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Romney's Odd Historical Reference

Former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Mass.) is one of the most poised and well-spoken candidates in the 2008 field.

That's why a remark he made at a forum in Northern Virginia this morning in response to a question regarding the future of nuclear power caught our eye. In his response, Romney says that if America wanted to build nuclear reactors at this point they would need to hire the French to do so. Romney then makes mention of the fact that it was Hitler who pioneered the technology to liquefy coal.

Romney advisers say that Romney was merely citing historical facts as it related to Hitler's work to liquefy coal and France's dedication to building nuclear reactors. They noted that a recent "60 Minutes" segment was devoted to France's dedication to nuclear power. As for the Hitler reference, they note that Romney was making a broader point about how if America does not seek to master liquefying coal and other technology, evil, rogue empires will.

You can watch the clip below, which was captured by's John Poole, and draw your own conclusions. This is obviously small potatoes, but a reminder that in campaign 2008 someone is always watching.

Click the link below to play.

By Chris Cillizza  |  April 18, 2007; 7:05 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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Uh-oh! Mitt Romney has extensive historical knowledge! Scandalous! We'd better go find a more ignorant candidate, quick!

Posted by: scandalized | April 21, 2007 11:31 PM | Report abuse

To answer the question about the greenhouse gas effects of coal liquification: to convert coal to gasoline (or the more likely diesel) which is then burned in internal combustion engines dumps FAR more CO2 into the atmosphere that just burning "regular" gas/diesel. The point of the process is more that you are not beholden to the geopolitical or geostrategic consequences of crude. The Nazi regime lead the way because they had large coal reserves, and little access to oil (and less after they retreated from the Caucasus and Romania). More recently, it was extensively used in South Africa when Apartheid led to pariah status and embargoes...

It's less a question of being green than a question of greenbacks.

Posted by: Bob | April 20, 2007 12:50 PM | Report abuse

koko said ``You people ought to be ashamed of your deceit of American public.`` You people? You must be speaking of the Bush Administration, with it`s various explanations for our involvement in Iraq. What is the `official` reason this week? Or is it the changing reasons given by the Department of Justice, and Freddy Gonzales, for the dismissal of the US Attorneys? What is the `official` position of the Bush Administration this week on whether there is or is not a threat of global warming? Is it the DOD position that global warming constitutes a threat to the security of the US, or is it the position that, by gosh, there may be opportunities [for businesses only] for profit if there is global warming?

Posted by: critter69 | April 19, 2007 7:03 PM | Report abuse

Are we all Americans? Aren't we on the same side when it comes to solving our nation's problems? The presidential elections are great for generating and giving voice to new ideas, and to get people talking about the issues. Unfortunately, so many people are so bent on defending party lines and taking jabs at the candidates that these conversations are hardly productive.

When we finish making everything "liberals vs. conservatives" we might get somewhere. We need to think, research and learn before making asinine comments about Romney and other candidates.

Posted by: Melissa | April 19, 2007 6:11 PM | Report abuse

I am laughing reading the posts. All you liberals are loons. BTW critter69, liberal=hypocrite. Just look at any democrat out there. You people ought to be ashamed of your deceit of American public. Stop parading as progressives, you are nothing but socialists.

Posted by: koko | April 19, 2007 5:01 PM | Report abuse

I see there's a lot of Romney-lovers and defenders on here who are all in favor of the coal liquifaction proposal. How many of you were all in favor of Saint Ronnie`s closing of the same type of programs that President Carter launched in the 1970`s in an attempt to get the US off foreign oil imports? I`ll bet all of you. And do you know what that makes all of you Romney-lovers? HYPOCRITES.

Posted by: Critter69 | April 19, 2007 2:08 PM | Report abuse

For what it's worth, Romney's wrong on both counts. There's a pretty high level of light water nuclear power technology available in America today through GE and Westinghouse (I believe they focus mainly on the export market). And Hitler didn't pioneer the technology to liquefy coal. This was done through a process called hydrogenation that was the product of Standard Oil of New Jersey in cooperation with the pre-Nazi I.G. Farben company. SONJ had high hopes for the process during the 1930s, but it didn't prove economically feasible at the time.

Posted by: Babu Srinivasan | April 19, 2007 1:00 PM | Report abuse

JD, just so you know, the US is planning to build almost double the amount of reactors we have now. This is due to a streamlining of the building codes for nuclear plants (something France did 50 years ago which is WHY they use so much nuclear power).

Also I agree with your point that energy policy has to be comprehensive but their are two areas where you are wrong IMO.

