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. phil

    Last week Obama's people swore that there were no conversations being held with Canada. CNN reported that. I heard it.
    Now they say that the conversation occurred but their representative was misquoted or misunderstood.
    What will they say next week?
    It is impossible to believe anything that these people say.
    The higher this Obama hot air baloon flies the more transparent he becomes.

    March 3, 2008 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  2. David

    Obama = Liar
    Obama is a shame of this primary contest.
    I can't imagine he is president.

    March 3, 2008 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  3. Adam - TX

    Can't take a little heat, Obama? Your camp can never take criticism even when the proof directly counters your excuses. Maybe you should get your story straight and quit trying to swift boat everything. You're as much of a con as you're political ally and good friend Rezko. Same old Washington, Barack, same old Washington...

    March 3, 2008 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  4. Bob, Lyons Oregon

    Clinton, Shame on you and your dirty politics, everytime you do this negative stuff, and if you became the nominee, I am leaning more toward McCain, so you might want to knock it off, as I am sure I am not the only democrat that feels that way. You and Bill will do anything to get elected.

    March 3, 2008 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  5. Adam

    So much for "Change we can Believe in"................

    Politics as Usual.

    March 3, 2008 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  6. LeRoy

    Kitchen Sink huh..well friends you just wait until McCain gets done with Barrack he will wish he was over in kenya running from or for office...This man is a nobody trying to be somebody and me or you have not a clue who he is and youre willing to put our great country in the hands of someone you know absoluetly nothing about other than he gives good speeches...WAKE UP AMERICA!!!!!

    March 3, 2008 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  7. ken

    Thanks Canada, this shows how two-faced can politicians be.

    March 3, 2008 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  8. MJ

    Obama uses double speak, just like a polician. He's still part of the Good Old Boys network. It's okay to bash a woman. Just down play any negative press. Isn't that just like the President that we have now?

    March 3, 2008 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  9. babs

    You ever notice that Sen. Obama always has an excuse for everything, always playing the victim, ALWAYS accusing the Clinton campaign of "scare tactics" whenever an issue is brought forward about him.

    March 3, 2008 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  10. John - Spokane, WA

    The Bark is coming off the tree just like Bill Cunningham said it would, this guy has a ton of Skeletons in his closet and here they come ! Just today, after claiming he had no business dealings with Tony Rezko, he claimed that he "RETURNED" all the money in question with Rezko. GIVE ME A BREAK !!

    As Obama pointed out, the War is costing $12 Billion a week , HOWEVER, Obama said that if he pulled the troops out and found out that Al-Queda had a base there – he would return the troops. My question is HOW MUCH WOULD THAT COST MR. OBAMA !!! Besides, everybody in the World knows the that Al-Queda is in Iraq and has been there – that is, everybody except Obama.

    March 3, 2008 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  11. Mr. C.

    Thank you Consulate for making this clear. I know Obamas camp would never do such thing nor say such thing they had been accused of. Oh now the clinton camp would be crying and I think they need to apologise to the Obama camp for this false accusation. Hillary, herself needs to apologise to Obama camp.

    March 3, 2008 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  12. RBNYC

    So now the Obama campaign's misleading statements to the citizens of Ohio about whether these discussions ever took place is somehow Hillary's fault? Wow - this is a topsy turvy world, isn't it? I trust the voters in Ohio to see through the spin from the Obama campaign. As for criticisms about the timing of the release/discovery of the memo - whose fault is that? If the MSM had scratched the surface themselves, perhaps this memo corroborating the CTV news story would have been released sooner.


    March 3, 2008 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  13. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Ambitions that backfire deminishes ones opinion of Hillary and gives her no leverage against republicans. Hillary is destroying the democrat party and her own integrity in the process. This is really bad international press created by Hillary and shows poor judgement. Vote Obama.

    March 3, 2008 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  14. Charlotte

    I'd down play it too. This is a major flub by the Obama camp, one day before the vote! I hope Hillary mops the floor with him. First he denies the meeting, a paper trail shows up, now it was misunderstood? This guy is something else. At least he told the truth about not voting for the war, course he couldn't vote for it, he was not a Senator at that time. Closed door politics at it finest.

    March 3, 2008 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  15. Joelle, Racine, WI

    More talk, talk, talk, and talk or should I say lies, lies, lies and more lies by the empty suit...


    March 3, 2008 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  16. Veronica in CA

    Obama simply will not take responsibility for much of anything.

    Barry, you've been called out.

    Hillary '08!

    March 3, 2008 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  17. Donavon

    some people should actually look up what obama subcomittees responsibilities really are since, john kerry who is the committees chair would be the one to hold meetings on nato

    March 3, 2008 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  18. peter

    if anyone is wondering why cnn is starting to show a lot of hillary articles and talk about her more and being easier on her lately, it is because cable news want hillary to do real well this tuesday because they realize if Obama was to win big on tuesday then they wouldnt have anything to talk about for the next few months. so essentially the new networks and newpapers need hillary to do well in order to keep getting the ratings they have been getting.

    March 3, 2008 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  19. Angela

    What??? Mr Fluffy got caught???

    No – he was misinterpreted!!! That's it. That is what they are going to go with.

    Since the "liar liar pants on fire – we didn't have a meeting" defense didn't work.

    Wake up before it is too late. He doesn't represent change. He has no experience. He was against the war when 90% of Americans were for the war.? Hindsight is 20/20 and do we really know how he would have voted? He himself has publicly questioned what he would have done.

    Mr Fluffy nearly pulled it off – but now the truth is starting to come out....

    March 3, 2008 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  20. rabblerouser

    Notice how whenever anything negative is said or implied about Obama, his people accuse Clinton of being behind it. Seems like THAT'S the old style politics he claims he's against.

    March 3, 2008 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  21. Jed in Texas

    All three candidates want to sell your job to the lowest bidder or bring someone into the country to take it from you.

    March 3, 2008 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  22. EFabian

    Obama supporters are so comical.

    Apparantly all of this is Hillary's fault? It was a respectable Canadian News channel that outed Obama and not a cheesy tabloid entertainment show. Hillary and her campaign would have been idiots had they not jumped to the chance of questioning Obama and his double talk. If the shoe were on the other foot, Obama "Alimighty" would have done exactly the same thing.

    I guess Obama needs to take some of his own advice "say what you mean and mean what you say" or whatever his rhetoric is, cause those words are sounding emptier now more than ever.

    March 3, 2008 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  23. Eric, California



    March 3, 2008 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  24. HG

    Another smear on Obama, even Fox News confirmed that. Seems CNN is heavy Pro Clinton these past few days. I guess the whining got to them. Talk about unfair and unbalanced.

    March 3, 2008 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  25. NO OBAMA

    Can't change a leopard's spots, huh, Oprahbama!! We don't need another double-talking, no substance, puppet.. We have had that for the past 8 years. Go away Obama...go back to the woodwork you crawled out from under. And while you are there, help out your ole buddy, Rezko!

    Vote for Hillary....real leadership for the United States!

    March 3, 2008 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
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