Sunday, December 19, 2004

Cramer Vs. Cramer: Why Does a Lifelong Democrat Take Cheap Shots at Fellow Democrats? Maybe to Turn a Profit

I really don't understand James J. Cramer.

Cramer, founder of the TheStreet.com and co-host of CNBC's Kudlow & Cramer, columnist, pundit, author, etc., is a "lifelong Democrat and Democratic Party fund-raiser."

So explain this open thoughts in his column in the most recent New York magazine (Dec. 20-27):

CRAMER: The average blue-state voter drives a Lexus or a Beemer, fancies a vacation in Paris or the Amalfi Coast, and splurges for Hermes ties, Thomas Pink shirts, Chanel perfume, and Louis Vuitton luggage. The average red-state voter drives a Chevy or a Ford, takes trips to Disney World or the Indianapolis 500, and shops at Wal-Mart for Levi's, Russell fleecewear, and American Tourister suitcases."

This, for a column about why we shouldn't fear the weak dollar.

Are you kidding me? Why doesn't Cramer just crank up the Photoshop are create fake images of prominent Democrats in compromising positions? Because that would provide the same value for the American public.

***

Did I mention I don't understand Cramer? As a columnist, he takes the (at best) questionable stance of openly admitting to writing stocks in which he has invested, and seemingly hoping that the words he writes will positively affect his portfolio. By comparison, my company forbids me -- a commercial real estate writer -- from owning individual real estate stocks, whether I write about those companies or not. My company doesn't want to face questions of credibility that could arise from obvious conflicts of interest.

But Cramer doesn't bother with such things. In the New York article, for example, he promotes regional bank PNC and Canadian oil and gas company EnCana, in which (in the fine print at the end of the column) he admits to owning stock. It leads me to wonder if just about everything he says or writes shouldn't be taken with a grain of salt. Is it possible, even likely, that the concepts Cramer promotes are designed to help his own interests?

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In August of last year, Cramer wrote a column in New York pleading that the Democrats should take his economics advice so that they could unseat Bush in the 2004 election.

Why offer such advice? Listen to Cramer's own words:

CRAMER: Three short years ago, the U.S. economy seemed to be a model of growth: The stock market went up every day, pension and 401(k) plans exploded in value, and interest rates, aided by a shrinking federal deficit, marched inexorably down. ... Now jobs get lost monthly, the stock market seems stuck in the mud, mortgage rates just went up eight times in three weeks, and your pension or 401(k) is insolvent or vastly depleted. To make matters worse, the price of oil is sky-high and rising by the moment. The Labor secretary seems bewildered by the job losses; the Treasury secretary can barely be heard among the grim din of a worldwide economic slump.

Of course, in spite of his woeful economic performance, Bush has -- barring a very unlikely set of circumstances in Ohio -- been re-elected president.

But Cramer isn't shouting about how horrible the economy is. In the new issue of New York, he writes: "Maybe it's time to stop worrying and start loving the weak dollar." In the Nov. 29 issue of Real Money, he writes: "Bears better find some new negatives. This weak dollar thing's not working. It has no gravitas. The high oil thing? Boring! The budget deficit thing? If they don't care, I don't care."

Hardly consistent, which makes me wonder what's in Cramer's stock portfolio these days.

Maybe he's just trying to make a buck, and politics be damned, he'll write what he needs to get the job done. If that means trashing his own party by providing a statement that could easily be recycled by every conservative politician or pundit, so be it. The stock market's gone nowhere for four years, and Cramer knows it.

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