‘WHATEVER IT IS’…. Tom Schaller caught Fox News’ Neil Cavuto yesterday commenting on the recent upswing on Wall Street. Cavuto told viewers:

“I want you to take a look at this, because if Wall Street’s worried about all the crosscurrents in Washington right now, it has a funny way of showing it: the Dow up better than 214 points, 8,426. We are very close to being even on the year, when for a while we down 20 more than percent on the year, the Dow storming back to levels we’ve not seen since early January.

“So on the year now we are effectively at a wash, a year that had us cascading better than 20 percent, well, well, well into bear territory. Like I said, Wall Street climbed a wall of worry. Whatever it is, it’s climbing through this.”

Yep, “whatever it is” that’s pushing up the major indexes, Cavuto’s pleased. If only it weren’t a total mystery.

Of course, Fox News wasn’t nearly this confused when Wall Street was in a tailspin. At that point, it was irrefutable evidence of the failure of President Obama’s economic policies. Several on-air Fox News figures — as recently as March, less than two months after the president’s inauguration — labeled the steep decline the “Obama bear market.”

It’s not just Fox News. The Wall Street Journal ran a very foolish editorial in March.

As 2009 opened, three weeks before Barack Obama took office, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 9034 on January 2, its highest level since the autumn panic. Yesterday the Dow fell another 4.24% to 6763, for an overall decline of 25% in two months and to its lowest level since 1997. The dismaying message here is that President Obama’s policies have become part of the economy’s problem.

Americans have welcomed the Obama era in the same spirit of hope the President campaigned on. But after five weeks in office, it’s become clear that Mr. Obama’s policies are slowing, if not stopping, what would otherwise be the normal process of economic recovery. […]

So what has happened in the last two months? The economy has received no great new outside shock…. What is new is the unveiling of Mr. Obama’s agenda and his approach to governance.

The WSJ editorial board was hardly subtle. Wall Street declines didn’t reflect the economic downturn; they were evidence of Obama’s shortcomings.

To be clear, this entire approach is just silly. Using the Dow as some kind of financial approval rating for the president doesn’t make any sense, no matter which direction the indexes are headed.

The result, though, is conservative pundits who end up looking pretty foolish, not only for exaggerating the significance of short-term Dow fluctuations, but also for doing so in a nakedly partisan way. When the market goes down, it’s proof that Obama is the fool to blame; but when the market goes up, conservatives can’t even begin to know who or what deserves credit? Please.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.