March 3rd, 2008
03:44 PM ET
6 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. Carolyn, LA, CA

    Come on people... Hillary is reaching – is this all she can find – some third hand conversation with small people, and Obama buying a house from the wrong person? Goodness... She is definitely going to lose now. Obama '08

    March 3, 2008 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  2. CS

    Ten to one that this is a bald faced lie "leaked" by the current Conservative Gov't of Canada. Prime Minister Harper of Canada has already come out backing McCain. As a Canadian, I would not put our current government above pandering to their GOP brethren down south. Believe it. Don't worry USA we Canucks will be voting these pricks out of office shortly, keep the faith and do the same! Good luck!

    March 3, 2008 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  3. North Of Sixty

    Well if David is thrilled about Obama's concern for Canada, I am not!

    And I think instead of BLAMING Hillary yet again for Obama's lack of genius and intellect people should see it for what it is – no forethought, hindsight, or intellect goes into his statements. And he has no plans except for the ones that Hillary designed and he gives voice to as being his own!

    And with the US now owing Canada hundreds of thousands of dollars re: Trade issues, maybe Obama should change his strategy on closing the US monetary Friendship Alliance with China as the US just might need it. And they also should start looking elsewhere for their extra planes, soldiers, police to train Afghans' soldiers, Military for Afghanistan, and Canadian's monetary support for the Iraq War.

    Obama does not show Leadership – Far from it ! He is a Dreamer void of substance and it shows !

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

    Whatever Canadians say, we will vote for Rezco's "friend." Yes, we can!

    March 3, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  5. beenburrito

    FLIP FLOP... let me see, perhaps he is getting more than an endorsement from John Kerry?

    This guy is sooooo bad news that I will definitely vote for McCain if Hillary is not the democratic candidate.

    When the press is bias in favor of obama, nobody cried racism, but if the press is finally fair, then they obaaaaaaama followers cry racism!!!!???? What is your leader inspiring you to??? to be delisuional?

    March 3, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  6. Dave from NH

    People are you seeing what is playing in the Canadian Government ...

    All of you who keep calling Senator Obama a liar need to tune in and see that the fight is not about IF it is false (this report about Obama that the CLINTON campaign is pushing) but who needs to be fired in the Canadian government ...They are screaming at the Prime Minister...in their parliament and saying that somethings a foot...somethings rotten in Denmark...

    March 3, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  7. Steve

    I'm an Obama supporter (just gave him money today, in fact), but it seems to me that both sides are a bit hysterical over this non-story.

    Remember, folks: if you don't support the Democratic nominee, no matter who he or she is, that means the following: 1) the repeal of Roe vs. Wade, 2) the continuation of the ruinous Iraq war, and 3) the continuation of the budget-busting Bush tax cuts. And that's just the beginning.

    The Democrats are far from perfect, but we need to stop the bleeding. So, please, folks, dial down the hyperbole and remember who the real adversary is.

    March 3, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  8. B. Smart

    People,. . . . no matter how much we think we are influencing others with our opinions, the only thing that matters now are the exit polls tomorrow night.

    YES WE CAN
    Obama 08.

    March 3, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  9. vegage

    You see, Obama saying one thing before American people and then one of his campaign people is saying a complete different story. This guy has just hipnotized, made a spell to the American people and he is being dishonest. I hope it is not too late to have this thing changed around and have the true best candidate winning the nomination, that is Hillary.

    March 3, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  10. Chris

    Hard to believe there is much into this story. I'm not surprised the desperate supporters and Clinton campaign advisors have jumped all over this. It definitely isn't what the Obama camp needed. However, when you have SNL coming to try to rescue your campaign, I mean does it get any more pathetic?? I guess it's fitting though, it's an outdated show of the past looking out for an outdated candidate of the past.

    March 3, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  11. Steve

    Those people who call themselves Democrats who would rather vote for McCain than Obama, why don't you just come out of the shadows and say your would rather vote for a white Republican than a black Democrat??

    Say it you bigots!!!!! Say it!!!!!!!!

    March 3, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  12. Tiffany

    Mr. Blitzer needs to watch MSNBC, they have video footage of Parliamentary meeting in Canada where both sides deny Senator Clinton's allegations. As or Tony Rezko, there is NOTHING there, Senator Obama had nothing to do with Mr. Rezkos illegal activities. Find some real news, this is getting really tiresome.

    March 3, 2008 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  13. Peter Canada Obama 08

    Obama didn`t say those words and both Canadian and Obama camp denied this. So, get over it.
    Hillary should worried about how she will dropped out of the race.

