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. Martin

    Ok, so you are racist if you say anything about Obama. What about black people demanding that other blacks vote for Obama. This should be about the issues not black and white. If it was the other way around and Clinton supporters were saying "All white people should vote for Clinton, because this is our time," people would freak out. Obama lied, got caught, and then blamed it on Clinton.

    March 3, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  2. Todd

    The Canadian government has abosolutely confirmed this meeting through their memo–some people posted here that they were denying it those people are mistaken. Obama did this and must be held responsible.

    March 3, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  3. steve

    knew this all along- Obama is deceptive. Worst than a liar.
    I can believe Americans can be fooled by this guy.

    The truth will set us free. Obama can run but he can’t hide

    March 3, 2008 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  4. Spirit of America

    OHIO, are you listening? The truth may be late, but it is still liberating. Why vote for anyone who supports legislation which cost Ohio tens of thousands of good jobs? Don't fall into the abyss tomorrow. Don't promote hypocrisy and NAFTA. Help make Ohio (and America) beautiful again. Put a woman, the only one who really opposes NAFTA, in the White House.

    March 3, 2008 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  5. Krissy

    Hillary is so desperate! The confusion has been cleared up by Canadian officials. She lives in the mud, and wants to bring the whole country into the mess with her.

    OBAMA 08!

    March 3, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  6. Larry, GA

    This really only helps Sen. John McCain. Many people already believe that Sen. Hillary Clinton is a proven liar (tried and true, proven and tested). If they start to believe that Sen. Barack Obama is one as well, it will only help the Republicans.

    March 3, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  7. KE

    Sens. Feinstein was on Fox news yesterday speaking up for Hillary. Very good.

    It is sad that at this stage of this election year crdibility of the candidate is still a major issue. Let's move on! Hillary is the future.

    March 3, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  8. Dave, Evergreen CO


    March 3, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  9. snnn

    the guerillas FARC in Colombia are looking foward for Obama, after the army in Colombia killed No2 from FARC they found letters mentioning the possible door opening an emisary from Ecuador mentioned in a secret meeting INTERESTING Ah.

    March 3, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  10. Black Female Voter....

    I am NOT voting for Obama, he makes me puke! I am not going to be pressured into voting for him just because he has brown skin! He is patronizing the Black Community by impersonating a Black Preacher, he's not, so why does he give sermons? What a croc of crap! What happened to separation of Church and State? This guy doesn't know anything about being Black or White for that matter....How can this country even consider him?

    If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything and I'm not falling for Obama!

    Vote for Hillary! She’s our only hope!

    March 3, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  11. smart grrl in ls mo

    just a little more of OBAMA's inexperience showing....

    March 3, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  12. Eyes Wide Open

    Yeah, show what your daughters can be.... HA HA HA HA HA HA HA

    March 3, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  13. Ron

    I ask everyone who reads this..HAVE YOU EVER BEEN IN A ROOM WITH 4 OTHER PEOPLE WHEN SOMETHING IS DISCUSSED, AND WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT IT LATER, EVERYBODY HAS A LITTLE BIT DIFFERENT INTERPETATION OF WHAT WAS DISCUSSED??? Frankly it was kind of dumb for both Hillary and Barack to say they would consider dropping out of NAFTA. They both know AIN'T NO WAY it is going to happen!!! There may be a little tweaking, but the U.S. will not withdraw from it completey, no matter who is the President.

    March 3, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  14. Bill

    No one who supports Clinton is confused here. No one has said Obama met with these officials. The problem here is that when asked Obama and his campaign denied this ever happened. Now that its come to light, they are saying it did happen, but we are misunderstanding. So, its one or the other. The problem is it now shows that you can not trust Obama 100%..They could have admitted last week, but knew that would harm him, especially since Obama was busy attacking Clinton on NAFTA.
    The issue here is he could have told the truth last week. NEW POLITICS. HE did not. Change we can not believe in, because its buisness as usual.

    March 3, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  15. Sharon Moody SC

    It's amazing how when Hillary cried fowl blaming the media for what she considered unfair coverage how quickly they responded and the old "dump truck" effect backed right in on Senator OBama. Ironically or strategically, which I personally believe, in the final hours of Super Tuesday 2. How about showing the video that show Canadian Governemnt Officials angrily denying allegations tied to this so called memoand taking a firm stance on the culprit that started all these rumors against Senator OBama. This would at least let American's see both sides of the story but of course that would be too much like right. How about the media get back to being fair and impartial and please media personnel stop campaigning for Hillary Clinton.

    March 3, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  16. John Clinton

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

    Just like in Iowa and Wisconsin!

    Don't trust anything from the Clintons.

    As well, get the facts straight. Clinton is using a candid conversation during University tour visit as a silver bullet.

    March 3, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  17. Bebe

    OBAMA campt did not downplay this issue . It was denied by him and the Canadian Government. It would be nice if CNN could report the news accurately fro Obama as it does for Hillary Clinton. It is the most biased network for political news. All for Clinton. Only negative news is reported againand agin on Obama but CLinton just gets a blip on the negatives and the repetition on the positves if there is any at aall.

    March 3, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  18. JP SW

    It will too late to have buyer's remorse after the details the Feds have on Obama come out.

    Don't stick your head in the sand and deny what the memo said was true when Obama's adviser met with officials in Canada. Canada does not want an incident because that memo was released and they are taking the heat. It's true and the meeting was recorded.

    Hillary Clinton for President!

    March 3, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  19. steve


    We want Hillary, all of us, all of us who have voted and will vote for her tomorrow.

    Clinton won 8,558,402 votes in the first 25 Democratic primaries, 229,220 more than Illinois Senator Barack Obama. Of the total votes cast for the two Democratic leaders, Clinton had 50.7 percent and Obama 49.3 percent, acording the the polls.

    March 3, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  20. Bill

    By the way, MSNBC has reported that the Canadian Parliment was arguing about this issue today, not denying that the meeting took place.

    The point is, Obama said one thing to voters, why his top adviser on this issue is telling another government something else. This is not the kind of politics we need.

    March 3, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  21. Barney, Long Island

    Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island: Don't trust this guy and fall for his phoney baloney speeches. Vermont fits in with Obamamania..You people are too smart to fall for his tactics.

    March 3, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  22. Eli

    We can argue back and forth about this NAFTA thing and neither side can say what truely happened, but the TRUE FACT that can not be wrong is that OBAMA said at first he pr his campaign had not spoken with them (he denied this several times). Now we find out he did speak with them but they misunderstood him.

    March 3, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  23. BSC

    This is a true story. Also, this is why people should be thinking twice about Obama. He is not ready to lead this great country.

    March 3, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  24. mjc

    sounds like a ROOKIE MISTAKE.. something we could expect MANY of if he gets nomination and presidency. he thinks he can say nothing wrong, his words are golden.. reality check mr. obama. why don't YOU drop out.

    March 3, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  25. Mimi, CA

    Direct mails are funny now, aren't they?
    Obama 2108

    March 3, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
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