THE GOP’S MIXED MESSAGES ON EUROPE…. For quite a while, one of the standard Republican lines to condemn any progressive initiative has been to equate it with Europe. The argument doesn’t need policy depth; it’s intended to be self-evident. When the GOP says a Democratic idea reminds them of something European, the debate is supposed to necessarily end.

Because, you know, it’s Europe.

There are, however, exceptions.

Reacting to the nuclear meltdown crisis playing out in Japan, House Speaker John Boehner told an audience at a job creation forum Wednesday that the United States should and will learn lessons from the tragedy. But in the meantime, the country should aim to increase its reliance on nuclear energy — much like France.

Yes, the Speaker reminded folks today that “82% of the electricity produced in France comes from nuclear sources,” and France has managed its nuclear program “successfully for decades.”

Perhaps. But here’s the follow-up: since when does John Boehner give a damn what works in France? Isn’t the Republican line that the United States should avoid emulating France and the rest of Western Europe?

Indeed, does Boehner realize that the French nuclear system he’s touting is owned by the French government, making it socialized energy?

I suppose what I’d really like at this point is some sort of guidelines of when we’re allowed to care what goes on in Europe. At this point, it’s getting a little confusing.

If I’m hearing the GOP correctly, when Europeans embrace austerity measures, the U.S. should follow their lead, but when Europeans embrace high-speed rail, we should reject this attack on American individualism.

When Europeans embrace nuclear energy, the U.S. should follow their lead, but when Europeans embrace national health care, Americans should perceive it as radical communism.

When Europeans criticize quantitative easing, the U.S. should take their concerns seriously, but when Europeans adopt a V.A.T. system, Americans should run screaming in the other direction.

Does that sound about right?

Steve Benen

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.