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. Carol

    Yea, right.........He wouldnt do that....he is Mr. Clean.....His nose would grow if he lied.....It's the Canadians...cant trust them you know....they would do anything to report dirt in an American election.....and oh my please dont let our press print ANYTHING about this..unless they can somehow pin it on someone else...we must protect our little darling....

    March 3, 2008 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  2. Fernandez

    Obama speeches are all empty words, he does not have the ability to deliver any of his campaign promises. The time is now to expose him before it is too late and McCain will have field day with Obama.

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

    I am glad that Senator Obama has run his campaign without going in the gutter as Clinton. I had the pleasure of watching an interesting documentary this weekend featuring Amy Goodman at the greenpeace festival as well as a story called "stealing democracy" will we stop at nothing to keep business as usual in washington politics. Will it take our country failing into complete ruin before someone will tell the truth and report all of the news? Where are all the reports on CLinton's ruthless contributors, lawsuits and issues? I tried several times to watch your station this weekend but was totally turned off by your constant overwhelming coverage of Clinton. Anything to keep the conflict up between the two. Guess what I am a first time addicted watcher of your station but you have lost me from this point forward.

    March 3, 2008 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  4. Ken in Dallas

    You know, there's probably a reason Karl Rove's been trying to help Obama beat Clinton. Word is the Republicans are sending Republican primary voters out to support Obama, since their own nomination's all sewn up.

    Why is the Republican machine trying so hard to help Obama? Could it be... they have easy means to eviscerate him in the general election?

    March 3, 2008 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  5. Fed Up

    When will people of every affliation realize, politians did and always will, sell us out. We're in trouble, and sinking fast. Sorry..........

    March 3, 2008 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  6. Cathy

    Wow, can you believe this. Nothing but lies and the followers do not listen.

    March 3, 2008 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  7. Lesley

    The Canadian government put out a press release that vindicates Obama. So, Clintock has thrown the sink at Obama, what's next? She should bow out of the race gracefully. Texas for Obama.

    March 3, 2008 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  8. Oh God Please! NotObama!

    Peter, how naive of you to say that! The AP broke this story and now you're blaming Clinton for fabricating it! Stop whining! All Clinton is doing is repeating the story the way it was told by CTV and AP. The one who should be under a microscope IS Goolsbee, Obama's economic adviser! The Obama camp is now under damage control!

    Hillary will win TX, OH & RI !!!!

    HILLARY '08

    March 3, 2008 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  9. Senior Gal

    I'm a senior and I voted for Bill Clinton twice. Shame on me. Why isn't everyone furious about B. Clinton's lies to the American people about M. L. He slapped us in the face, folks. And Hillary didn't do anything about it..............................................for political reasons?

    I and millions of other Americans would NEVER vote for anyone in the Clinton family..................EVER!!

    Why on earth would we reward them for, not only lying, but for George Bush, too!

    Go Obama.

    March 3, 2008 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  10. CJames

    Obama glares at NAFTA but winks at Canada !
    It's 3 am and the phone rings – What Will Obama Do? He will vote Present !

    March 3, 2008 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  11. Smart

    Obama is so desperate to divert attention from his limited national security experience that he’s not just misleading voters about Sen. Clinton, he’s also misleading voters about his own supporters. That is not change you can believe in.

    -Phil Singer

    March 3, 2008 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  12. Alice

    I just wish CNN had been this fair in their reporting all along. It may be too late now in the game, and we will all suffer as a result if Obama actually is elected.

    If that happens, we'll have the media to thank for the disasters that follow.

    March 3, 2008 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  13. Craig H, Mpls, MN

    Well, we see the final, last gasp, kitchen sink, smear campaign before the Clinton campaign has to call it quits. Remember the flurry of smear allegations the weekend before the the last primaries (false plagiarism charges etc.)? More of the same here. So desparate, so sad. It will be a challenge for the Democratic party to come together to defeat McCain after all these cheap tricks from the Clintons have caused such division. I hope that we can.