"- we need to drill in a lot more places, including off shore and ANWR"
ANWR is not a feasible place to drill for oil. Ignoring the environmental impact no one knows for sure how much oil is there. The number that the Bush admin likes to say is the MAX estimate. Most experts estimate that the retrivable oil in ANWR is about half what the Bush people say. Because of that the major oil companies will NOT try and drill there since it is cheaper to get oil in the other major areas (I heard that oil would have to over 120 dollars a barrel to make ANWR breakeven).

-" we need to encourage solar, geotherm, and other 'free' energy sources"
Not encourage DEMAND that 20% of our domestic energy comes from fully renewable sources by 2020. We can do this if we really want to. Otherwise I think you are right about the steps that need to be taken except I would add that we need to raise fuel standards on cars to double what they currently are.

On the Yucca mountain thing, if Nevada doesn't want it, fine. They just have to baypack the federal government the billions of dollars it cost to build it.

Posted by: Andy R | April 19, 2007 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Has Mitt ever said anything that held up to scrutiny? What an empty vessel.

Posted by: Peter | April 19, 2007 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Just for the record--forget the historical record--Romney is wrong on reactors. I live in Pittsburgh. Westinghouse Electric is alive and well. It just sold a minimum of 4 new reactors to China. In fact, it recently announced plans to build a new suburban office park to accomodate the additional 2 to 4 thousand employees it will need for the project. It is also a finalist in projects for Duke Energy.

Posted by: John | April 19, 2007 11:57 AM | Report abuse

After watching the 60 Minutes piece on nuclear power, I think Americans are extremely short-sighted in their fear of nuclear power. Leave it to the French to find a way to recycle the waste. It is unbelievable that we would waste any time in adopting the French technology. Isn't the phrase 'energy independence' thrown around a million times a day? We don't have to spend decades and millions doing research on how to achieve it - it is right here - we can do it tomorrow. It is only because the oil lobbies have so much power that we don't build new nuclear plants tomorrow. We do not need to drill in ANWAR nor do we need to make WV and Kentucky into some blighted moonscape. Yes - we also need to use solar and wind power - and at some point we will need to figure out how to power our cars, but between nuclear, wind, and solar power, we can very significantly lower our oil dependency. The second we do not need oil, the Middle East terrorists will not have any power.

Posted by: star11 | April 19, 2007 11:50 AM | Report abuse

What ever happened to the old saying "If you can't say anything good about someone, don't say anything at all"? The commentary here amply demonstrates the negative in people's hearts. A candidate for whatever will be hung in the press or on the internet for saying just about anything. "I love bananas" could well be called a personal perversion these days. In addition, all the antinuclear devotees should face reality and learn some facts about nuclear reactor safety before spouting off. Nuclear energy offers the only hope for meeting the massive energy demand of this country these days without adding to carbon dioxide emissions. Has anyone of you antinuke folks given up your car or SUV to reduce carbon dioxide emissions? Cars are one of the major contributors.

Posted by: michael | April 19, 2007 11:48 AM | Report abuse

and robin is right - yucca mtn. is not far from the san andreas fault.

Posted by: meuphys | April 19, 2007 11:41 AM | Report abuse

JD - there are 2 sides to everything. no, of course no one knows for sure what will happen, but those who are skeptical should not be dismissed out of hand - they have (i'm sure) at least as much expertise as those who are ok with the plan. the difference here is the consequences of being wrong. (as in, say, "global warming.")

Posted by: meuphys | April 19, 2007 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Interesting and revealing to see the Romney defenders' blase attitude in re: Hitler. I don't suppose they would be as forgiving of Jimmy Carter, or for that matter, FDR. If this is the partisan GOP attitude, the USA really IS circling the drain.

Posted by: interesting | April 19, 2007 11:36 AM | Report abuse

looks like Mitty has spent more time reading history than hunting (his lifelong passion).

Posted by: Loudoun Voter | April 19, 2007 11:35 AM | Report abuse

We need to calm down. I could care less about Mit the Flip, but there is no need to spi ourselves into a tizy whenever someone mentions Hitler or Nazi Germany. The fact is, is that Germany used technology is ways other countries had not thought of or where years behind. They are the ones who flew the first operation jet and launched the first ballistic missle. It might not be a nice piece of history, but it is the truth.

Posted by: Stop whining | April 19, 2007 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Robin, you did a good job of parroting the anti-Yucca, Nevada-approved message. Of course, there are just as many, if not more, scientists saying that there's nothing to worry about...or at least, less to worry about centralizing it at Yucca vs keeping it at a hundred different sites around the country.

There are two sides to that argument, you know.

Posted by: JD | April 19, 2007 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Why are there so many uninformed leftists here? Nuclear power in responsible hands like the French or the Americans is extremely safe. Former Soviets are a different story. Three mile island (decades ago) is no indication of safety of it today as the French can attest to it.

