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. Larry, Apex, North Carolina


    March 3, 2008 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  2. Save us from Politics

    Wait let's see. what kind of rock star spin can we put on this situation? The questions are mounting and I'm not happy with the answers.
    Question 1: Why has Sen Obama been less able to perform his duties in the Senate than Sen Clinton during the campaign? Sen Obama's sub committee meetings (0), Sen Clinton's sub committee meetings over the same time period (2).

    Question 2: When is Sen Obama going to release details of his land deal with Tony Rezko?

    Question 3: When is Sen Obama going to speak to his supporters who are using coercion in the African American community by implying that an African American who does not support Sen Obama must be an "Uncle Tom"? (My guess on this is after the primaries are over, because he is gaining additional votes due to this coercion and particularly in caucuses where the vote is PUBLIC rather than PRIVATE) When a latino supporter of Sen Clinton made a remark that could have been construed as "racist" Sen Clinton immediately rejected and denounced the remark and the supporter, regardless of the political consequences that may have been garnered in the Latino community. I don't see Sen Obama having the same standard of anti racism (because coercion based on race is a form of racism). One other question on this issue: Isn't coercion illegal?

    Question 4: So much for transparency in gov't, when the defense of Sen Obama's advisor speaking to the Canadian counsulate and indicating that the Senators speeches on NAFTA were political positioning, but as soon as it is made public...That's not what was said...yeah real transparent.

    March 3, 2008 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  3. Texican

    Will the REAL Obama please stand up. Show us your courage, stand up to those Canadians on NAFTA. We are getting screwed down here in Arizona. Hillary at least stands by her position and doesn't call the Canadians if it is ok to renegoitate the treaty. This what you can expect from an Obama Presidency.

    March 3, 2008 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  4. harry K

    He not only had the meeting ...He lied about it!!! Is that you want for President??? Not me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



    March 3, 2008 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  5. Cami

    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.

    March 3, 2008 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  6. Netta

    I don't what this NAFTA mess is about but I do know one thing.

    Hillary Clinton plays nasty, funky, dirty politics. I live in NYC and can tell you without a doubt. No matter what happens with this primary, I will never, ever, never vote for a Clinton again. Not even for local dog catcher. If she manages to grab the nomination from Obama, I will either not vote or I will vote Republican for the first time in my life. I will never give Ms. Clinton my vote. Her tactics are too low down and dirty for me to support.

    March 3, 2008 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  7. Stephanie, Canada

    It's a relief that Obama doesn't actually believe what he says about NAFTA. The way he talks about it, you'd think it was the root of all evil in America today. It's delightful listening to him talk about economically isolating the U.S. and about being the candidate of diplomacy in the same speech.

    March 3, 2008 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  8. kathy

    This is making me laugh – he should have just come clean. Now to cry fowl after he sent out mailers that were full on lies about Clinton just makes me laugh. The facts are the facts – he denied that anyone had a conversation when in fact they did. Obama is just another politician, playing the same old boys network game. While I think he is a great Senator – and will continue to be a great democratic leader, he lied about this. He set the standard when he published those inaccurate mailer. Shame on you Barack. He has a lot to learn and I don't want him using the white house at my expense.

    March 3, 2008 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  9. Adiam48

    I agree with CW in DC. She doesn't say anything about her fraud case at all.

    March 3, 2008 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  10. Matt

    Obama lied. Period.

    Actions speak louder than words.

    March 3, 2008 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  11. TC in Ohio

    What real Obama? are you kidding me. I am tired of all the cheap tricks that the media is using to try to taint the public's positive outlook on Barack Obama. Hopefully this silly season can end after tomorrow.

    March 3, 2008 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  12. Patrick

    SHame on Obama! Hypocrite!! The Canadians dont recall?

    CLINTON 08!!

    March 3, 2008 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  13. AMK

    This is a relevant issue. He has been dogging Clinton on NAFTA for weeks now. This is A ROOKIE MISTAKE for a campaign to make........whatever you want to call Clinton, this type of crap hasn't come out of her campaign.



    March 3, 2008 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  14. A. Harrison

    That CAMP fo OBAMA's always "DOWNPLAYS" things..

    OBAMA Never dos any WRONG.

    GEt a clue America. Vote for Hillary, in TEXAS, OHIO, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Pensylvania!!!!!!!!!

    March 3, 2008 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  15. NJ

    If not Hillary, then McCain – signed, a Georgia Democrat

    March 3, 2008 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  16. Wayne

    "Downplaying" ? Last week it was a denial, now it's "downplaying" the significance of the meeting. Hmmm Downplaying, is that the new word for Liar?

    March 3, 2008 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  17. ARundle

    If both Canada and Obama say the memo written by some one else mischaracterized a conversation, why are you Obama bashers so unwilling to take them both at their word?

    Obama has run a terrific campaign so far, do you really think he would send someone to Canada and say don't worry I'm lying to the American people? What could he possibly gain? Last I looked Canadians coundn't vote in this election.

    March 3, 2008 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  18. democracy

    March 3rd, 2008 11:53 am ET
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    Billary Billary : In the name of our daugthers please please step down, you are ruining it for women who will want to run in the future.

    In the name of our sons, who you voted to send to war now you feel sorry about them yet have done ZERO to help the economy or the health care which they are in so much need of.

    In the name of Democracy, which this country is so proud of , dont ruin it, dont steal it.

    in the name of the majority of the voters , the young, the old, the women, the men, the democrats, the independents, the Republicans who are honest and want a better future as we all do, in the name of Latinos, AA, Asian, and all immigrants, in the name of honesty and integrity, please step down_ your time and that of y our husband is over, this is a democray not a dynasty.

    Anyone but Clintons

    March 3, 2008 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  19. A. Harrison



    March 3, 2008 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  20. A. Harrison

    No one every pays attention to what this man does. He's solid gold. Be careful!

    March 3, 2008 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  21. maya

    Wow- it just keeps coming in, drip by drip, about Obama! How is this Hillary being desperate?! Obama can't keep using Hillary bashing to cover his inadequacies. I just hope that it's not too late!!! The Golden Boy is starting to look quite hollow indeed...

    March 3, 2008 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  22. barry

    why is it cnn is not covering this on the news today.
    where is fair and balanced news....lou dobbs we need you....

    March 3, 2008 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  23. Ivan, Chicago, Illinois

    It's very simple, did he or did he not say what was reported?
    If he did then Hillary is right, and Obama speaks with forked tongue.
    Hillary is also right that Obama is all talk ande no action.

    March 3, 2008 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  24. Ryan

    Man...comments are just ridiculous on this comment line. Hillary and Obama supporters–cut the crap. You're oth democrats and they both have the same positions on nearly everything. I'm an Obama supporter but you know what? if Hillary wins, I'd vote for her too. I just think Obama has the ability to reach across the aisle in a more constructive way.

    You guys want someone to scrap about, try John McCain. He's the one withthe starkly different policies from the democratic candidates. He's the ones that's been nominated that admits he's in the dark about economic policy. He's also the one that Bush will support–shouldn't that give you enough incentive to vote for either Obama or Hillary, whichever one emerges from this war of words crap?

    Obama '08, but if HIllary wins, she has my vote too. Anyone but McCain.

    March 3, 2008 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  25. Nick

    There was no meeting. The man was there for a tour not in an official capacity!

    The Candian offical asked a question about Obam's positionon Nafta and the man asnwered it. The Canidian consulate then summed it up in a memo.

    I do not see the problem here.

    March 3, 2008 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
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