March 3rd, 2008
03:44 PM ET
7 years ago

Obama camp downplays conversation with Canada

 Obama's campaign downplayed an economic advisor's conversation with a Canadian official.
Obama's campaign downplayed an economic advisor's conversation with a Canadian official.

(CNN) - Barack Obama's campaign manager downplayed reports Monday an economic advisor discussed the Illinois senator's position on NAFTA with a Canadian official, characterizing the meeting as an "informal" discussion not under the direction of the campaign.

"This is being reported as if somehow this is an official meeting of an Obama representative and the Canadian government," Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said in a conference call with reporters. "That was not the case. He was essentially doing a walking tour and was essentially having a casual conversation and the report on that conversation was not accurate. "

The meeting was first reported last week by Canadian television network CTV. The report referenced anonymous sources that said one of Obama's chief economic advisors, Austan Goolsbee, said the candidate was only talking tough on NAFTA for political reasons, and would likely not seek to change the trade agreement with Canada if he became president. Both Obama's campaign and the Canadian embassy immediately denied Goolsbee had ever made such a suggestion, and did not reveal Goolsbee had ever spoken with the Canadian government.

But the Associated Press reported Monday it had obtained a memo from a Canadian diplomat essentially confirming CTV's story and stating Goolsbee said Obama's tough talk on NAFTA was "more about political positioning than a clear articulation of policy plans."

Goolsbee denied Monday he ever made such a suggestion, and the Canadian embassy issued a statement saying there was it had "no intention to convey, in any way, that Senator Obama and his campaign team were taking a different position in public from views expressed in private.

“The Canadian Embassy and our Consulates General regularly contact those involved in all of the Presidential campaigns and, periodically, report on these contacts to interested officials. In the recent report produced by the Consulate General in Chicago, there was no intention to convey, in any way, that Senator Obama and his campaign team were taking a different position in public from views expressed in private, including about NAFTA. We deeply regret any inference that may have been drawn to that effect.

Plouffe told reporters Monday that the Clinton campaign was pushing the story as part of their so-called "kitchen sink" strategy.

"We understand we are in the closing days of a campaign here and the Clinton Campaign is trying to make a lot of this and I think in some part, heel their own problems on their NAFTA positioning," Plouffe said. "This is part of the kitchen sink campaign the Clinton campaign telegraphed last week. They're throwing anything and everything out there to try to revive their flailing campaign."

UPDATE: Speaking with reporters Monday, Obama said he was unaware Goolsbee had met with a Canadian official.

"It turned out that the Canadian consulate in Chicago contacted one of my advisers, Austan Goolsbee, on their own initiative, invited him down to meet with him, he went down there as a courtesy," Obama said. "And at some point they started talking about trade and NAFTA, and the Canadian embassy has confirmed that he said exactly what I've been saying on the campaign trail, which is that I believe in trade, but it's important for us to have labor/environmental standards that are enforceable."

– CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney


Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama
soundoff (493 Responses)
  1. Stephanie

    More smoke and mirrors to take the focus away from Hillary's losing campaign.

    Obama 08

    March 3, 2008 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  2. Jeff Radun

    Obama says during the Ohio debate he would redo Nafta then tells the Canadians he was only saying that for votes.
    CHANGE YOU CAN BELEIVE IN.
    Go Hillary

    Obama gave a great speech about how it was wrong to go after Alqada in Iraq and we should have gone after them in Afganistan yet when he is appointed to chair a commity on the fight in Afganistan he accepts the post and does nothing because he is to busy running for President
    CHANGE YOU CAN BELEIVE IN
    Go Hillary

    Obama works for Kerry in his run for president and says he is not sure how he would have voted if he would have been in the senate at the time of the vote for the war in Iraq.
    CHANGE YOU CAN BELIVE IN
    Go Hillary

    March 3, 2008 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  3. fuzzi

    What is it to down play it simply is not true.

    March 3, 2008 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  4. jessica

    OBAMA IS A LIAR!!!!!!!!!!! I GUESS HE IS LIKE VERY OTHER POLITIAN. HILLARY YOU GO GIRL!!!!!

    HILLARY ALL THE WAY TO THE WHITE HOUSE!!!!

    VOTE HILLARY!!!
    VOTE HILLARY!!!
    VOTE HILLARY

    March 3, 2008 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  5. Why Now

    First Obama campaign DENIED any talk with Canadian officials, Now Obama campaign is saying they are misrepresented/misquoted.

    What an amazing precedent Obama has set. Here is someone who is willing to lie to American Voters while telling the real story to the diplomatic staff of another country.

    To take this one ominous step further, he wants to negotiate with our enemies. Will he tell us he’s being tough with Iran or Syria and stab us in the back by giving in to any and all their demands.

    March 3, 2008 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  6. Lawrence - Virginia Beach, VA

    GO HILLARY.....Right back to New York or Illnois, somwhere other than the White House.

    March 3, 2008 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  7. Mike

    This is the CHANGE Obama meant, change from one thing he says to another. Meanwhile just parrot everything Hillary says during debates.

    He is going to shaft the unions and workers. He even stated that there is no reason we can compete with workers overseas, but I thought he didnt want jobs shipped out overseas? How are we going to compete with laborers making less than a dollar an hour? I guess Obama will have to get rid of minimum wage and unions to achieve his standard.

    Wake up people! They guy is hype and a fake. He is not telling the truth.

