Mitt’s Gas Price Flip-Flop

You’d think by now that every one of Mitt Romney’s policy flip-flops would be well known. Most of them were aired during his 2008 campaign–though some, most obviously his Massachusetts health reform plan, didn’t seem as big a deal back before conservatives decided that health insurance purchasing mandates were the greatest threat to American freedoms since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

But health care’s not the only area where shifts in issue-emphasis and the positions of the two major parties keep bringing to light fresh examples of Shifty Mitt’s duplicity. As Alec MacGillis explains at TNR, Romney hasn’t always believed lower gasoline prices are a Prime Objective that trumps environmental concerns. He certainly didn’t during his one actual stint in public office as governor of Massachusetts:

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.”

MacGillis goes on to note that Romney was an avid “smart growth” proponent as governor, who liked to talk not only about fuel efficiency, but clean energy, cluster development, and public transportation.

At this point, of course, all Romney’s past heresies against current conservative orthodoxy represent are grievances his new allies will use to hold him strictly accountable for staying “flopped” after he’s flip-flopped. That will certainly be true of his record on gas prices and all the related issues. A President Romney won’t come within a gridlocked suburban commute of promoting “smart growth” in thought, word or deed.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.