NASHUA — Last night, in a town hall meeting before a receptive audience at Nashua's VFW post, Mitt Romney repeated his usual mantra about those who “would look towards Europe for solutions'' — Democrats, presumably. It's Romney's way of showing his distaste for globalism and abiding faith in American common sense. "I love the Constitution," he interjected at one point, like a kid proclaiming his love for watermelon.
But when a questioner asked Romney for some common-sense solutions to keeping Social Security solvent, he was happy to provide them — such as raising the retirement age. "They did that in Great Britain — by one year," he noted approvingly. And how about pegging Social Security increases to the consumer price index? Another good idea. "They did that in Great Britain," Romney reiterated.
This is not the first time Romney has cited Europe as a model. He has previously suggested emulating France's nuclear power program. And back in 2008, in a stump speech featuring Ross Perot-like charts, he talked about what a great idea it would be to lower the corporate income tax — like they did in (gulp) Ireland.
The gulf between Romney's stump speech and his policy recommendations reflects one of the basic contradictions of his candidacy. On one hand, Romney is a technocrat who is relatively comfortable with foreign cultures. After all, he ran the Olympics, which functions a lot like the United Nations with drug tests, and lived for two years in France on his Mormon mission. However, he now has to provide red meat to the people who vote in Republican primaries and try to at least match competitors like Michele Bachmann in expressing his patriotism.
But just as states act as “laboratories of democracy,” one of Romney's favorite lines, the actions of foreign nations provide obvious opportunities for American policymakers to learn lessons from the mistakes and successes of others. Romney knows this. He should also be smart enough to know that you can’t have your freedom fries and eat them too.
AP Photo/Jim Cole: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks to a packed crowd at the VFW in Nashua on Monday.