March 3rd, 2008
03:44 PM ET
10 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. HH Texas

    Didn't I read somewhere awhile back, that when Hillary Clinton loaned her campaigne 5 mil. that she was only charging a 1.26% interest rate on it? Romney loan his camigne 7 mil. with no interested ?

    Go Obama'08

    March 3, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  2. Michael

    They met. Why did they meet? For what purpose? Is it coincidence that they met with Obama's domestic policy adviser? Give me a break. How many times are we going to have to let them slide before theor campaign is held accountable? Is this what America has to look forward to in an Obama administration?

    Getting very tired of the excuses. Bottom line is this: In an election where a primary is taking place in a state which has been adversely affected by this trade agreeement, Obama should not have let his surrogate meet with Canada in any way, shape, or form until he was officially named President of the United States. This arrogance is showing voters from Ohio and Texas exactly what this guy is made of – nothing. Nobama to the snake oil salesman.

    Hillary or McCain for President.

    March 3, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  3. Julia

    Nah. Downplay all you want. He's busted. And I'm sure there'll be more in the next couple of months to unmask this guy. She should stay in no matter what happens in Texas or Ohio. She's been vetted. Obama, for th emost part, has had a long free ride for the past few months. The press is finally getting around to him. And so it begins.

    March 3, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  4. TheLeftNut

    WHOOPS! Here comes Mr. Jelly.

    HILLOBAM '08

    March 3, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  5. Marie

    Wow....this compared to possible tax evasion and an impeached husband???? Hmmmm....the pressure is on the media to dig for dirt to appease poor Hillary!
    HRC's tactics have hit an all time low! Her desperation is showing and I know this is just another reason to NOT vote for such a divisive person!
    Watch out America....after she loses tomorrow, she will keep slandering and will cause the greatest division the democratic party has ever seen and America will truly see it was always about Hillary and her ego!

    March 3, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  6. Patrick

    March 3rd, 2008 4:01 pm ET

    "I feel betrayed by Obama. I was a supporter of his and now I feel I cannot trust what he says. I don't think I will vote for anybody tuesday. A lot of my family feel the same way."

    Yea buyers remorse for obama big time. I feel this is only the tip of the ice burg

    March 3, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  7. Deidre

    WOW!!! CNN finally rears its racist head. How convenient that on the eve of Obama's posible wrap up of the democratic election, this station's big white power brokers come up with these stories to derail his campaign. Tell me America isn't still racist.

    My how CNN's tune has changed when it seems a black guy may just win the nomination. Shame on you CNN. TOO Convenient to be believed.

    March 3, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  8. Sheila

    It seems to me the candidates should ALL be able to pronounce the names of the states correctly, if they want to be president of the country. Case in point, Obama cannot pronounce the New England state that begins with the letter M (and it's not Maine). He mispronounced it twice in the Ohio debate!!! SHAME ON YOU.

    March 3, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  9. California Independent

    It's Clinton's fault for pointing out yet again that Obama is a liar?
    Obama's whole campaign is about political positioning rather than policy. The guy has absolutely no integrity.

    It's why so many of us will vote for McCain rather than Obama.

    If it isn't Clinton, McCain '08

    March 3, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  10. Carol Cure

    I am so thanksful that Obama is above the negative politics Hillary and her supporters love and is trying to change the political discourse. Just think what he could do to her in response to the flaky Rezco attacks if he mentioned Norman Hsu's hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions to Hillary and her supporters. At least Obama allows dissenters on his website (unlike Hillary who apparently edits out any unfavorable comments and allows only fawning lovefests – she must not believe in freedom of speech).

    March 3, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  11. Lou

    Obama is making deals and lying to the voters. He is not even the party nominee.... empty words of "HOPE" and people are falling for it. America deserves better.

    March 3, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  12. Sydney

    I think that Obama has shown that whatever charge is against him, it is just another rumor. I think that the HRC Campaign is just looking for another story to try to stick to Obama. Stop the bickering and quit trying to downrade Obama just because he is holding is own again the "unstopable clinton machine."

    Another thing, the reason Obama responds so quickly over others when there is a charge against him, is that he doesn't want these rumors to sit with people. He is not stupid, he is smart.

    Obama '08

    March 3, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  13. Ricardo

    Canadian Parliament today dismissed the claims about Obama and NAFTA. Why is CNN not reporting this?? This is on tape, Canada said this did not happen.

    March 3, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  14. Zach

    I hate that CNN lets people comment on these articles. I feel like I get dumber just reading them.

    March 3, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  15. prakash chand for HILLARY




    GO HILLARY!!!!!!

    March 3, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  16. Derrick

    Barack Obama's definition of "change" and "hope" are clear and they are simple!!!

    Change means to say one thing to the people and then change his mind later behind the scenes!!!

    He hopes that the voters don't find out about it!!!

    I USED to be an Obama supporter, but NOT ANYMORE!!!

    Wake up and realize people, he is a liar, very deceitful, and those are HIS definitions of change and hope.

    GO HILLARY 08' 12'

    March 3, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  17. Maxxim

    Hillary go home. Aftr she realized she is going to loose, now she attacking to OBAMA.
    if she gets the nomination which is unlikely,i will vote for McCain!!!.

    March 3, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  18. Independent Josh

    I am tired of negative Hillary. If Obama doesn't make it, Mccain will be my alternative.

    March 3, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  19. Joanna

    Canada says didn't misrepresent Obama over NAFTA By David Ljunggren

    Yahoo! News. Please read it.

    March 3, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  20. Douly

    Our democratic party is Ruined Republicans will take the white house...because of all this negative bickering . thank you Hillary .....

    March 3, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  21. AP, NY

    I can't wait for the primaries to be over!!!! Its getting worse by the minute and in the end the Democratics will LOSE. Both Hillary and Obama supporters are being so short sighted. After Hillary wins the nomination...what then??? Do you folks think that Hillary will go on to win the elections without Obama supporters??? Too much mud slinging...too much!!!. What will be the damage to the party at the end of the day.

    March 3, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  22. Awilda

    With his lightweight experience, charisma masquerading as skill and backtracking and doublespeak when he gets caught playing the same old politics game, perhaps I should be thinking of writing in Hillary on the November ballot if she does not get the nomination.

    March 3, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  23. Susan

    Thank you for taking of your blinders. You need to dig deeper on BHO. This is serious.

    March 3, 2008 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  24. Martin

    If this kind of mud slinging sticks (and having experienced Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, it may well stick), then good luck with the next war ...

    Good luck as well paying for your next vacation overseas as the Dollar will take another nose dive with either Clinton or McCain as president.

    Just paleeze, don't say that you did not see it coming.

    And btw, Thank you Hillary and Thank you Bill for running such a shameless campaign.

    Even the Canadian government stated that there was nothing to this "story" ...

    March 3, 2008 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  25. Edi

    I am a Canadian and live in Canada. Make no mistake. Everyone here in Canada knows that Obama's memo was REAL and that Obama, in his naivity, expected the Candian government to "keep it quiet". Having worked in Ottawa, I know the subtext when a government states "we don't want to get into American politics". A sr. aide of Obama sent the memo; the Canadian official did not misinterpret the memo; and Obama's own naivity and POOR JUDGEMENT is strikingly evident. Be wary Canada. Obama blames Canadians for his own errors. Will Americans also be blamed the next time he makes a mistake? Oh, and by the way Obama, we don't have a President. We have a Prime Minister. If you are the nominee, we should withdraw from Afghanistan!!!!

    March 3, 2008 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20