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.

โ€œThe 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. JJ

    Leave Hillary out of it... "Obama Cult Members" ...You are starting to see the real Obama! SCARY!!!

    March 3, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  2. Go Away

    WE DON'T WANT YOU HILLARY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 3, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  3. Mani, NJ

    This is not a popularity contest, its a crucial election that is going to decide our future and our children's future. If we Americans actually thought of it this way, we would not even give Obama the time of day. He is a nobody with no ideas for this country. Yes, he is cool and witty but he is not suited to be our president. Hillary will do just as Bill did, she will clean up the mess in this country. She is only in this election because she cares about this country otherwise she really does not need the crap she gets from everyone.

    March 3, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  4. pat

    The "MEMO" is a lie... People, wake up to smell the coffee. Words do not matter. No proof it is real. Obama's fingerprints are not on it,

    March 3, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  5. Canadian

    Come on you coward. You can blame a lot on Hillary, but for once be a man and admit, we cant really trust what you're saying because its just politics as usual right Obama.

    We do NOT want you to be out President.

    Vote for Hillary.

    March 3, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  6. Abe

    FInally people will see he is a politician like everyone else and says stuff just to win points. If this had been Hillary people would have been going nuts over this but with Obama we will just let him tell us what he ment to say. At three in the morning you dont get a second chance to explain.



    p.s isn't he calling the Canadians liers?

    March 3, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  7. joyo

    well even clinton said the media has to help her win we all know cnn is clinton news network, i am sick of all the cable stations,they admitted they need to help her investigate obama last i checked it's not the media's job i thought they were supposed to just tell the news please can we get a national public station besides cspan

    March 3, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  8. Rudy F.

    Can ONN (Obama News Network), I mean CNN, bury this story more? This is relevant news that says a lot about the true nature of the Obama campaign.

    Rudy F. (California)

    March 3, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  9. Go Away

    Yeah right, show your daughters what they can be:
    liars, sleazy, shrill, plastic, angry, psycotic, condescending,
    need I go on about Billary?

    March 3, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  10. zak

    I was undecided until this latest attack from Hillary's camp. I have just decided to vote for Obama. He could throw so much garbage at her, but he doesn't and she slings mud daily and it's sickening. She is turning a lot of people off by this, but she doesn't have a clue. I think the country is sick and tired of this kind of cheap politics, called the Clintons. By the way the Candian government was on tv and has denied this attack by Hillary and her arm waving ridiculous tactics. I think the American people from Texas and Ohio are going to send a loud message to Hillary Clinton tomorrow and I don't think she's gonna like it. I know I am.

    March 3, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  11. Matt, Indiana

    WE do not want you Obama.

    GO HOME!

    Go HILLARY 2008!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Ok, seriously people. This is not American Idol. Obama may have that "rock star" appeal because the main stream media has made him out to be some sort of golden boy, but can you all really be that thick? The man is a liar. He's inexperienced and he will do major damage to this country. Remember the last President we had that was inexperienced? I believe you do, his name is George W. Bush. Do we really want another 4 years of Bushism's? Be smart! Get your facts straight and open your eyes or you are going to end up with a bunch of broken promises if Obama ever ends up as President.

    Another thing, most of Obama's wins are coming from Republicans who no longer have to vote for McCain since he has all be wrapped up the nomination. They are doing this knowing that Obama is the weaker choice and that there is no chance in hell they will vote for him in November. They don't want Hillary to win because they know she is the only one who has a chance to beat their "McOldy".

    So say NObama and YES to Hillary!

    VOTE HILLARY!!!!!! The only candidate who can bring about REAL change that this country needs!! Not empty rhetoric like Obama. He needs to drop out of the race ASAP so the Democrats can put their focus on Hillary defeating McCain in November.


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

    deborah, speak for yourself, ITS A TIE.. THAT MEANS HALF OF US WANT HILLARY... WAKE UP.

    March 3, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  13. Keith, GA

    Obama's toast in OH and TX (if it ever makes the airwaves).

    March 3, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  14. KF

    Boo-hoo Obama. I mean let's look at the facts – he said no one ever spoke with the Canadians when in fact they did. More mistakes by a young politician not ready for the white house. She has what it takes to win this nomination and that is what all you Obama supporters are scared of.... well you should be.

