UPDATE: As I predicted, Jon Stewart responded to Paul Krugman's slams on The Daily Show tonight, details here.
A couple years back, I conducted a very unscientific (though more valid than a typical Fox focus group) survey here on Nation readers’ most admired media hosts, commentators and writers. Two who finished near the top, no surprise, were Jon Stewart and Paul Krugman. Now the two left/liberal favorites may be feuding—and it’s all because of a small shiny object.
We could only be referring to the Trillion Dollar Baby. This proposed debt-fighting platinum coin was not slammed right away by Krugman, surprising some, when it was floated a couple of weeks back. In a blog post at The New York Times, he wrote:
Should President Obama be willing to print a $1 trillion platinum coin if Republicans try to force America into default? Yes, absolutely. He will, after all, be faced with a choice between two alternatives: one that’s silly but benign, the other that’s equally silly but both vile and disastrous. The decision should be obvious…. And by minting a $1 trillion coin, then depositing it at the Fed, the Treasury could acquire enough cash to sidestep the debt ceiling—while doing no economic harm at all.
Krugman proposed that the face on the coin should be John Boehner’s.
A few days passed, and the coin drew some serious consideration. Jon Stewart, back from a long holiday break, naturally poked some fun at the whole idea (which he compared to “making shit up”) a few days ago.
So, on Saturday, Krugman responded with another blog post, titled “Lazy Jon Stewart.” Jon Chait and a few others had already accused Stewart of failing Econ 101 and Krugman added, he “also flunked law, politics, and just plain professional.”
Above all, however, what went wrong here is a lack of professionalism on the part of Stewart and his staff. Yes, it’s a comedy show—but the jokes are supposed to be (and usually are) knowing jokes, which are funny and powerful precisely because the Daily Show people have done their homework and understand the real issues better than the alleged leaders spouting nonsense. In this case, however, it’s obvious that nobody at TDS spent even a few minutes researching the topic. It was just yuk-yuk-yuk they’re talking about a trillion-dollar con hahaha.
Hey, if we want this kind of intellectual laziness, we can just tune in to Fox.
Krugman also pointed out that he had not been invited on The Daily Show since about 2005.
His assault on Stewart continued yesterday, appearing in a web-only interview for ABC’s This Week, fielding questions from Facebookers.
Obviously neither he nor his staff did even five minutes of looking at the financial blogs. Lots of people think it’s a bad idea. Lots of people think it’s a good idea. But it’s not just, ‘Oh, those idiots.’
Part of the point about Stewart…is that he’s funny, but that the show is actually better informed than most of our public discussion. The idea is that the show should be like an especially good episode of the roundtable on ‘This Week’, but in the form of jokes. But when he just turns it into dumb, “I don’t know nothing, but those people look dumb to me,” he’s ruining his own brand.
Stay tuned. Will Jon fire back on his show tonight, or even invite him to join him? The coin’s chances for being minted have faded but perhaps the Krugman vs. Stewart may yet heat up.
Greg Mitchell last wrote about another media controversy: the criticism of bin Laden flick Zero Dark Thirty.