    March 3, 2008 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  14. chuck

    Jeff Radun, you said:

    "Obama says during the Ohio debate he would redo Nafta then tells the Canadians he was only saying that for votes."

    That's a lie that is exposed in this very article... where both the Obama camp AND the Canadian government claim that didn't happen

    "Obama gave a great speech about how it was wrong to go after Alqada in Iraq and we should have gone after them in Afganistan yet when he is appointed to chair a commity on the fight in Afganistan he accepts the post and does nothing because he is to busy running for President"

    Again... you're LYING because that committee had NOTHING to do with Afghanistan.

    "Obama works for Kerry in his run for president and says he is not sure how he would have voted if he would have been in the senate at the time of the vote for the war in Iraq."

    Once again, another lie... or, rather, a distortion of what he really said to make it look as if he was for the war.

    So, to sum up, you are ANOTHER Hillary supporter who is a-okay with lying.... well, like candidate, like supporter, I guess.

    But, Obama will win this nomination based on ETHICAL campaigning. I think it's pretty sad that your candidate and YOU have to rely on LIES to win this nomination.

    March 3, 2008 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  15. Veronica

    It looks like the two-faced liar Barack Obama got caught saying anything to get elected and trying to be everything to everyone. Wake up!

    March 3, 2008 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  16. Rightsaid

    Listen to yourselves people. It's the sound of implosion.

    No one is ever going to get the exact president they want unless that person actually wins the presidency. It's about compromise, and neither of our leading Democratic candidates is perfect. But, either one of them would be a heck of a lot better than having the GOP at the helm again.

    I hope Obama wins this thing, but I'll happily vote for HRC if she is the candidate. Get over the hate.

    March 3, 2008 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  17. reba

    Obama will not be able to withstand the pressure and scrutiny of the

    Republican Party if he can't take this heat. His campaign's fall back

    position to answer any critiques or criticisms will be as worn out and

    flimsy as a wet paper bag. Sure, he wants to be held accountable;

    just not by anyone who challenges him.

    March 3, 2008 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  18. Roz, IL

    hillary's the liar,crook, and thief. you obama haters,same ones on every blog,is just desperate like her........nasty and negative......GO OBAMA

    March 3, 2008 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  19. CHUDI

    Now I know why Clinton supporters behave like they do. The polls are so right about them. They are uneducated and very mean spirited just like the republicans. And worse is when we get the educated unitelligent Clinton supporters. It really hurts because the truth will be revealed about Clinton. She has just thrown a kitchen sink at Obama and will pay the price when Americans learn Hillary knew the truth but waited last minute AGAIN to swing lies and say she made a mistake.

    March 3, 2008 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  20. Samantha

    Will the Real Barack Obama please stand up!

    March 3, 2008 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  21. Joshua College Station Texas

    Anyone who believes Obama is guilty of anything dishonest or sinister here is not understanding the facts, or is so committed to Hillary that they will say anything to win. Stop smearing Obama and his judgment. Obama is not hiding anything. If anyone is hiding anything, it's Hillary.

    March 3, 2008 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  22. Maggy

    I have been a Democrat all my life and I am sad to say that Hillary Clinton is the first democratic candidate for whom I feel a deep distrust, disgust and sort of political hate.

    This woman would eat her own children if it would be only a slight benefit to her.

    I am so tired of her politics of fear, her lies, her disception and distortions.

    If she would be the nominee, I will vote for and support McCain.

    March 3, 2008 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  23. Trudi

    The more stories like this come about Obama, the more important it is that Hillary stay in...this is exactly why the party has superdelegates...the more stories that come out like this about Obama the less chance he has of winning in November.

    P.S. I thought they originally said they had no contact with anyone in Canada.

    March 3, 2008 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  24. king from toronto

    hillary the negative stuff does'nt work.everytime your back is against the go negative.this is how you want your president to way.give up now.

    March 3, 2008 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  25. Michael "C" in Lorton, Virginia

    The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn't being said.

    March 3, 2008 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
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