After having ignored energy policy for much of the campaign, Mitt Romney has suddenly discovered a deep interest in the issue, and even argued this week, "There's no question that when [President Obama] ran for office, he said he wanted to see gasoline prices go up."
That's not true -- honesty isn't Romney forte -- but it does raise a broader question about the former governor and gas prices. Alec MacGillis reports today on Romney's recent past, when he "liked high gas prices."
Befitting his profile as a moderate Republican who cared about the environment, Governor Romney responded to price spikes by describing them as the natural result of global market pressures and by calling for increases in fuel efficiency -- the same approach that he now derides Obama for taking as president.
At moments, Romney went so far as to make high gas prices out to be a welcome reality for the foreseeable future, one that people needed to learn to live with. When lieutenant governor Kerry Healey, a fellow Republican, called for suspending the state's 23.5 cent gas tax during a price spike in May 2006, Romney rejected the idea, saying it would only further drive up gasoline consumption. "I don't think that now is the time, and I'm not sure there will be the right time, for us to encourage the use of more gasoline," Romney said, according to the Quincy Patriot Ledger's report at the time. "I'm very much in favor of people recognizing that these high gasoline prices are probably here to stay."
Romney's response to high gas prices while governor fit into his broader effort to promote "smart growth" policies in Massachusetts -- a focus that is rare among Republican leaders but that he took up with alacrity.
When MacGillis sought a reaction from Romney, the campaign "did not respond to a request for comment." Imagine that. (Also imagine how this might be used in a Republican presidential nominating race if Romney had credible, well-organized opponents.)
The irony of this is that Romney, when trying to take old Obama rhetoric out of context, doesn't seem to appreciate the fact that those old Obama lines about energy are practically identical to what Romney himself was saying before his transformations. What's the difference between the gas-policy positions of Obama circa 2008 and Romney circa 2006? There really isn't a difference.
The real debate Americans deserve to see is the one between Romney Version 2.0 and Romney Version 4.0.