Posted by: koko | April 19, 2007 11:08 AM | Report abuse

This is what happens when presidential campaigns are strung out over years and years. Issues that have nothing to do with the future of our (troubled) nation become the focus. I honestly didn't know that Hitler was a pioneer in coal liquefaction (or not). But does it make me a fascist because I used his name in a sentence?

It sometimes makes me want to scream when I see political discourse being hijacked by tangential issues. Did Hillary "twang" her voice? Did Kerry color his hair? "Teacher, Romney said "Hitler" in a sentence!!!"

Please, I'd rather know if liquefied coal reduces greenhouse gas emissions. (Psssst, I heard Hitler liked milk, we should foreswear all dairy products and anyone that doesn't is a goosestepper.)

Grrr. Now that I've ranted, care for a chuckle?

"Gonzo Goes Whacko: Will Plead "Insanity" at Senate Hearing"

Posted by: The Eyewitness Muse | April 19, 2007 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Sounds like this is blown out of proportion. He was saying merely that if you're not educated your're the president, not that stupid kids go to Iraq- wait, wrong gaffe, wrong candidate. They all say stupid things you know. It's impossible to be on message all the time. This isn't going to cost him the election, being mormon will cost him the election. Nobody wants a man in the white house who wears magic underwear.

Posted by: DCAustinite | April 19, 2007 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Just because someone is a competitor it doesn't necessarily mean that they are evil.

Posted by: SK | April 19, 2007 9:42 AM | Report abuse

If you listen to Romney's remarks, it seems clear that his reference to Hitler is purely historical; to paraphrase: that Nazi Germany was developing liquefied coal long ago out of necessity but we have yet to really explore this technology. The campaign's explanation for the Hitler reference, on the other hand, seems strained and unlikely, and that's what doesn't bode well for Romney in the days ahead.

Posted by: PL | April 19, 2007 9:21 AM | Report abuse

'evil, rogue empires will'

Jesus, CC, I hope this is tongue-in-cheek -- or perhaps you're just five years old. I can't tell you how much it disturbs me to see professional journalists talking like kindergarterners. This has been happening since 9/11 -- it's like the shock infantalized the entire country. bush talked about the 'bad men' who wanted to 'harm us' and pretty soon everyone is talking about 'evildoers' and 'bad guys' like little children. Well, that's the level his mind works on, but do the rest of who have a functioning brain need to adopt this inanity?

The world is a little more complex than this, and if we were able to grasp that, we might find a way to crawl out of the hole we're in.

Posted by: drindl | April 19, 2007 8:57 AM | Report abuse

'still some controversy about where to store the waste,'

SOME controversy? There's nuclear waste stored in rotting barrels and cans all over the country, Yucca Mountain is totally unsuitable for storage -- it is permeable, prone to fissures and water seepage, and in an unstable geologic area. Radiation will, in short order seep into the water table. The whole thing was wrong from the beginning.All we are doing is creating an increasingly polluted and dangerous landscape.

We are perhaps the first generation of americans who just don't seem to care what happens to our kids and grandchildren.

Posted by: Robin | April 19, 2007 8:34 AM | Report abuse

Small potatoes? This is barely a chip.

Posted by: THS | April 19, 2007 8:29 AM | Report abuse

This is a bit late but still- have you people ever heard of MAD? the last time two parties where assured of distruction resulted in a 30 years of life on a knife edge- would you really like to walk down the street not knowing who could attack you at a moments notice- at least now if you see a gun you run away.

Posted by: Aussie Bill | April 19, 2007 8:25 AM | Report abuse

Romney has a real pattern of this wacko behavior. French nukes and Nazi coal? He sounds more and more like some bottom-tier presidential wanna-be. Oh, wait; he is.

Posted by: matt | April 19, 2007 8:17 AM | Report abuse

It's too bad people dig in their heels on these kinds of things. The answer to our energy problems MUST be comprehensive:

- we need to do more conservation, probably through some form of carbon tax (yes, it will hurt the economy, I realize that...I'm a libertarian remember)
- we need to up the nuclear component, at least double the 18% it is now. The isn't really dangerous if done right - the problem is, there's still some controversy about where to store the waste, assuming Vegas is still p*ssed about us using Yucca mtn
- we need to drill in a lot more places, including off shore and ANWR
- we need to figure out a way to make coal cleaner, since there's probably a 300 yr supply sitting in WVA and KY's mountains
- we need to encourage solar, geotherm, and other 'free' energy sources

The answer is a little of everything, no one strategy will solve it. It's too bad that all sides want to get apocolyptic about it.

Posted by: JD | April 19, 2007 8:09 AM | Report abuse

Somebody should tell Dr. Fantastic that black hair dye causes brain cancer. He looks like a creepy South American el Presidente.

