The Real Halls of Power

Move over, Bill Moyers.* Simon is going to be on Stephen Colbert tonight.

If you have predictions about what Colbert is going to want to talk about, or ideas for witty comebacks, please post them. I believe Simon is traveling but will check in around 6 pm Eastern.

* Just kidding. Bill Moyers is one of our finest public servants.

29 responses to “The Real Halls of Power

  1. If I may make a modest suggestion, having watched many a Colbert and Jon Steward interview: Don’t try to be funny.

    Simon is going on there because he is an authority on banking and international finance, not because he has a great sense of humor (though I’m sure he does). Colbert has the show because he has an incredibly sharp wit. So let him be the funny guy and don’t try to take that role over. If you try to make this a contest of wits, you will lose. In fact, you have no chance.

    Let him make the jokes — and feel free to be amused; keeping a sense of humor is good — but see this as an opportunity to reach a broad audience and tell them a bit about banking and finance. You can semi-ignore the more overt provocation — or laugh them off — and then get back onto your main point.

    That’s how I’d approach it, anyway.

    Good luck!

  2. The Flighty Economist

    Dead on. As an aside- the great thing about a British accent is that it makes any short, dead pan comment sound like a punch-line. Cheers, and best of luck!

  3. Hone in on his “the market is always right” shtick when he does the “nationalization is socialism” line. Also, keep the “pre-privatization” meme alive!

  4. I already feel like this will be a great interview! My first advice would be don’t get hung up on nationalization (or any other narrow subject). Think about your audience and what they would benefit from most. Your “Beginners” series is a great example of this. Prepare good analogies people can relate to.

    I will also disagree with the previous commenter a little bit. Don’t try to be funnier than Colbert, but if you have a witty comeback, shoot it! I think the best interviews are when the host and the guest have a good chemistry.

    Good luck Simon!

  5. I might try something like, “Well, Stephen, this will come as no surprise to you, but I think the problems really started when the government rescued Bear.”

    In general, though, Francois is right: Play it straight and let him make the jokes.

  6. Also, this is a really good chance to stir up some popular rage against the “looting” of the taxpayers. I would focus more on that than on the causes and resolutions for the crisis.

    The “looting” issue is easy to explain and to understand, and Colbert will have no trouble with the “Wait, so you are saying we shouldn’t give hundreds of billions of dollars to rich people?” angle.

  7. With respect to our enormous unfunded liabilities, encourage young American families to have as many children as Stephen’s parents did.

  8. Perhaps I missed something- when did Bill Moyers shift from a highly partisan Class Warrior to a public servant? Furthermore he is at best mediocre
    and far from one of the finest.

  9. I, for one, think Mr. Johnson has a delightful sense of humor having listened to his interviews on both Fresh Air and This American Life.

    I look forward to tonights show!

  10. Ilan Grunwald

    Remind Colbert that it isn’t just the “Liberal” states that are suffering. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that his home state of South Carolina has the second highest rate of unemployment in country. As a good southerner he must embrace re-privatization to save Dixie.

  11. Perhaps Colbert wants to take over a bank himself? That would certainly keep the government from doing it. . .

  12. I have to agree with those who say “don’t try to compete with Colbert” – Simon should be his own wonderful witty self. He doesn’t need to do anymore – Colbert will set him up nicely, I think.

  13. Chutzpah, old definition: A man who murders his parents and pleads for mercy because he’s an orphan.

    Chutzpah, new definition: A banker who bankrupts his firm and then pleads for more money because his firm is bankrupt.

  14. – Don’t try to one-up him

    – Remember, he’s an entertainer. If you help him, he’ll help you.

    – If you have time, wear something appropriate… a “Bush/Cheney 04” button, for instance. When he asks you why you didn’t support him for president, tell him he’s not conservative enough.

    – At some point you will have an opportunity to say something serious – keep it very simple. 2 or 3 main points max (decide them ahead of time).

    And, as for useful quotes – I would commend messr Yogi Berra (btw, the field of statistics owes a deep debt to baseball). He had a great many good quotes, but here are some choice ones:

    “I never said most of the things I said.”

    “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.” (for Sec. Geithner)

    “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.” (also for Geithner)

    “The future ain’t what it used to be.”

    “I wish I had an answer to that because I’m tired of answering that question.”

    “We made too many wrong mistakes.”

    “You can observe a lot by just watching.”

    “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.”

    And here’s a page that contrasts a lot of quotes from the Great Depression with recent quotes from our leading policy figures:

    http://groups.google.com/group/talk.politics.misc/browse_thread/thread/be4622331994af11

  15. On a more serious note, GM knows when it will run out of cash and have to turn out the lights. They say they are fine for this month. Citigroup says it is making a profit. Is so, why do they need money? There must be a difference between free cash flow and profit. Can you explain?