    For jobs, for Iraq, for freedom, for security...Hillary is the right choice!

    March 3, 2008 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  8. KIKI

    As usual Obama comes up with another excuse. Remember the "mistaken" votes"? or I was very busy to work on hearings on Afganistan...this man is not our best choice by far. If not Hilary we will have to go with MaCain.

    March 3, 2008 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  9. andrew

    The canadians MISREMEMBER

    March 3, 2008 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  10. Jenny MA

    This guys evetually got caught !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    American people will know who you really are–OBAMA!!!!

    Pls go away ! Shame on you, OBAMA! You just played dirty politics in the competition!

    Hillary GOGOGO!!!!!!!!2008!!!!!!!1

    March 3, 2008 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  11. Shannon

    Two words: Damage control.

    March 3, 2008 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  12. Jesus

    So this meeting DID happen? The way CNN reported this made it sound as if this meeting did not take place. I don't know what's real and what's not. The media needs to cover the issues and stop the unnecessary swaps at EITHER candidate. Talk about the ISSUES!
    -J

    March 3, 2008 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  13. HELP

    LIAR !! LIAR !!

    Hillary 08

    March 3, 2008 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  14. Debra

    See..the Clinton supporters need to get the facts...She waiving a memo making herself look bad and desperate...

    Go OBAMA ...Change must come

    March 3, 2008 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  15. seyi

    Keep on trying Hillary. What's the use without fighting when you are about to rap it up. Good work Obama. I would stress the fact that she is giving it her all.
    How can yo manage a country when you cant manage a campaign??? Ask hillary.

    March 3, 2008 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  16. Debra

    See..the Clinton supporters need to get the facts...She waiving a memo making herself look bad and desperate...

    Go OBAMA ...Change must come

    March 3, 2008 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  17. stuart in l.a.

    I for one do not mind Clinton fighting back. Is she supposed to just sit back and watch him steamroll her campaign? No, she is fighting because she and her supporters believe she is the right choice for president. To do anything less would be cowardly. The problem is she is competing against someone who is appealing to the younger generation via rockstar appeal, and she probably wasn't expecting that. It's probably too late for her, and too late for the U.S. if that is how our presidents are going to be elected from now on.

    March 3, 2008 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  18. clarity

    I bet they down played it!
    If I was constantly caught promising one thing, but doing another... I'd play it donn too!

    Obama is just a toy action figure with patented speak action.
    If you squeeze his hand he says one of three things:
    I gave a speech once.
    I always get misinterpreted.
    I want to change the world.

    What's he gonna say when he gets his hand squeezed by the president of Russia, China, North Korea, or Iran?

    I want to say LOL, but I just can't laugh about this.

    Hillary 08!

    March 3, 2008 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  19. David

    As a Canadian I'm absolutely thrilled that Barack Obama is more concerned about the welfare of NAFTA on behalf of Canadians rather than keeping his word/rhetoric to the American electorate. Mr. Obama will be just the kind of President that Canada would like. A champion on behalf of Canada and agreeable to Canadian issues. Although if I were an American I might find myself staring at him to read his face....particularly his mouth as I wouldn't be sure which side of it he was speaking from and what to believe comes out of it. Maybe the "amazing" Mr. Obama can learn to sing both national anthems out of his mouth at the same time.

    March 3, 2008 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  20. D

    The fact of the matter is that when ever something comes out about Barack, He claims that its not what he meant, yadda yadda yadda. How much of this "not what i meant" rhetoric is going to last. I for one do not buy it. He is a liar and one thing that i hate is a liar. His dishonesty coupled with his media darling status is a shame because although i support hillary i hoped he would be a powerful part of her cabinet if not vp. After this blatant disregard for americans and ohioians specifically i have no faith in him as a democratic candidate.

    -M. NYC

    March 3, 2008 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  21. Betsy from OH

    Obama goofed up again!

    If we are supposed to trust him based on his words, how credible are they if he says one thing to America and another thing to Canada?

    Wake up Obama followers!

    Seriously, for the sake of America, WAKE UP!!!

    March 3, 2008 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  22. Peter

    When the campaign, the Canadian government, and the individual who is supposed to have been the person making the contact with the government all denying the accuracy of this report, can there be any doubt that the Clinton campaign is not aware of that fact. To put it out as something negative is not just plain wrong, but unworthy of her. As someone who has supported her, I am deeply disappointed.

    March 3, 2008 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  23. April in Texas

    I only see this as normal political tactics. Normally when something comes out so close to elections its exagerated or misleading.

    I continue to stand behind Barack Obama as he stands behind us (the people) .

    I pray and hope we don't get another Clinton as a president or McCain who is just another Bush IMO.

    I will give Obama a shot and see what he can do then decide if he has earned another term, but at the moment he comes across as the best choice for the United States.

    Obama '08!!!

    March 3, 2008 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  24. Paul

    It looks like Obama is gonna get away again.
    I hope it's not too late for Americans to learn about the real Obama

    March 3, 2008 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  25. Paul in CA

    Hmmmmmmmmm. Looks like the "yes we can" change reallly involves more of the same old "yes we will" play politics with America's future. My oh nm=my! Sen Clinton however has a clear record of being anti-NAFTA ~~~ just ask Carl Bernstein. And, also, the "I was misquoted" verse Sen Obama's adie espouses does not carry any more water than any other candidates. I guess we DO need experience instead of newcomer's "I told you so".

    March 3, 2008 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
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