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. Fowler

    It was at least Obama's campaign representative goofed up....but it was the unfathomable Hillary who flip-flopped on NAFTA.

    Hillary, part of the reason, more people hate just for things like this.....

    When will you's too late.

    (The whole world knows NAFTA is for political positioning - so what?)

    March 3, 2008 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  2. Thee

    The thing is, I am not surprised a Canadian official "leaked" such a memo to AP. You see, right now in Canada, we have the Conservatives in Power (that's equivalent to Republicans in America). If Obama does win the primaries, he is very likely to win the November election as well (judging by the sheer number of people he is able to mobilize). In that case, if Democrats win the American election, then Liberals (Canadian equivalent of Democrats) are likely to win in Canada as well. Yes, there is a likelihood of an election either this year or next. The Liberals are in a position to topple the conservative government right now.

    So you see why what somebody who is an advisor to him during a low key meeting is such a big issue right now!

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

    Sounds like the dying days of the Clinton campaign, they are beyond desparate......if the statement is rebuked from the CDN Government as well, then I think Clinton has a serious problem here with credibility...Clinton's Last Stand, did not work well for egomaniac Custer either!

    March 3, 2008 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  4. carlo

    Hey David, you posted that on the comments section on the other ticker item about this issue. You are working for Darth Clinton, aren't you?

    March 3, 2008 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  5. Harold

    This is what is wrong with the some people read the entire article...or just sift thru it your looking for gold. The article clearly states the Canadian gov't did not repeat did not convey that the Obama campaign was going against what they said about NAFTA in public. I will put it those idiots who don't take the time to research an entire item of discussion, then you deserve a third rate leader. No wonder this country is headed in the opposite directions. Some of these ppl probably voted fopr Bush in his reelection, and probably will never admit it...Dummies!!!

    March 3, 2008 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  6. Tanilan

    I really don't understand why this race is being scrutinized as it is. No one gave cared when Bush couldn't name the hot spots in the world. No one questioned his involvement in Harkin Energy. But here we are knit-picking every little scrap the media throws at the public.

    All the griping, mud-slinging, etc. need to stop and we need to get down to the real business of getting this country back in order and getting our kids back from foreign lands.

    March 3, 2008 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  7. Jordan Fitzpatrick

    My comments never make it on, but I'll try anyway– Google "Bill Clinton Canadian affair" and see what pops up– most notably from thefirstpost in the UK

    March 3, 2008 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  8. HELP

    LOU DOBBS is the only one who tells the truth. LOU your honest and fair reporting makes me happy and i always turn to your show. PLEASE tell the truth tonight. Hillary 08

    March 3, 2008 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  9. A. Harrison

    People! These are the "MISTAKES" he says would happen in his administration.

    Frankly I don't want any blunders like this happening when we are in desperate need of quick "CHANGE".

    Please think about this. If it comes down to Obama or McCain in the generals, As a democrat, I can't justify voting for someone with NO EXPERIENCE and TONS of VISION, but can't get his act together.

    Hillary 2008! There is no one else.

    March 3, 2008 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  10. CB

    Hillary keep the Liar Super Soaker streaming girl! Way to barrage a opponent with lies just hours from going to the polls. Never thought you were a spoiled sport. When Senator Obama gets the approval of the majority of the people tomorrow, bow out. You should be glad your past hasn't caught up with you yet, Obama's been a gentlemen to you up to now. I would never say it is an honor to sit with someone and then stab them in the back. BACK OFF HILLARY! GO OBAMA!

    March 3, 2008 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  11. Susie

    OBAMA IS A LIAR. He doesn't have much of a record but I'm not allowed to type what I think of the record he does have. Don't drink the Kool-aid!

    Clinton '08 – vetted, ready, and subtantive

    March 3, 2008 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  12. Edwin Portland

    Jeff Radun, learn to spell, it makes your argument stronger.

    March 3, 2008 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  13. Laura

    And this is 'essentially' another under-the-table meeting that should absolutely NOT be going on! Just like his meetings with Ruzko (the crook realtor in Chicago) and Farrakhan (part of his church in Chicago). WAKE UP AMERICA! NObama is a wolf in sheep's clothing! Hillary is the real deal here!

    March 3, 2008 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  14. Darth Vadik, CA

    Hillary's campaign is tryint to take a fly and make an elephant out of it.
    She never has direct answers, and she is trying to steal this election.

    Obama has said "I don't want the super-delegates to give me their vote if I don't win the majority of the people's vote. How much more honest can you be. Hillary has said it is their prerogative who they vote for.

    Now she's talking about suing in Texas.

    I cannot stand her, all of you Hillary supporters are as delusional as the Bush supporters.

    She is getting hysterical, and Hillary looks a lot less attractive when she is hysterical.

    After the stunts her campaign has pulled, I don't care to see Hillary in a long long time. She is tearing down the party for her selfish reasons.

    I don't know how I can forgive her for what she has done, but I'm a liberal so I probably will, just not right now.

