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)

    hillary did not write the ap article of course the canadiens will deny and of course obama will deny. i've read it and it contradics what he said. he said no more washington politcs, okay ohio theres your evidence. obama supporters its ok to jump ship

    March 3, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  2. For all who flunked math

    I just played the CNN delegate game, everyone should try it. If Sen Clinton wins Ohio, Tex, Penn, RI and splits everywhere else by very narrow margins, Sen Obama and Sen Clinton will be virtually tied without the super delegates. So will the Obama people please stop saying Sen Clinton should drop out. Some of us are not caught up in the Obamania, aren't looking to elect a rock star, and are concerned about fabrication, dodging the issues and copy cat rhetoric and should have a chance to vote for our candidate. Both candidates have every right to take the fight to the convention, and we can end up a stronger party by ending up with both on the democratic ticket. Are all you Obama supporters saying if the ticket were Clinton/Obama you would stay home? Or are you going to vote for McCain and whoever he seconds? Not that I think Sen Obama is going to ask Sen Clinton to VP but if the ticket were Obama/Clinton what then?

    March 3, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  3. arizona for HILLARY


    H I L L A R Y 08.

    March 3, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  4. Mike

    Obama's open lie to the American people about NAFTA is shameful. You can chant "Yes we can" a thousand times, but without vision it is nothing more than empty words.

    OBAMA / REZKO '08!!!!

    March 3, 2008 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  5. Think before you vote

    Of course, the Obama camp must be wondering why ALL the negative stuff about Obama not come later, when the nomination has been clinched. If he is the intelligent person you think he is, then he should realize that ALL DIRT will be uncovered SOONER or later.

    If Hillary does not stumble into things like this, then, you can count on McCain digging even deeper, and finding out SO MUCH UNBELIEVABLY MORE. It is tough to be in the public eye, since ALL CLOSETS WILL BE open. If Obama wanted to have closed closets , then you should not have run for office.

    Senator Clinton has already undergone that painful process. And , not only did she survive but actually thrived to the dismay of many who think a woman should not be involved in historically male dominated affairs.

    Clearly, senator Clinton deserves to be the NEXT president of the United States.

    March 3, 2008 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  6. Independent in Texas

    We have Obama saying that was not what was stated or implied, we have Austan Goolsbee himslef state that was not what he said or implied, and WE HAVE THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT STATING THIS WAS NEVER STATED OR CONVEYED IN ANY WAY. In fact the Canadian government issued a statement dispelling this allegation.

    We have Hillary still saying this is an issue and a concern. So many lies by Camp Clinton and so little time left.

    March 3, 2008 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  7. Mike

    TO CW in DC,

    I wonder how much a state senator in Illinois earns per year? Must be enough to afford a $1.65 million house. Where did Obama get that money?

    March 3, 2008 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  8. kathleen

    Whatever Obama and Canada have in the initial talks.
    I am sure a fair agreement will be met. Obama respects
    Canada as we all do and we want to keep them as our
    allies. Canada is like part of us.
    Obama will make the negotiations palable for both.


    I think a lot of what is being said now is exagerated
    by our media,

    WE do not want 32 years of the Bush's and the Clintons.

    OBAMA 2008

    March 3, 2008 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  9. sunshine in nj

    Hillary Clinton is turning green, with jealousy that is! Not matter what crap she and her campaign "dig up" on Obama, it does nothing to sway voters – too bad!!! She has tried everything, and expects Obama to answer to all this and guess what, he does!!! He never swore that the meeting didn't happen, what he said was that the story that came out was not true (his statement was truthful). Then, when the real story came out, he commented on it. I hope all of you also took note that he did not jump up and down, he didn't get sarcastic, and he didn't cry the blues calling himself a victim. He addressed it and moved on. This is the kind of person who should be president.....not that raging maniac who cannot control herself, her husband, or her campaign (and you want her to be in charge of everyone's business) thanks. Come on Ohio and Texas – FINISH HER OFF! Obama '08

    March 3, 2008 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  10. Sonya

    CNN is no longer a reputable source; if you want to be Pro-Clinton then stand in line with Fox News Network and state that you will be supporting Clinton 100% so that the American public is not duped into believing that your network is giving equal coverage.

    March 3, 2008 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  11. RG Torian

    The Canadian government denied any such understanding was made, denied that any official of the campaign had such a meeting. You Obama haters are so blind you can't even read! Obama did nothing wrong, this person was not doing the Obama campaign bidding, he was a private citizen speaking his own mind. You can't hang this on Obama but you can show some integrity and admit that Hillary and her prospective "co-president" husband lied before, during and after his 8 year term as president. We don't need that national nightmare again.

    March 3, 2008 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  12. Dave

    What is that people want from their president. If they want to be uplifted, go to church every Sunday. Otherwise, think of what Obama has done, nothing, nada, zero, other and stood on the podium and made worthless speaches. Look at his voting record since he came to the senate. His voting rocord on Irag is exactly same. Just like every debate, he repeatedly said I agree with Hillary. I just wished Hillary should have let Obama answer the question on the new Russian leader. I think he knows absolutely nothing. I also don't like Obama pulling this strong arm on black politicians to back him. This is a racism at its worst. We let Obama get away with it. I just don't understand why is it that people in this country are so afraid of attacking prominent blacks. Being a president is different from being a preacher. I just want Americans to know that.

    March 3, 2008 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  13. Puddytat

    I don't know why anybody would be worried about either one of the Dem.s beating McCain. McCain doesn't stand a chance against either one of them.

