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. jess

    I know your game CNN

    you want this thing to continue until the convention.

    This allegation was already proven false.

    This is my last post.

    Don't swallow the press.

    I am done with your network

    March 3, 2008 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  2. LatinoNation

    So let me get this straight that if a person hustles you this is its ok? and you would allow that person to sell your soul just to be right? wow !

    March 3, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  3. Martha

    I have a slight feeling that this may not get published by CNN (Clinton News Network) but you all need to tune in the most recent news, it seems like you are following the issues from behind and in news media nano-second matters. Canadian government is flatly denying this. Tune in then let's talk again. Hillary is going down, poor freak!

    March 3, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  4. Stewie

    I don't understand ANY of the Clinton supporters.

    These words about NAFTA by Obama's economic advisor are a CHARACTERIZATION, almost word of mouth, and they were never uttered by the candidate himself.

    What Clinton supporters forget is that Clinton DID support NAFTA many, many times, and that Obama himself confronted her during the debate and all we heard from her were excuses and crickets.

    She should not open her mouth to accuse him now. She will continue to portray herself as a hypocrite of the grandest kind.

    This is all part of her desperate strategy to revive her moribund campaign. To quote her: SHAME ON YOU, HILLARY!

    March 3, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  5. Mike

    It will be such a joy to have so much space on this threat that's not filled with Obama supprorters aka "cry babies..."

    So naive.

    Come March 4th, Hillary will once again prove that she is the "come back kid."

    Hillary 08!

    March 3, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  6. Kate


    March 3, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  7. Kirby Lafayette La.

    Hey cali indie, look @ your state's condition, now imagine it getting much worse if Mcain or clinton gets into office. African americans are used to bad economy dealings , job loss , & all other hardships. So those of you who are hurting due to mindless politicians keep voting the way you are and find yourself stuck in another rut for 4 more years. One would think you all learned a valuable lesson over the last 8 years. Geniuses.

    March 3, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |

    TEXAS FOR HILLARY! 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 put someone in office and hope. We need a track record and a strong candidate. WAKE UP and VOTE HILARAY!

    March 3, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  9. Krishna & Ranga

    Folks consider this. Obama says he did not know what his adviser was telling the Canadian official. How are we to trust his judgement as President when he is not aware of what is happening around him much less what is happening in this wide world.

    March 3, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  10. Brian

    Hillary Clinton flat out sucks. If she gets the nomination, this party will be in ruins.

    March 3, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  11. Bill

    I can not believe the comments I am hearing from the Obama supporters.

    Take credit when you guys do something, but denial when something like this comes out. How does this become Hillary's fault. Obama attacked her on NAFTA and then lied about this memo. For those of you claiming its not true, you must not be watching the news because everyone is covering it and it is true. Point is that Obama people met, then Obama and his campaign lied. Of course they are backing off this now. Also, how does this make CNN racist? If someone lies it does not matter what color they are.

    There are many questions out there. This started a week ago and they tried to cover their butts and failed. It seems that while our press has had a love affair, not everyone has.

    You have to ask yourself was all the speeches just a ploy to get your vote. Obama supporters, be big enough to admit that your man can be wrong. How about his campaign and supporters threatening black delegates for Clinton? This is not right either.

    Hillary Clinton has never been charged with any crime. There has never been any evidence that she has ever done anything wrong. You can write about old scandals all day, but they are all gossip and not real. This is real. The memo states clearly that Obama was poltical positioning on NAFTA. Can you trust that nothing else has a political spin from this campaign.

    We need real leadership. Obama is not ready and Hillary Clinton is.

    Hillary 08

    March 3, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  12. ray c. N.S. Canada

    The democratic race for nominee has been exciting for Canadians at most all levels. I wish to add only to this blog that those who resort to fear, can only do so by actually circumventing truth and righteousness. For the two cannot mix. If any one candidate stands out in such a manner, one must consider where the root of their deliverance is coming. One will not make sound or righteous decisions if they are grounded in a manner such as fear. If fear should be used successfully, what would incline you to think this tactic will not be used again, when pushed? Wisdom and prudence is seldom availed by such tactics.

    March 3, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  13. Chinese Lobbyist

    The Clinton's have been nice to China. Good trade and military policies. Please re-elect Hillary so that we continue to make *affordable* products for US and so that our military can grow to match yours.

