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. s

    Well the story about NAFTA and the Canadian Consul it is not true it has been debunked by the Canadians
    Also the Rezko trail is nothing, The Clinton's have more scandals than any politician I can remember in my life.
    Hillary is not so innocent so don't let her fool all of you and if you think she will get anything done think again, it will be constant bickering so go right ahead and vote for Hillary!
    As a life long democrat I am amazed at all of the people that want to go back to the same old nothing getting done!
    Shame on you HILLARY!
    Keep dividing the party and good luck on winning in November if Hillary is the nominee!

    March 3, 2008 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  2. only the truth

    To all our fellow Americans in Ohio –

    please do not be misled by sen. clinton's remarks about sen. obama's NAFTA position. just remember that it was Pres. Clinton who put his stamp on NAFTA. it was this signature that doomed so many jobs in your state and in the whole country. was sen. clinton truly opposed to NAFTA going back when she was the first lady? who's vouching for her that it was so? david gergen? mr. gergen was a member of the clinton inner circle at that time and still is active in the clinton camp.

    mrs. clinton will say and do everything to win this nomination, to the extent of dividing the whole party, just as she is pitting her followers against that of obama's. it'll be a shame and a tragedy if she gets her way through the convention. it will spell a fragmented and doomed party that will not have the strength and the will to overcome a republican surge back to the White House.

    I am a Republican and i want to see a real change in our thinking, in our feelings toward our government and a real change in our policies so that we may regain our prestige and honor and our belief in our country and be the best on earth once again.

    March 3, 2008 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  3. Texas Terry

    The more exposure Obama gets the more these slip-ups are going to occur. This is the only vetting he is getting. If nobody else is worried about the new things we find out about him every day I know I am.

    March 3, 2008 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  4. Franky, New York, NY

    How do you say BUYERS' REMORSE loudly enough!?!?!?!?

    March 3, 2008 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  5. katherine

    In a world where there's so much uncertainty (about the economy, the war, etc) I would rather have a president who knows what he's doing. I don't understand why people want to hire somebody who needs an on-the-job training for the most difficult job in the world. It's crazy. This whole thing has become a popularity contest.

    March 3, 2008 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  6. pc

    Barak Obama is consistent and a man of integrity. I believe what he says.

    March 3, 2008 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  7. 100yearwar?

    nafta killed the working man

    March 3, 2008 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  8. Keith

    what the heck does CHANGE mean anyways?

    Change is not always a good thing!

    March 3, 2008 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  9. Brian

    If Canada denies it, I don't see the issue here. They have nothing to gain or lose when both candidates say the exact same thing about NAFTA.

    March 3, 2008 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  10. Mainely Carol

    I'm always amazed that people will listen to garbage in the waning days just before voting. This kind of trash is exactly what Hillary does very well. I thougth Americans were tired of trash talk and rumor mongers who spread lies and fears to accieve their own gains.
    I see where one person isn't voting over this. Too bad they don't really see through this tactic.

    Hillary will keep up the fear and distortions and sadly, many will fall for it. If she wins, beware this is all we have to 'look forward' to for the next 9 months with no repair for the nation with those in Washington we need to work with to move forward. Yes that includes republicans.
    Hillary winning means another Republican in office.
    BTW, notice how the press is bending over backwards due to the 'charges' they are not fair... boo hoo to poor Hillary.

    March 3, 2008 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  11. Ricardo

    MSNBC is reporting the truth, and showing the new video from todays Canadian Parliament, were they admit that this is not true. I do not know why CNN is not showing the tape of Canadian Parliament denouncing this charge. I'm very shocked that CNN is doing this, I'm totally shocked.

    CNN is being one sided on this.

    March 3, 2008 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  12. JP SW

    Indeed, if it isn't Hilary, it has to be McCain. We can not put Obama in the white House!
    Hilary for President of the United States!

    March 3, 2008 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  13. Mel

    It is unbelievably stupid and irrational to say something like "if not Clinton, McCain!" That just means you aren't voting based on the issues, but rather things that have nothing to do with policy. Its people like this that make me question the merits of democracy and letting idiots vote.