    March 3, 2008 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  14. RT

    Did you Hillary supporters actually read this article? The Canandian government even said, "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."

    THIS STORY HAS BEEN DEBUNKED BY THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT!! This is just more Clinton spin.

    You folks are so gullible!! I am so sick and tired of these uneducated Clinton supporters believing in such bile! You guys really need to educate yourself on these two candidates, where they stand on the REAL issues, WHAT they've stood for in the PAST, and WHERE they want to take us in the future. If she gets the nomination, you morons can thank yourselves for rolling out the Red Carpet for John McCain's entrance into the white house.

    March 3, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  15. sal

    Democratic party will split

    Votes will go to a moderate McCain

    Thanks to the sore looser

    McCain will win 08

    Thanks to Hillary GOP tactics

    March 3, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  16. Deana

    BOO Obama..you are caught in a lie..and you downplay it? And Deidre, why call CNN racist? Because they are finally reporting on Obama? Get over it.

    Go Hillary!

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

    This same accusation has been hurled at the Clinton campaign. So who cares? Where is the the prove either way?

    March 3, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  18. Tom

    Folks, it is Hillary who has changed positions on NAFTA. She is throwing this negative campaigning out there as a last ditch effort to distract voters from that fact. She is the flip flopper on this issue and is using a lowdown dirty George W. Bush-Carl Rove trick to do it. Same old negative politics from Bill and Hillary Clinton. You really want this same kind of devisive politics in the White House. Think, really. Hillary is too divisive and CANNOT WIN AGAINST McCAIN in November. Wake up!!!

    March 3, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  19. Ben - Columbus, Ohio

    So it looks like the Obama camp says the memo is wrong and the Canadians say that that this random campaign adviser, speaking unofficially, did not provide them a different line on NAFTA. Sounds to me like this story should be dead, but the Hillary camp certainly won't let it go away. Tomorrow night really can't come soon enough so that we can finally move beyond this destructive, petty distortion and get down to the business of beating the Republicans.

    March 3, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    Remember all you Clinton supporters. Clinton supported Bush on Iraq saying she didn't know he would use force. She voted again with
    Bush on Iran. We have 3 Supreme Court Judges due to reach 80 years and older. With all of the baggage the Clintons have over the 8 years in office do ya think those things won't be revisited. What are you so-called Democrats doing to our party? I supported the Clintons in the 90's, but I can't support them now. Step away for a minute people, we have to unite behind the person who can win. Hilary rhetoric is be-coming to personal and is in danger of alienating alot of voters. Using the Drudge Report to get out false rumors about his religion and race. Listen, having Hilary is okay, but its time to move on and go with someone who can move this nation. Wake up people, join us today.
    OBAMA 08!

    March 3, 2008 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  21. D.

    LIAR, Official or unofficial, this showed what true color Obama is. He's no different from other politicians. Wake Up people. He CANNOT bring changes.

    Ooop, now the Obama camp needs to blame Hillary for this! Freak!

    March 3, 2008 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  22. Margaret

    More deception from Obama.

    Last week Obama claimed there wasn't a meeting.
    Now – after the Canadian government has CONFIRMED the meeting –
    Obama says it wasn't an "official" meeting.
    LOL

    In our house – we call that LYING.

    Oblahma is a con – and a media creation.
    He can't even influence Senate Dems – much less save the world.

    March 3, 2008 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  23. Praetorian, Ft. Myers,FL

    I'm an independant...now.
    Previously I was a life-long Democrat.
    After my Florida Primary voting rights were pulled by the DNC–and the extreme left wing agenda's of the current two contenders===each trying to out-do themselves on social "gimmes"...I've switched. I swear it looks like they are campaigning for the illegal alien vote!

    Clinton and Obama have a new program for every problem that comes upon the horizon–along with large checks from Uncle Sam, and more and more involvement of the Federal Government in our daily lives.

    When John Edwards left...so did the last remnants of character and truth–and any realistic hope of achieving change–without bankrupting the nation or suppressing independant achievment and free enterprise.

    John McCain promises to deliver change–without the destruction of the values and traditions our nation holds dear–particularly free-enterprise and individual responsibility.

    March 3, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  24. Clinton Is Lame

    People need to look at the facts.
    Canada has alot to loose with obama's stance on nafta
    Canada has a Conservertive government
    Canada prefers a Republican in the whitehouse than a Democrat
    So what better way to slowdown the obama train and ensure the most likely democratic candidate to win the white house goes the oppostite direction in the polls

    March 3, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  25. Mark, Austin, Texas

    This is what Canada says about this story:

    "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," said a foreign ministry spokesman."

    March 3, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20