    March 3, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  15. Ralph

    The independent voters will be questioning the timing of Obamas bad press and Clintons good press. Amazing how the news turned on a dime after SNL slammed CNN and the next primary approached. Coincidenal? Only if you are not an independent voter. And what's up with all these Clinton supporters saying you go girl? Can you imagine what the response would be to that many Obama fans saying you go brother? Those most vocal about sexism are proving to be hippocrits when it comes to what they want.

    March 3, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  16. Rick

    Has anyone noted what either of these 2 are saying about NAFTA in Texas. The answer is Nada, Zip, Zilch. Why? NAFTA happens to be popular in Texas. According the the WSJ (I won't plagerize), 1.6 million jobs have been created in TX in the last 10 years vs. a loss of 10K in Ohio. Exports from TX are 4 times what they are in Ohio. And TX has seen a net domestic migration of 667K vs. a negative 362K in Ohio (ex: foreign immigrants). NAFTA has helped in TX. Also helping in TX is a low tax rate and no personal income tax. Ohio ranks ahead of only 3 states in economic competitivenes – they have the 3rd highest corporate income tax and 4th higher personal income tax in the country.

    Seems the argument in OH should be about much more than NAFTA. – but then neither of these 2 are advocating lower overall taxes. So instead, they use NAFTA as a stalking horse for much bigger problems.

    March 3, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  17. Manuel TX

    Stay strong Hillary!


    March 3, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  18. Vince

    Who cares what one low level flunkie told another low level flunkie.


    March 3, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  19. Steven Harper

    Canada owes Bill Clinton a BIG favor.

    You see, when Bill was still President, and the french speaking province (ie. State) of Quebec was voting on a referendum about whether to separate from Canada or not, Bill Clinton staged a news conference with planted reporters and questions. Bill basically said the US would not support separation.

    So now, Bill was in Canada on Saturday, asking to for a favor in return. Or maybe he was there to tell Canadian officials that Hillary was joking about NAFTA.

    March 3, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  20. Peter

    Hillary's getting lame....and desperate....

    Go Obama!

    March 3, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  21. Nancy

    Cami writes:
    Cami March 3rd, 2008 3:34 pm ET

    I have truly grown to despise Hillary. I don't want to vote republican, but if she is the nominee I will simply not vote at all.

    Cami don't you think that Hillary supporters feel the same way if Obama wins?

    March 3, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  22. Phil, KC, MO

    How is it that the Clinton campaign is criticizing Obama for his stand on NAFTA? Are our memories so short? Does anyone recall that it was President Clinton who signed NAFTA into law? Is there any evidence to suggest that Hillary opposed NAFTA then? There is certainly plenty of evidence to the contrary. Now they're accusing Obama of taking a stand for political expediency. Definitely a case of the pot calling the kettle black (no racial inference intended).
    Aside from the outrageousness of the charge, I'd say this is a non-issue. They're both guilty. Call it a draw.

    March 3, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  23. Bertha

    Hey from Canada! I have been of course watching from the outside, namely from Canada. What I have observed is that Sexism is alive and well in the USA, Racism comes second. As well, the media has been very biased, hence the observation. When is the media going to stop the molly-coddling of Barrack Obama. From my viewpoint, it is the media who has put Mr. Obama on the petestal and has helped him with the Hilary bashing. Mrs. Clinton is a great politician and has done a lot for your people and country. The American people should be honored and proud in having her as President. She would make a Great President not to mention the fact that the Americans would be making history. When was the last time you had a former first lady run for president? I wish I had more space to write. Thanks for you time.

    March 3, 2008 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  24. Sharon

    CNN is bias. They need to announce that the Canadian has rejected any such thing with Obama or his people. They put out a statement rejecting this. I saw it on another channel. HOW COME CNN DIDN'T SHOW THIS STATEMENT. HOW UNFAIR? YOU DID SHOW HILLARY TALKIN ABOUT OBAMA AND CANADA, SO SHOW THE STATEMENT DENIEING IT TOO.

    GO OBAMA!!!!!!

    March 3, 2008 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  25. Ochoano

    The liar goes to the rocky mountain states and says: You can keep your guns, he goes to the west coast and says: I am for the environment; he goes to Wisconsin and Ohio and says: I am against NAFTA; he goes to Texas and says I am against the Irak war and I am an immigration reformist. He goes to the south and says: I care for all races and he goes to the east coast and says: I am liberal. The rethoric is really paying off but the question is for how long. I am pretty sure that little by little the illusionist express will derail and the ones left on would be the naive young voters and the well to do liberals. He is trully an opportunist and his campaign people have subtly sold it to the naive to make him a MTV star.

    March 3, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
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