Last week, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney seemed to be building much of his message around bashing Europe. He connected President Obama to Europe several times in his kickoff speech, and proceeded to blast the president for his “awfully European” policies.

With this in mind, Brad Johnson noted that at his first town-hall meeting of the year, Romney told a New Hampshire audience we should consider Europe when moving forward on energy policies.

“I also want to see us become more energy efficient. I’m told that we use almost twice as much energy per person as does a European, and more like three times as much as does a Japanese citizen. We could do a lot better.”

I happen to agree with the sentiment, and wonder if Romney realizes his own party is the reason we’re not doing better.

But putting that aside, since when does Mitt Romney care about European energy efficiency?

I’m starting to think Republicans are offering a mixed message when it comes to “the Continent.” In fact, 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.

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.