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. Annamica, OH

    Finally, the media has showed some backbone. Obama lied to you Ohio, stick with Hillary!

    March 3, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  2. Joe

    Obama has been Mr. Flawless. Of course we're told since childhood, "If it seems too good to be true, it's too good to be true." A vote for Obama is a wasted vote.

    Hillary '08!

    March 3, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  3. Toyin, Marietta, GA

    so if one of Clinton's adviser make i comment, i should hold her responsible for it? Basically some are saying don't vote for Obama because his advisor said something.

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

    I just read the Canadian article for this comment and I must say Hillary has a lot of apologies to make first to the Canadians, the Obama campaign, and to the trusted voters who voted for her. If she does stuff like this to incriminate others, I could imagine what she'll do in office. This little fiasco just lost her thousand of votes. Not only did she embarrased herself but the people that endorsed her. Not to mention this may create a national incident over just words.

    March 3, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  5. Eunice, Maryland

    Down playing real issues is typical of Obama style. He hates it whenever the truth comes out about him. Once again he has lied to American people. Obama is two faced. He will tell voters anything to get their vote. I am an African woman living in America but I feel very sorry for America if this man wins election.

    Wake up America.

    March 3, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  6. pat

    It is only a matter of time before Barack Obama faces a comedown after the emotion he's "inspired" in the U.S. presidential nomination race.
    Soon he Will Have Nowhere to Go But Down, if not against Hillary but certainly against MaCain.

    At some point his free ride wil end,just like any other "superstar".

    Obama, you cannot be elected president if you do not withstand the tough questions, how long are you are going to pretend no to know about Rezko?, to double talk to get out of tough questions? , to use the race card?

    Obama you already fooled the people you were going to fool. Supporters are starting to suffer from the Obama Comedown Syndrome, and are starting to ask questions, such as, tell us your plans to deliver on sweeping promises to unite the country, bridge the racial divide and break the partisan logjam in the U.S. capital?; an so far Obama has been mute about specifics. Why?

    March 3, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  7. Sharon, Raleigh NC

    I have never in my lifetime seen such blind allegiance to a person, particulary a POLITICAN.

    I don't beleive Hillary Clinton's campaign had anything to do with the Obama campaign talking to the Canadians about NAFTA. Let's take Hillary out of this story and Obama supporters just THINK at least for ten seconds that Obama is not this perfect individual sent her from above to save us and that some things that comes from his campaing and his mouth is not always 100% true.

    If he wins the nomination and his "policy flip flops" and his "Chicago dealings" come out who will you blame then?

    March 3, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |

    This is a major gaffe by Obama. It shows that he is all words an empty suit and will say anything to get elected. It goes to the heart of his character and shows that at the heart he is just another dishonest politician. Worse thatn that he is a politician that lacks any expereince and has dupped many people. He had it right in his debate when he characterized his supporters as dillusional. He has deluded them into thinking that hi is honest and or capable. Obama is nether. Please put an end to this campaign Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Vermont, and vote for Hillary Clinton. As much as her detractors discredit her she is a tough and capable women. Men stop voting against her becasue she is a women . It is time to have a female president and HRC is more then capable. Women you may not get another chance to vote for a female presidental candidate i your lifetime. HRC is cabable and qualified. Please men and women do not be afraid of a strong women. She is a great role model for the YOUNG WOMEN of America. Dad's who have daughters show your daughters that a girl can be anything that she wants to be in this country. What greater shining light can we be for the Taliban who discriminate against woemn. Lets role lets do it!

    March 3, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  9. HG

    BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO-what horrible coverage by CNN, look at this ticker almost every article is related to Clinton. I can see why Bill Cunningham called it the ClintonNewsNetwork.

    March 3, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  10. Deborah

    WE do not want you Hillary


    Go OBAMA 2008!!!!!!

    March 3, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  11. gozinct

    You can either support Clinton or Obama, or McCain for that matter, but please do not use the tidbits of vile that each campaign has dispensed for your arguments. Have you forgotten that all politicians will lie to get what they want? Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent to get our votes. That fact is the only thing that gives me hope that average Americans may have a say about the uncertain future. They need us! Let us use our collective voice to push issues on which we can all agree: education, economy, good jobs, health care, peace, and security. In recent elections divisive issue like abortion and gay rights have confused large blocks of voters. These are two issues that, not unlike the Clinton/Obama debate going on here, cannot be settled. When all is said and done we will vote for the person who will do the best for us individually. That may mean different things to different people, but please let us just (as the song says) accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. That will make us all feel better when the race has ended.

    March 3, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  12. Reggy

    People! This is only an attempt by Hillary to get the NAFTA subject off of her. Her support of NAFTA was exposed by Obama and now she is crying like a baby and acting like a kid. Why when something negative comes out it has Hillarys name wrote on it. I might as well call Hillary supporters a bunch of BATS, because you people are blind. So since you are blind direct your RADAR to voting for Obama.

    Go Obama

    March 3, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  13. Switcher

    I SWITCHED TO HILLARY a long time ago. Come join me!

    March 3, 2008 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  14. Jed in Texas

    And you didnt believe Dennis or Ron Paul when they said you will be lied to and often by Hillary,Obama and McCain.

    March 3, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  15. MJ

    What about the release from Canada saying it was their mistake?

    March 3, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  16. Y.Lee

    Could you guys at CNN stop with the strong adjectives on your political headlines? SLAMS BLASTS HAMMERS, this is stupid. They are overused "descriptions' that have lost their definition in the political arena. You guys study English for a living, why don't you use it?

    March 3, 2008 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  17. Plant

    The Canadian official was a PLANT! That was a PLANTED question.

    Just like in Iowa and Wisconsin!

    Don't trust anything from the Clintons.

    March 3, 2008 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  18. Belle

    HEY CNN!!!!!!!!


    However, If Clinton loses Texas by a few delegates, but WINS OHIO and Pennyslvania....THIS IS A DIFFERENT BALLGAME!!!!!!!!!

    March 3, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  19. Mike

    These posts are pointless, it's just people who support one or the other spewing garbage.

    March 3, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  20. Todd

    This is the most incredible outrage. The press needs to really look into this, because it WAS an important person in Obama's campaign who spoke to the Canadian consulate, and he DID tell them a very different thing than he's been telling voters.


    March 3, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  21. GetReal

    Senator Obama is back peddling again just like on campaign financing!!

    March 3, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  22. SH

    Canadian news media reported on this when it happened, go look it up.

    March 3, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  23. Donna

    The Obama supporter need to wake up! Hillary did not put this out. Obama got caught and now as usual is trying to swim his way out. The guy is a horrible liar!

    Hillary is the best choice for president!

    March 3, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  24. Penny Libby - Micco Florida

    Barack Obama is basing his campaign on judgement. His judgement was wrong on this issue and it was wrong on Rezko. Sen. Obama admits he made a mistake in his dealing with Tony Rezko.

    What is there to say about that other than his judgement is not quite as squeaky clean as he claims. He needs to tell the truth about NAFTA and his land dealing with Rezko. THis is not last minute distractions ... he is holding up his campaign with Judgement. HMMM!

    March 3, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  25. Jack

    It's a disgrace that CNN is reporting so heavily on these two stories today - both of these stories, the Canadian thing and the Rezko thing - are weeks old.

    Shame on you, CNN.

    March 3, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
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