    Vote Hillary

    March 3, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  14. justin

    Everyone needs to realize that cnn,nbc,msnbc, and every network has nothing to talk about for 24hrs. lets get the facts right! An obama official was walking on a tour and having a conversation. The conversation and supposed memo said "he (obama) was not in any way saying that he would completely remove Canada from trade agreements,so Canada need not be concerned about news reports of his trade policy because there have not been any meetings to discuss so yes in fact it is politcal talk, because neither candidate can meet with Canada and do anything"

    all of you sheepish people who watch the tv tube and find something from Hilary to bait you into, maybe you should stop and wait to see how quickly hillary is "honored" to be with Obama after he wins the nomination and all of a sudden she is on board witht he democratic party. its called the kitchen sink. Obama has a lot of 'supposeds" but he has not been tied with anything but talks from rezco,canada,maybes with louise farrakhan and ect. I mean dang, what else did he supposed do? he was a muslim, an anti-christ ect. just admit you dont like the black man and we can get past the "silly season"

    OBAMA 08

    March 3, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  15. frank

    once again obama supporters.... this shows what kind of phony obama is... he is blinding you all with is speeches of change.. as it turns out it is barack obama will who will say anything to get elected.....

    March 3, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  16. Chuck

    Wow, Obama is starting to fall, and he is not dealing with it well. I give him a month before the MSM turns on him.

    March 3, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  17. Ian

    Just goes to show that Obama will make an excellent president. He's got the duck and move maneuver down pat. I guess his idea of changes is just telling a new set of lies.

    March 3, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  18. Texas Terry

    I really like that Obama is serious looking in the picture accompanying this article...... As if he is not as "full of himself" when someone from his campaign at a crucial time has done something stupid. I've heard a lot of things that have come out recently now that many are searching for "things that are not right with Obama's campaign". If you have your ears and eyes open maybe some of this will sink in and you will realize Obama is not the candidate you thought he was.

    Clinton for President!

    March 3, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  19. Kshama

    Fact Check:

    The Canadian news channel released the details after the Obama camp denied any such conversation took place. Now the story by the Obama camp is that the conversation took place but there seems to have been some miscommunication? Then, the Obama camp accuses Hillary Clinton of deceitful tactics and says this is her campaign's way of throwing the kitchen sink>.

    HMMMM.. Everything that happens to Obama is Senator Hillary Clinton's fault. Well, I know folks it's hard tobelieve, but we actually have an "angel" in Obama amongst all of us "corrupted" citizens.

    March 3, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  20. Eli

    CLINTON going negative again because she has pointed out another Obama lie. Obama the golden boy getting a little bronze. Keep on and before long he will be just dirty, like his good friend(you know the indicted one, the one that sold OBAMA his home for 300,000.00 below value and on the same day paid full price for the one next door for himself) HILLARY08

    March 3, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  21. Jenny from IN

    Wow... all I see on here is the desperation of the Clinton camp and her supporters.

    I guess you'll spin everything you hear into something that isn't true to get Hillary elected.

    Much like Hillary herself, it's sleezy.

    He didn't have a meeting with the Canadians. It was informal. The Hillary camp has pushed lies before to try and get elected.

    Hillary is LUCKY Obama is enough of a competitor to not have to dig up ALL THE NUMEROUS SKELETONS IN HER CLOSET.

    Obama '08

    March 3, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  22. Alice Rea

    Hillary will beat McCain if this is the case.
    Obama is too weak of a candidate in debates and one one one.

    Too many unknowns about Obama before the election in November to take the risk.

    March 3, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  23. kaylee

    Don't give a CANADIAN official this much power.
    OHIO and Texas please vote Obama!

    Thsi should be rejected by voters for a Canadian politician, with an unknown agenda, interject himself in our presidential election. He probably wants a pro-NAFTA candidate (not Obama) to win the elections.

    Obama '08

    March 3, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  24. mike

    Look who got caught with his pants pulled down. Just shows his lack of experience and now he is blatantly lying about it. All politicians are the same. Obama is no Messiah, and like it or not Clinton is tougher. She is the best candidate to get in the ring and slug it out with the republicans. That's what it will take to beat McCaine.

    March 3, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  25. Democrat08

    Sen. Durbin just went on television and said that there was no meeting. The Obama campaign needs to get its talking points straight.

    March 3, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
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