    March 3, 2008 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  15. Julie

    Oh come on! He lied about this meeting- why did he do that? Now he is trying to shift attention away from this saying Hillary shouldn't push this- I think this is VERY important for the American public to know. Obama, you are a liar!

    March 3, 2008 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  16. Jane, Maryland: Lets see what CNN does with this

    All the Hillary supporters here must not have read the Canadian Government's statement, which contradicts what Hillary's dirt diggers have released.

    I am amazed that these same people who are asking us to vote for Sen Clinton are part of a historically MISMANAGED campaign.

    How do you go from having a 30 point lead in a few months to losing 11 straight elections?
    How do you blow $120 Million on pizza, expensive hotel rooms, and advisers in a few months?
    How do you sack your manager in the middle of an election?
    How do you loan your own campaign $5 million?
    How do you not read a national intelligence report, and yet vote for the war.

    All of these, and you expect people to, in good conscience vote for Sen Clinton?

    I hope the people of Ohio and Texas can show that being uneducated does not make you stupid. Don't allow Sen Hillary to manipulate you.

    March 3, 2008 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  17. Jared

    Uh...even the Canadians are saying there's no truth to this but we've got legions of Clintonites having hissy fits on web forums calling Obama a liar, traitor, blah blah. These are the tyoe of grownups who are allowed to vote in this country? Uh...enjoy it for the next 29 hours or so – it should be then that Hillary will be giving her concession speech.

    March 3, 2008 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  18. Micahel Guinn, Ventura, CA

    Hillary needs to apologize for spreading LIES and her supporters are so quick to jump on anything negative. Hillary is desperate- and has resorted to out-right lies and fear-mongering. If I didn't know better, I'd swear her campaign was being run by Kommandant Karl Rove!

    March 3, 2008 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  19. Joel

    I find it disturbing that Hillary and her campaign have decided to throw all the dirty utencils from their kitchen at the Obama's candidacy.

    This is a clear indication of how divisive the Clinton's campaign has become. They are willing to mislead the American people to win votes at all cost. This is an outrage and it's high time for Americans to turn their backs on the Clinton's lies.

    Even the Canadian parliament has come out against this latest attack. I am really amazed at how low our political process is.

    Hillary it's time to drop out and stop trying to tear to pieces the Democratic party .

    March 3, 2008 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  20. awlswll

    Obama talks the talk....but can't walk the walk...instead he double-talks and lies....silver tongue....fake reality....
    All words and no substance....pathetic.
    Now the Resko trial begins....Obama is going down for his dealings with this thug....

    March 3, 2008 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  21. hg

    So help me, if I see one more Hillary supporter tell those who support Obama to "WAKE UP!" or "Wake UP, PEOPLE seriously, Hillary is THE LIGHT AND THE WAY" ...

    Look at yourselves first. You are throwing your support behind a candidate who is behind and whose husband is behind a laundry list of scandal, back talk, backwards action, flip flops, power hunger, and more of the same. The only change she would bring to the white house is that she wears a skirt. She is the old guard and all of you who claim that Obama supporters are somehow in a trance (ps: thanks for offending your own party members over and over again) are falling for her nonsense! These little "attacks" are not just things she's stumbling on. They are worthless nonsense that she's spinning like a spider web and you are all getting locked in.

    Now, while I'm wide awake, thanks very much, I'm asking that you peole READ A BOOK or look up some background info on Clinton. Yes, she has experience-experience as a tried and true politlcal rat. PS: I'm from DC. We have enough rats–perhaps that's why I'm so hypnotized over Obama. I dont' want 2 more moving back to the white house, only a few blocks from my house.

    March 3, 2008 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  22. rohan

    4.IRAN VOTE .

    March 3, 2008 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  23. Joe

    Obama freaks...why are you blaming Hillary for this? She did not release the memo and she did not order Obama's campaign to say this to Canada. You people are pathetic. No matter what is said you always blame Hillary. So immature just like Obama. Get real!

    March 3, 2008 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  24. bmitchell64

    The controversary between the Democrats has taken a new low. A letter about a private conversation is released to the press by an unnamed source, and this letter happens to make it to the public's attention just before the Ohio and Texas primaries. This is pure smudge, and to add to the "stink"... the letter comes from the Canadian consulate and the letter is a foreigner's impression of a private conversation. The fact that it is one person's interpretation makes the letter suspect, but add on the fact it is a foreign source and you have to wonder what was the real intent for sharing this letter with the press. The Clinton campaign has to be desperate to use this as fodder for their fight against Obama, instead of denouncing it as foreign intrusion into the American political system. I don't care for any foreign manipulation of your campaign process (positive or negative), and especially when it is based on a "letter from an unnamed source" and a questionable letter from a dubious representative of the foreign consulate.

    March 3, 2008 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  25. PS in VA

    The Clinton campaign is pathetic. Both parties involved (Obama and the Canadian government) denied any wrong doing , yet the Clinton campaign knows what happened? How ridiculous.

    The Clinton family had more scandals than anybody!!!

    March 3, 2008 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
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