    Republicans ELITES ... who drive that campaign ... have betrayed the American people too many times to think that they will ever be heard again.

    November guarentees a big win for either Hillary OR Obama . That is why Hillary should take this all the way to a Brokered Convention ... cause it's a slam dunk for whichever the lucky Dem. nominee is . The people are not going to get behind McCain ... they never have and WON'T . For the RICH to cram McCain in the nose of their base was political suicide for the REPUBLICAN PARTY.

    After the coronation of McCain , you can stick a fork in them ...they are done.

    If any of them feel like I do ... after the coronation , the channel changes and there will be no news watched until Nov.'s election
    when my vote goes to anyone BUT REPUBLICAN ... RIGHT DOWN THE THE TICKET.

    March 3, 2008 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  14. Vig

    Oh here we go. First his words were misinterpreted. Now the conversations are being played down. This IS business as usual and not change we can believe in. Obama got a couple of slogans that resonated with the disgusted American people and he's been using these to prove his believability. Let's face it – Americans don't really know what he's really all about.

    March 3, 2008 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  15. jc

    And Hillary's complaining about how SHE'S attacked in the press?

    Hey, Canada - go back across the border, eh?

    March 3, 2008 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  16. Matt

    How can a cheerleader for NAFTA (Clinton) question Obama on this issue ?

    Have people in Ohio forgotten that Clinton SUPPORTED NAFTA ?

    March 3, 2008 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  17. Wayne

    Why did they use such a sad photo of OBama? There are plenty of photos where he is smiling. CNN..I guess you dont mind bleeding credibility.

    March 3, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  18. Byron in CA

    First it never happend, (untill documentation comes out it did) then it happend but not the way they say it did. Can't help but wonder what the next statement from obama will be. He needs to go back to his empty phrases like Change we can believe in instead of dealing with facts.

    March 3, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  19. Bill

    This is the type of negative campaigning that will truly hurt the Democratic party in the General election. If this discussion occurred while an Obama supporter was giving a tour, this is nothing more than an Obam supporter's view as to what Obama stated in the debate. That does not make it Obama's view. This Nafta statement by Clinton really is negative campaigning at its worst. Rush Limbaugh has said he wants to keep Clinton in the race because she will work harder to destroy Obama and go negative than any Republican would to win the presidency. That is how bad she wants this presidency....she is willing to destroy her own party. I do not argue her qualifications, but I do question her integrity and character. Dodd mentioned last week that neither party should go negative. Two days later she throws the "Are your babies safe" ad. Now, Nafta, and has inflamed an issue that seems like a pretty innocent conversation. The sad thing is Obama has not spent time going negative about not disclosing her tax returns to the public.

    March 3, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  20. burnham scott

    The well oiled CARLYLE machine is firing on all cylinders.

    March 3, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  21. 4Hillary

    Obama supporters – ask yourselves this:

    1) If there was a "side deal" being made...Don't you think it is in the best interest of Canada to stick to the story the Obama camp is saying??

    2) CTV has said they are "sticking to there story" about the meeting because they received the information from a valid source.

    Last week Obama said that the "meeting never took place".....Today, when the AP got a hold of a copy of the memo now he says...."there was a meeting" but NAFTA was not discussed!?? Are you guys not concerned about this?? What if it is true?? You think the Bush years were bad...well you have seen nothing yet if Obama wins. Don't you think you deserve the "truth" before you vote??? I do.

    March 3, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |

    Get rid of NAFTA< so what is wrong with that? go Obama!

    March 3, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  23. Latina Voter

    Finally, the media has showed some backbone. Because of the media Obama had been Flawless, but TRUE COLORS always show up in due time. Example: Real Estate dealings with Rezko, Conversation RE: NAFTA with a Canadian official for political reasons and a friend to an activist. HMMMMMM!!!! Mr. Words Matter. As you can see your actions are not high. ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THEN WORDS. It is easier to give a speech, then to make a decision. No one will ever no how you would of voted regarding the war. (With your voting record you would of voted present.) You did not have a voice at that time. So your going to have to say a lot more, then I was running for Senate at the time you were making your speech against the war. Your judgement is being tested now.

    Hillary Clinton 2008!!!!!!!

    March 3, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  24. Peggy Goederer

    I'm seeing parallels between Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter, and wondering how far they go.

    They're both men of high ideals seen as "outside" the political establishment campaigning at a time when the public is/was totally disgusted with the political establishment.

    Jimmy Carter's presidency is generally viewed as a failure. My understanding is that part of the reason is that he refused to play the usual Washington "ball" game – trading favors for votes. He got in the way of the legislators and their pork, and they retaliated by refusing to let him accomplish anything.

    You could say he was too moral.

    I'm wondering whether Barack would encounter similar problems. Could he work effectively with our not very moral or idealistic legislature?

    March 3, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  25. Capital G

    I am growing sick of this campaign, it is on the verge of turning into politics as usual and it sucks. I believe all of us are joining in the fighting with each other like kids in a School yard, like anything we do is ever gonna make a difference in Washington to benefit the people.

    I want McCain, vote Clinton, voteObama, and in the end democrat or republican, it all remains the same. No health care, Nafta in place, Amero on the rise, gas, Schools, Iraq, and everything else will continue to squeeze all that is left out of this Country. So do enjoy the fighting over the internet, because it will not compare to when you are standing in the food line to feed your family.

    March 3, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
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