This blog post originally appeared on RealMoney Silver on Jan. 23 at 8:14 a.m. EST.

"It's never paid to bet against America.... We come through things, but it's not always a smooth ride....This is an economic Pearl Harbor." -- Warren Buffett, "Dateline" interview on NBC (Jan. 18, 2009)

On Sunday evening, Warren Buffett sat down with

NBC's

Tom Brokaw for a marvelous and straightforward

interview

. (

Here

is the complete transcript.)

Early in 2008, I took a

controversial

and negative view on

Berkshire Hathaway's

(BRK.A) - Get BRK.A Report

stock. During the late summer, I profitably covered a

short

I put on Berkshire at approximately $140,000 per share.

Based on the recent deterioration of Berkshire's investments, I might have been premature. (Berkshire's common now trades for under $89,000 a share.)

In the last 60 days, Berkshire's

investment portfolio

has plummeted in value. Buffett has lost over $4.5 billion alone on his 300-million-share investment in

Wells Fargo

(WFC) - Get Wells Fargo & Company Report

since Dec. 1, 2008, and another $1 billion loss on

U.S. Bancorp's

(USB) - Get U.S. Bancorp Report

shares; both stocks have been halved in less than two months. His most recent investments in

Burlington Northern Santa Fe

( BNI),

General Electric

(GE) - Get General Electric Company (GE) Report

and

Goldman Sachs

(GS) - Get Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (GS) Report

have deteriorated markedly in value from his cost basis.

Equally important, I have repeatedly uttered the notion that Berkshire's large derivative position -- namely, short puts on the

TheStreet Recommends

S&P 500

-- was evidence of investment

style drift

. Regardless of that view, Berkshire has now likely recorded a nonrealized loss in excess of a $10 billion on the index short put position. A loss on that scale, whether realized or unrealized, is large even for Warren Buffett.

In 2008 and (so far) 2009, The Oracle of Omaha has been wrong; it

has

paid to bet against America.

Moreover, the U.S. "economic Pearl Harbor" has humanized and brought down to earth many of the

smartest investors

in the world (e.g., Warren Buffett), as well as the entire private equity universe, many well-regarded hedge funds and investors (e.g., Marty Whitman and Bill Miller), and some masters of the universe in residential and nonresidential real estate, among others. Many industrialists, including

Aubrey Kerr McClendon

,

Kerkor "Kirk" Kerkorian

,

Sheldon Adelson

and

Sumner Redstone

, have been thrown under Mr. Market's bus, as have financiers

Dick Fuld

,

James Cayne

,

John Thain

and even

Bank of America's

(BAC) - Get Bank of America Corp Report

Ken Lewis

.

Image placeholder title

While the downfalls of a widening list of investment, financial and industrial icons have historically been associated with a market and economic bottom, the lesson remains the same: The average individual investor should continue to err on the side of conservatism in a market that provides a wonderful setting for trading but a not-so-exquisite setting for investing.

Doug Kass writes daily for

RealMoney Silver

, a premium bundle service from TheStreet.com. For a free trial to

RealMoney Silver

and exclusive access to Mr. Kass's daily trading diary, please click here.

At the time of publication, Kass and/or his funds were long Wells Fargo and General Electric, although holdings can change at any time.

Doug Kass is founder and president of Seabreeze Partners Management, Inc., and the general partner and investment manager of Seabreeze Partners Short LP and Seabreeze Partners Long/Short LP.