Posted by: Terry Green | April 19, 2007 2:14 AM | Report abuse

Hey, RomneyFanClub -

are you from Massachusetts?
Then sit down + shut up. Mitt Romney is a one-dimensional phony whose views are for sale to the highest bidder, and he has no qualms about saying whatever it takes to get elected. His claim to have balanced the MA budget without raising taxes is both deceptive - he raised fees substantially - and downright incorrect - MA faced a $1 billion deficit at the end of his term.
He didn't mind reproductive choice until he was running for president.
He didn't mind same sex marriage until he was running for president.
He's a self-interested fraud.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 19, 2007 1:54 AM | Report abuse

It's something new everyday with Romney.


Shut up!.... A spokesman for Mitt Romney told the Washington Post that the campaign's decision not to offer condolences to victims of the Virgnia Tech massacre on the front page of its campaign website was not an oversight.... According to Romney's campaign, it was deliberate....

And then there's this:

Oops.... Mitt Romney is the only presidential candidate who has not posted a website statement about the Virginia Tech massacre....

And this:

In his ongoing effort to turn a 1-day story into a bullet in the head, Mitt Romney went down to Austin and bragged about keeping a handgun in his bedroom.... That's smart with 10 grandchildren running around the house....But wait... The gun's not in his Massachusetts home, where he doesn't have a license to own a handgun.... It's in his Utah home.... We'll let you know when Mitt gets back on message..

Posted by: William | April 19, 2007 1:53 AM | Report abuse

OK, grammar time:

"you're" = "you are"
"your" = "belongs to you"
"Republican's" = "belongs to a Republican"
"Republicans" = "more than one Republican"
"where" = "what location"
"were" = past tense (pl) of the verb "to be"
"we're" = "we are"

It's really not that hard.

Posted by: grammar | April 19, 2007 1:47 AM | Report abuse

What? I don't get it, this is not even a gaffe, looks like the libs are grasping at straws again to bring down the most well spoken candidate for 2008. Btw, nuclear power IS viable, you libs are so bent out of shape about global warming, but instead of embracing cleaner alternative energies you choose ridiculously out of date coal or energy inefficient alternatives like DEATHANOL.

Posted by: RomneyFanClub | April 19, 2007 1:20 AM | Report abuse

US President Tim Kalemkarian, US Senate Tim Kalemkarian, US House Tim Kalemkarian: best major candidate.

Posted by: anonymous | April 19, 2007 12:19 AM | Report abuse

lets see. he announces at the ford museum, then he mentions hitler in a speech.

Mitt inst a racist, he just needs to read some other history books.

Posted by: will c | April 18, 2007 11:18 PM | Report abuse

yeah, go romney --in the case of a nuclear accident yout hair will probably glow even more brightly..

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 11:04 PM | Report abuse

Go Romney!

Posted by: Steven Rinehart | April 18, 2007 9:29 PM | Report abuse

I agree with JD.

If Mr. Romney's point was that these are not new-and-untried technologies it seems to have been made.

Posted by: Mark in Austin | April 18, 2007 9:26 PM | Report abuse

not three states away, zach, more like three continents. the radiation from chernobyl affected crops and marine life as far away as finland--and for hundreds of mile around chernobyl, the farmers have to put their produce through a radiation check before it can be sold.

Posted by: james | April 18, 2007 9:15 PM | Report abuse

okay, so romney said some stupid. what else is new? the important thing is the underlying debate. romney is just wrong. nuclear power is not safe. it will require one - yes, one - nuclear accident to make 9/11 seem inconsquential.

to those who would say there is always risk, like driving a car, people three states away aren't endangered by a car accident.

Posted by: Zach | April 18, 2007 9:09 PM | Report abuse

Not really, Arlen -- it's politics.

I think Mitty is not ready for prime time.

Posted by: Joyce | April 18, 2007 9:08 PM | Report abuse

Rick: Because of his alleged times with Jack Abramoff. Totally off topic...

Posted by: Arlen | April 18, 2007 9:01 PM | Report abuse

The Arabs are going to beat us to liquefying coal? Oh no, we should probably preempt that with the only option Bush has really left us - nuclear attack. Because once they've started digging for all that liquefyable coal they'll narrow our mineshaft gap considerably.

Posted by: aleks | April 18, 2007 8:50 PM | Report abuse

So he was probably historically correct. But does the mere mention of the names of France and Hitler (one in the same to the right) disqualify him?

Posted by: JD | April 18, 2007 8:39 PM | Report abuse

Why did the FBI raid Rep. Doolittle's House today, in Alexandria, VA?

Posted by: Rick | April 18, 2007 8:11 PM | Report abuse

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