Maybe it’s just me, but I find phrases like “keep America American” kind of creepy. Take Mitt Romney’s stump-speech rhetoric, for example.

“There are people in this room who are informed and who care about this election, who recognize that this is a defining time for America,” he said. “We have on one side a president who wants to transform America into a European-style nation, and you have on other hand someone like myself that wants to turn around America and keep America American….”

I understand the context, but as Seth Masket noted, “keep America American” sounds an awful lot like a line we might expect from Bill the Butcher. (It also, of course, reinforces the not-so-subtle attack on President Obama’s patriotism, which has long been a favorite ploy for Romney.)

I’m also struck by this preoccupation with trying to “transform America into a European-style nation.” I suspect much of the political world has forgotten about this, but four years ago, the Romney campaign had adopted a nearly-identical tack — strategy documents from within the campaign showed that Romney and his team intended to use Europe as the centerpiece of an anti-Democratic attack.

The European Union, [the Romney ’08 campaign document] says at one point, wants to “drag America down to Europe’s standards,” adding: “That’s where Hillary and Dems would take us. Hillary = France.” The plan even envisions “First, not France” bumper stickers.

I guess they dusted off the playbook from four years ago?

It seems hard to believe any voters would seriously be persuaded by such nonsense, but for anyone tempted, it’s worth noting how backwards it is.

Europe, in case Romney hasn’t noticed, has been Austerity Central. European countries have slashed public investments to reduce their debts, and the results haven’t been pretty, with austerity failing badly to produce the intended results. But therein lies the more salient domestic point: President Obama doesn’t want to follow the European model; Mitt Romney does.

For that matter, it was Romney, not the president, who said over the summer that the U.S. should be following Europe’s lead on energy efficiency.

And while we’re at it, Romney is also the only presidential candidate who actually moved to Europe, living in France for nearly three years doing missionary work.

Taken together, it’s hard not to wonder what in the world Mitt Romney is talking about.

* Update: Steve M. takes this a step further, noting that the phrase “keep America American” originated with the KKK.

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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.