine at the U.S. Department of Treasury.’ And I think that’s something we all support, right? I mean, this is like, uh…

(Applause)

LENO: Now is reform possible? Is reform possible?

MOORE: Well, I, I don’t, you know, a hundred years ago when there was child labor, they said, you know, ‘Can we reform child labor? Can we just regulate it, like if the factories were safer and the kids go to school, we can still have 12-year-olds working in the factory, right?

LENO: Right.

MOORE: No, not right. It’s wrong. Some things are just wrong. And this capitalist economic system that we have, it might have been right at one point, it’s not right now. And I don’t think we’re ever gonna put the genie back in the bottle. So we need to come up with something new to replace it. And I’m not talking about… This isn’t a debate between capitalism versus socialism.

LENO: Right.

MOORE: I’m actually suggesting go back to our roots of this country, democracy. What if we had an economy that you and I had a say in? Right now, we all don’t have much of a say in this economy. What if we applied our democratic principles and said, ‘We, the people, have a right to determine how this economy is run.’ I think we’d be in much better shape than what we’re going through right now.

(Applause)

LENO: Well, you have a fascinating point. Uh… (Applause) the thing that amazes me about this film, you must have finished it like last week, ‘cuz it goes right up until just like a month or so ago.

MOORE: I finished it two weeks ago.

LENO: And this is something that went right by me, and I, maybe other people missed it, I’m not the brightest guy when it comes to financial things, but when we were going through this bailout, this $700 billion, people wrote to their congressmen, en masse, and said, ‘Vote against this.’ It was voted down and then what happened? Within a matter of days…

MOORE: Within days, Henry Paulson, the secretary of the treasury, and all his Goldman Sachs buddies, that you referred to in your monologue, with their billions of dollars and their million dollar bonuses, they went up to Capitol Hill and just started dishing out this little treat and that little treat to various congressmen.

LENO: Democrats and Republicans.

MOORE: Democrats and Republicans, especially, um, a certain Democratic chairman of the banking and finance committee, Sen. Dodd…

LENO: Chris Dodd.

MOORE: …who, as I point out in the film, I have an exclusive interview with the VIP loan manager at Countrywide Loans, the largest mortgage company in the country, was giving sweetheart loans to Sen. Dodd, where he didn’t have to pay fees. They did away with the paperwork for him. He got all things the average person couldn’t get. And he’s supposed to be regulating Countrywide and all these mortgage companies. So, the film really, I think people are going to be surprised.

LENO: I was very surprised.

MOORE: You’re going to see things you haven’t seen.

LENO: I was stunned by it, and I think it is the most fair film. You know, you’ve been accused of ambushing people and this type of stuff in the past, and there’s none of that.

MOORE: And rightly so.

LENO: Everybody that talks to you wants to talk to you.

MOORE: Yes.

LENO: And that’s what amazed me.

MOORE: I think that’s because people are really together on this issue.