    March 3, 2008 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  14. Meltdown

    Wow – Obama is getting a lot of negative press right before Super Tuesday II.

    March 3, 2008 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  15. Kevin

    Think about how scary this is!

    1) Dmitry Medvedev wins Russian presidential vote by a landslide with a scam vote!

    2)Troops from Ecuador and Venezuela have been ordered toward their borders with Colombia amid a tense crisis that threatens to erupt into war

    3) Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wants us out of Iraq


    March 3, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  16. Hillary For Ohio NOT Obama!

    I just went and Voted for Hillary!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    No Obama!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 3, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  17. Willy

    Can't wait till the liberal media has no one left in the democratic side and they will forced to look hard into Obama's past. The cracks have been showing for awhile on Obama.

    March 3, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  18. Laura

    Finally it's coming out...Obama is a liar! No billion-dollar media blitz by Oprah can cover this stink. Look at Obama's close ties and financial dealings with Tony Rezko (crook realtor who is indicted!) in Chicago, along with Farrakhan! Obama received one very sweet real estate deal in Chicago from Rezko for..... WHAT? What's the catch? I guess we'll find out once he's President, won't we? WAKE UP AMERICA! Obama is NOT what you think he is – he should not be trusted to run our great country and open us up to further attacks – economic and physical. Vote for Hillary!

    March 3, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  19. Val

    as always the Clinton camp using old dirty tricks. Is Hillary really the kind of president Americans want? Remember the saying "United we stand, divided we fall"? it looks like Hillary really wants to divide the democrats. Why make up stuff about Obama. I wonder what will happen when she looses. will she switch to be a republican?

    Just a thought from Canada.

    March 3, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  20. Tom

    you people are so dillusional and will excuse anything hillary does.

    her vote for the war was not conditional. she knew perfectly well who bush and cheney were. nice going and enough of the excuses.

    BILLARY 08

    March 3, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  21. Pepou

    It seems that Billary will stop at nothing to win a few votes tomorrow. Shame on you ! I will never vote for that woman, no matter what.

    March 3, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  22. Jenny MA

    Wondering if two losers: Kerry and Kennedy will speak up this time for OBAMA again?

    You guys are definitely destroying this party now by attacking Hillary!

    You guys try to use OBAMA to control the party!!! But you have to accept the truth: It is your termination now!

    Go Hillary!!!2008

    March 3, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  23. Peter S, Georgia


    Let me explain it to you – all sarcasm aside. I won't vote for McCain out of spite. If Senator Clinton is knocked out of this race, I will vote for McCain because he is the best remaining choice.

    If I thought Senator Obama was "fantastic" to use your word or if I thought he and Hillary had "almost identical ideals," I would vote for him. I don't and I won't.

    If Hillary is knocked out of this race, it will be partly due to a poorly run campaign. It will also be due to blatant bias on the part of the press, a double standard on the part of much of the leadership of the Democratic Party (ironic since Hillary is supposed to be the establishment candidate), more than a bit of sexism, and Clinton bashing that just will not seem to end after more than a decade.

    Senator Obama has bashed the "past 15 years" from the beginning of his campaign. If he wasn't bashing the Clintons, who was he talking about? Any doubts were erased by his questionable performance on the question of NAFTA.

    The "I'll vote for McCain" comments are not going away for the simple reason that some of us feel that Senator Clinton has been unfairly treated, that her supporters have been trashed as well as racists, etc., and that some of us feel that McCain is the next best candidate.

    March 3, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  24. Connie

    (Richmond, Va)

    Please!!!!!! The Clintons, (obviously behind spreading the rumors about Obama), should be the last ones talking about dealing with alleged crooks (Rezco)!!! Remember White Water, Vince Foster, questionable stock exchange dealings and investments, Bill's private donations for his "foundation???? How much of that money do you think went into their pockets? Maybe that's the reason HRC won't release those tax returns and papers!! STOP THE SWIFTBOATING, CNN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 3, 2008 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  25. Arthur

    I hope it not to late for people to realize what an empty suit Obama is.Each new day more examples of Obamas incompetence will come out.
    Everybody should support Hillary now becuase of her incredible abilities and skills.She is someone Democtrats cane be proud of.

    March 3, 2008 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
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