    Count me as an enthusiastic well wisher.

  16. Without in any way trying to outwit your host, you could get across that in one corner you have all of us canaries in the mine and in the other the Dukes of moral hazard–or if you feel the spiritof wit powerfully enough you could try to portray Mr. Colbert as the grand duke of moral hazard–he is likely quick enough to toss you into a comfy briar patch–best wishes and high hopes you both show some animal spirit

  17. Avoid the analogy of “nationalized banks = State DMV”. It was apt on Moyers a couple of weeks ago, but has become overworked, overused and indeed is the theme for a current Repub-leaning YouTube video.

    Otherwise – have fun with it! You will be in the presence of the finest working practitioner of satire in the country, so let him work his magic.

  18. or not. play the right-winger. say things like, “because of all the ignorant lazy losers in this country, we top three percenters have to pay more taxes– it’s a travesty of a sham of a travesty!

    IOW repeat Fox talking points. Make Colbert the amen cornerer and grovel at Simon’s feet.

    Kidding aside, Colbert is a national treasure. I was one of the few “no-lifers” that watched him basically SHRED the media and Bush to their faces one Saturday night in May of 06 on C-span. It was late, around midnight and I was howling by myself wanting to tell everyone I knew to turn on the TV and watch CSPAN right now!!!

    But everyone was out partying courtesy of their perceived home equity, I have come to learn.

    He WAS the bravest man alive as far as I was concerned. Long Live Colbert!

  19. The DMV theme has always sounded a bit contrived to me. For example, here in Missouri who runs the licensing offices is usually tied to which party is in office. So part of its function is as a political handout to supporters. It’s not really super critical. Work in any large corporation and you will find just as many poorly run departments, silly rules, policies, etc. The analogy doesn’t really pan out.

  20. I think you would have to work pretty hard to be off cue or seem unfunny given your sincere mission to inform us. Your message about managing the oligarchy is a head turner. The above average person probably does not know that large scale bond holders are part of the oligarchy to which you refer. Conveying that Treasury is trying to hold the banks together with as little tax payer funds as possible while restoring faith in bank bonds while not overtly making these guarantees so that citizens are not then liable for trillions is a heroism that never surfaces on CNN. So figure that 99.9% of your audience does not know the basics of the basics of this crisis. Please give a top down picture that helps citizens understand that while the crisis is catastrophic there are comprehensible avenues of attack. A big order in a brief time with Colbert knipping at your loafers. But this is a wonderful opportunity to educate some eager minds. Thank you so much for your efforts and the efforts of the people of your web site. It is very appreciated.

  21. you should have a great audience, EVERYONE has tuned in for the Cramer Smackdown performed BRILLIANTLY by Jon Stewart, and will complete the hour with Colbert.

    BTW, was Stewart BRILLIANT?? Was that the most edifying thing you’ve ever seen????

  22. Good job in the interview! I was disappointed to see you only got the short one! I thought you would have done much better than the main guest, and would have had a chance to really get some points across in the long one. Oh well, hopefully you got some more young adults interested in this big mess.

  23. Oh, yeah Jon Stewart laid the proverbial smack-down on Jim Cramer. I don’t think it was that hard, Cramer lined himself up for it.

  24. Nice job, Simon. Loved the set-up. And with Cramer on Colbert, it was quite an hour of education on the economy.

  25. Ooops, Cramer was on the Daily Show. Yikes, time for bed.

  26. “* Just kidding. Bill Moyers is one of our finest public servants.”

    Now that you’ve written this and we know what you believe, how can anyone trust your judgement in any of the postings? Bill Moyers is a whore of the worst kind.

    Joe L.
    Houston, TX

  27. Simon, you were terrific. But don’t quit your day job.

  28. And as if Stephen Colbert is considered neutral and non partisan?

  29. Colbert is an entertainer and satirist of the highest order. The right wing has nobody as funny as Stewart or Colbert (and I mean – NOBODY).

    He is avowedly non-neutral…and is happy to attack hypocrisy whether it’s red or blue. It’s just that the facts have a decidedly liberal bias.

    And quit kicking Bill Moyers…what is it about polite discourse and in-depth reporting that gets wingers into such a tizzy?

    “Whore of the worst kind” is language that should be reserved for true hacks on our airwaves. You know who I’m talking about (cough-cough Sean cough Bill-O cough cough Rush). To compare Moyers to those frothing lunatics is intellectually dishonest and vapid.