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. elaine

    Ashley, doubt it very much if Obama's campaign would stoop to Hillary Clinton's tactics. The fact that he is running a positive campaign and realizes he doen't have to, is why I'm voting for him. Hillary Clinton imo has disgusted a lot of people with her rants and whining and accusations. When will she ever get over herself? sigh.

    March 3, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  2. Insider

    CNN & Hillary campaign should be ashamed of themselves. Inaccurate headlines and signs of desperation. One is a sign of support for Hillary the other is a sign of desperation.. Go Obama!!

    March 3, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  3. Don Kay

    Hillary said she is honoured to be with senator Obama,
    and so do i! what about you?

    March 3, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  4. Women 4 Obama

    This just goes to show how many foreign officials the Clinton's have in their check book. Expect the Chinese to weigh in support of Bill Clinton ... I mean ... Hillary soon as well.

    March 3, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  5. MARCO HERRERA

    HI I'M A LATINO MAN LIVING IN CANADA. EVEN THOUGH I AM A CANADIAN I SUPPORT SENATOR OBAMA.

    MY COMMENT IS...HAVE YOU NOTICED HOW EVEN THOUGH THE NEWS ARE TALKING ABOUT SENATOR OBAMA THEY MANAGE TO PUT EITHER A PICTURE OF HILLARY OR A CLIP OF HER IN THE BACKGROUND!

    SUBLIMINAL MESSAGE!!.....

    I THINK THE CLINTON CAMPAIGN IS THROWING ACCUSATIONS LEFT AND RIGHT ABOUT OBAMA BECAUSE THEY CLEARLY KNOW THEY ARE LOSING THE BATTLE.

    March 3, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  6. viv

    I SEE THAT YOU HILLIARY SUPPORTERS ARE CAUGHT UP AS WELL. YOU ALL ONLY HERE HALF OF STUFF THEN YOU RUN WITH IT. YOU ALL NEED TO LISTEN TO ALL THAT IS BEING SAID AND NOT TAKE AWAY HALF TRUTHS. PAY ATTENTION PEOPLE SHE IS DESPERATE AND I REALLY DON'T BELIEVEWE SHOULD HAVE ANOTHER CLINTON IN HE WHITE HOUSE. IF HILLIARY BECOMES THE NOMINEE SHE WILL NOT GET MY VOTE. I WILL STAY HOME THAT DAY AND WHO EVER WINS SO BE IT.

    March 3, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  7. Joe

    Deirdre get over yourself. How is this playing the race card? Telling fact and the truth about Obama is playing the race card? Obama and all his followers have played the race card very well during this campaign and now you're going to try it out on this one? PLEASE! This is why the voters are taking a second look at Obama.

    March 3, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  8. DJW

    Hiilary's people are just desparate – what do you think this will do to the party??? I am not voting for her if she steals it!!!

    March 3, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  9. Rodney Dallas, TX

    I am an Obama supporter but I don't like this. Why is anyone in his camp meeting with any foreign countries about his positions as president? He is not the president yet. He needs to concentrate on winning these elections on March 4th. He needs to knock Hillary out of this race and then turn his attention to Senator McCain. Obama it turns out is a cocky little something. You don't act like you are the champion until you win the title. He should not be talking to any nations about his potential presidential policies until he is elected as President in November and not a day sooner. He needs to humble himself because the game ain't over yet. I think he is the best candidate for the job but he is a little too arrogant. Maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea for Hillary to win a couple of contests tomorrow because he is getting too big for his britches.

    March 3, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  10. 4Hillary

    To all the Obama followers... PLEASE USE YOUR INTELLIGENCE AND READ THE REPORT ABOVE!

    IT DOES NOT SAY HILLARY'S CAMPAIGN IS MAKING IT UP, IT SAY's A CANADIAN TV (since CNN, MSNBC, FOX are drooling over Obama)
    Reported this. The AP obtained a memo today that was sent to Canadian officials after the meeting took place that highlights all the talking points fot he meeting!! Hillary has every right to request that he come clean!! The American people have every right to know whether he is making side deals with other countries. No wonder he was attacking Hillary on this....LOL he thought he had it all worked out!!

    OHIO, TEXAS, RHODE ISLAND, & VERMONT HAVE THE RIGHT TO KNOW ABOUT THIS "SIDE DEAL".

    Goo Hillary!!!

    March 3, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  11. Joseph Claghorn

    I'm surprised out how much name calling is going on blogs like this. Are democrats that filled with animosity towards two obviously good candidates? What disturbs me most about this story is the fact that the representative of a foreign government leaked to the AP a recollection of an informal conversation on the eve of a major election, with obvious political ramifications.

    March 3, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  12. suz

    gee do ya think that soundbite w/hillary wasn't a mistake but that CNN intentionally muted the audio on that? CNN has become shameful. if it was in their interest to play it again w/sound, they would have done so already.

    March 3, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  13. don from Canada

    The real fact that the Canadian news (CTV) reported was that the Clinton and Obama camps both met with the Canadian government to tell them that they were talking tough on NAFTA but that this was more political positioning than substance so you should report the whole story. Clinton is just as guilty in this as Obama. Also one note: the current Canadian government has strong ties with the Bush/Republican government and this makes me wonder if they released this to hurt Obama's campaign because Obama has the only real chance to beat McCain in November? This is just a thought!

