The U.S. economy was falling apart, but the rest of the world was still strong. Foreign demand for oil coupled with instability in Latin America, the Middle East and Africa sent oil prices soaring to $147 a barrel.
"But what happened after that shows you just how fragile, skittish and easily manipulated the oil market is because the price of crude collapsed pretty much in a straight line" to $31, the "Mad Money" host said.
The fact that oil prices surged higher, then fell apart in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis seemed like "pure manipulation" to Cramer.
But what's different now is investors have grown wary of oil futures, he said. They know that oil traders tend to buy crude on bad news, and not necessarily because the commodity is in demand.
"Investors in the stock market know from this lesson not to trust these spikes," he explained. "So, sure, oil's gotten up there. No doubt about it. But we know the futures aren't necessarily the real deal and that's keeping investors in the stock market from panicking out as we watch the price of crude climb inexorably higher. I think that's the right attitude."