    March 3, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  14. Kenneth Matthews

    I am watching MSNBC and they are showing a clip where the Canadian Legislature is denying the information given in the letter. They continue to show the clip, but on CNN I do not see it. More of the Bias News

    March 3, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  15. Alice Rea

    Wake up America!

    Isn't it better to find out All about our candidates before we vote?

    Thank you CNN

    March 3, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  16. Sacha

    I'm reading this from the other side of the Atlantic, and this does seem like a mountain out of a mole hill. The Canadians deny anything dodgy really happened, Clinton is running round like a rabid dog trying to get a bite, and Obama is getting flack for something a junior advisor might have said.

    All seems a bit strange

    March 3, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  17. smart grrl in ls mo

    The OBAMA campaign will say ANYTHING.... and later they're going to be telling others that it was only for CAMPAIGNING purposes

    March 3, 2008 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  18. vl

    Oh boy, this truly shows just how hypocritical Obama is. HE started the negative attack ads (with untrue information), HE COPIED her "red phone" ad, so what does this show me about him? HE'S A "COPY CAT".

    Barack, GET OVER IRAQ!!! Give us something NEW to hear. Your stance on NAFTA is false as well. I believe millions of Americans have heard David Gergen, DeeDee Myers and many others state "Hillary DID OPPOSE NAFTA while her husband was President." I'm sorry if your "followers" can't understand the fact that it would be using poor judgement for the "First Lady" to openly disagree with her husband, the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES! Get real, get an education! Also, I have done research on the CTV, both online and with friends who live in Canada. They tell me it is true what was reported, Obama was just giving lip service to Ohio voters.

    What about Obama's pal, Rezco? I for one wish CNN would have done some reporting on this a long time ago.

    What about Oprah stating kids in the US are spoiled? Then standing on the stage in Iowa to state "We as black people need to stand behind this black man", that isn't racist?

    I could go on, like forever, but I feel like I'm gonna barf from all the Hillary bashing, uneducated (can't spell and rotten grammar) Rev. Jim Jones style (Don't know who he is? LOOK IT UP!) Obama groupies out there! At least Clinton supporters don't swear, and spew hateful, "words" from their mouths or posts

    March 3, 2008 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  19. alison

    why doesn't CNN show the Canadian Parliament today – the actual members of Parliment are getting up to speal and each speaker is supporting Sen Obama's story and saying this is being engineered through the government of Canada and there is no truth to this story

    and why isn't CNN reporting on the fact that Bill Clinton was in Canada Saturday night ?

    And who is Brenda Stronach – a minister in Canada and her connection to Bill Clinton

    PEOPLE – THIS IS DIRTY TRICKS 101–

    Please–

    March 3, 2008 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  20. ALEX MORALES

    Obama uses words to win votes, his lying came through this time and was proved. The guy is a great guy, but its not so gret to decieve people simply because you want to win the election. We can't afford to just "hope" ...there is hope in everyone...we are not in the luxury with the problems we face...to put someone in office and hope. We need a track record and a strong candidate. WAKE UP and VOTE HILARAY!

    March 3, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  21. Jayson

    He should speak to someone in Canada and ask why they are moving away from such a "fine" government healthcare program....

    March 3, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  22. Mark, Newfoundland, Canada

    I hope someone else has said it here too but neither of the two of them have any intention of renegotiating NAFTA. They are both just acting like they would to please voters in Ohio. Neither of the two of them want to renegotiate NAFTA because NAFTA helps the rich and the rich pay for these people to get elected.

    Get real. Both of them are liars just like every other politician in your country and my country and any country in the G8. I really hope someday you all will see that and unite behind a real cause, that real cause being, humanity. As opposed to right now, we the right and the left are too busy arguing with each other but unimportant issues like abortion, gay rights, Iraq, terrorism, when they should be focusing on the economy, education and health care and actually trying to get control of your goverment back from the corporations.

    What scares me is that it may be too late and you all better pray to whatever God you believe in because the big empire is about to fall and it is going to get nasty and make the great depression look like the best economic times ever.

    We need a revolution before we are all poor slaves to the rich elite or before we are all dead from starvation and disease.

    And remember, all empires fall, all of them. History as always showed us that.

    March 3, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  23. ww-New York

    How funny! Hillary cries and the media, change their focus off her "do anything" motto! UNREAL.. How quickly people forget how the Clintons have lied and still will do anything! I can't stand this. I'm so sick of the Clintons. Let's discuss the case "HILLARY" is involved in. All the news about Obama doesn't have proof. However "Hillary" is a part of a case!

    March 3, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  24. Herman

    Again, just smoke and mirrors to distract the voters from the real issues at hand which is the war and economy and in this country. Same old tactics that will not work this time because the people are focus on the real issues at hand.

    I to will vote for McCain if Billary wins...

    One lady told me that if Hillary wins she is moving to Australia....

    Go Obama!!!!

    March 3, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  25. RT

    CNN your headlines are false and misleading!!

    March 3, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
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