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. Gurv

    If the comment on NAFTA is another talk and talk. How can we be sure if there is any substance in any other speeches. Looks to me Mr. Obama is more suited for a "TALK SHOW HOST" rather than for the position of President of United States of America.

    March 3, 2008 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  2. liberty

    More double-speak from Obama's campaign. If any press has the slightest negative slant toward "teflon man" they send out the henchman. See story on "How Sausage Is Made".

    It's about time the truth started coming out regarding Obama's dealings with Rezko, Alexi Giannoulias, and other shady characters who funded his campaign for Senate and who know what else.

    Wake up people. The longer this primary goes on the better so Obama can be exposed .

    Vote Democratic- vote for Hillary Clinton.

    March 3, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  3. Honest Abe

    whaaaaa?? Politicians using rhetoric to win elections??

    surely, this is a first in American politics!!

    March 3, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  4. Peter Canada Obama 08

    Oh.. I just want to comment on the first sticker on Hillary's new ad.
    Eventhough Hillary ad portray Obama in a negative ways of he not chairing NATO subcommitee, the respondant are against her ad. 60% of the respondance rejected her tactice and called her too desperate.

    What can she do at this moment to get back her reputation.? She has lost her credibility since she went negative on her rival our next President of the United State Of America Barack Obama.

    I think she should step aside before tomorrow election and declare her support for Obama. That will clear the negativity people see on her.
    Remember, close to call is not enough for her to continue her campaign. She has to win big or dropped out of the race with respect.

    March 3, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  5. Chris, Silicon Valley, CA, USA

    This is not a candidate of change.

    In my opinion, he is the candidate of "political positioning".

    His "change" is all rhetoric.

    Tell me one unorthodox position he has taken on anything.

    March 3, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  6. D. Williams; Miami, FL

    Considering the facts surrounding this:

    1) The Canadians have called it a distortion
    2) The meeting was a tour of the University of Chicago by a professor who happens to be an advisor to the Obama

    Why are we talking about this?

    March 3, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  7. devilliers in Texas

    I've had enough; i was independent until this last minute. Now i'm pretty sure that clinton is like any other politician; SHE WILL DO EVERYTHING TO WIN THIS NOMINATION. THAT'S ALL SHE REALLY CARES ABOUT.
    I'm going for OBAMA.

    Obama 2008

    March 3, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  8. Uncle Sam

    As Barack Obama received greater scrutiny, this was bound to happen. Although a wonderful orator, he has been shielded from real criticism up until now. This does him nor the American people any service.

    March 3, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  9. Julie

    Obama lies and somehow it's Hillary's fault. This man has an excuse for everything. This is soooo wrong.

    March 3, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  10. regina


    March 3, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  11. medved

    Obama is doing what all candidates do . . . saying what he thinks will get him elected.

    The advantage he has over Hillary is that he's a newcomer who has so little politial past there is not a lot to roast him with. But it's clear, if you examine things over his short political career, that like everybody else he will have missteps to explain. (If, in fact, he hasn't done that already, which I believe he has. Look at his failure to take positions on a number of bils in his state legislature. What is that about if not political positioning?)

    The saddest thing, I think, is the naivete/ignorance of an American electorate that believes words mean anything. Politics, whether we like it or not, is about deal-making, conciliation, compromise and, occasionally, concession. It's about trade-offs. Obama can promise us whatever we want to believe he's promising us but in reality he will be forced to dance through the same governmental system all presidents do.

    Vote for Hillary or vote for Obama. Just don't be so naive as to believe he can force any significant change in the way government works.

    March 3, 2008 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  12. Willis

    Completely blown out of context!

    I have not heard anything reported by Hillary's supoena for improperties?!

    March 3, 2008 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  13. mathew

    I am from Hamilton Ontario, let me tell you NAFTA is a joke for both our countries. You seriously think having free trade between North America when pretty much every good is made in China is getting either of our countries jobs. NAFTA would be a good policy if everything we traded in North America was made in North America. Plus quit making mountians out of mole hills my government denied the story, everyone know Canada is to nice and honest to lie.

    Canada for OBAMA

    March 3, 2008 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  14. Darth Vadik, CA

    A lot of Hillary support in here, hmmmmm

    its probably two Clinton staffers just hammering at their keyboards trying to save a sinking ship.

    Nice try Hillary,

    I'm not buying it.

    March 3, 2008 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  15. Pat

    Clinton is not the only one "pushing" this story. CNN seems to be doing a good job as well. This is the 3rd or 4th article they have on the same info.

    Anyway, I am concerned that the Obama camp seems to be splitting hairs....they denied any meeting, then they said it was unofficial and the comments were "misinterpreted." I would very much like them to come out and put this to rest once and for all. If someone spoke out of turn, deal with it and deal with it now. If this is indeed the truth, then they are in big trouble and they should not try to spin makes it even worse.

    TO CNN: Why is Obama's name not at the top of your page along with Hillary and McCain's? You guys have done a total 180, haven't you? Interesting...

    March 3, 2008 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  16. Independent

    I think these candidate supporters have an ego problem, refusing to accept that they made a mistake in selecting a bet on a candidate even though that bet is a wrong one.

    March 3, 2008 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  17. charlie

    Why do I get the feeling nothing has really changed in politics other than the superficial physical appearance of the candidates. sigh.

    March 3, 2008 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  18. john

    Okay, I understand that everyone wants to get their point across, but is it really necessary to type in all caps and use dozens of exclamation marks?

    March 3, 2008 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  19. Megan O. Toronto, ON, Canada

    So now all of a sudden Canada is important. Finally so recognition

    Still love Obama and would never vote for Clinton. I honestly would rather have bad I can't vote 😦

    March 3, 2008 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  20. Joe

    Something is wrong with this picture.

    I saw a reporter interview (from WKYC in Cleveland) and he asked Obama about this secret meeting his campaign had, "So, completely inaccurate, did not happen, end of discussion".

    Obama was asked and then he replied, "It did not happen".

    That does not appear to be the truth. Now, is Obama the do and say anything candidate who wants to get elected? Appears he is.

    March 3, 2008 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  21. owl

    here come the kitchen sink....first his chairmanship , 2nd now canadian memo , 3rd african garb what next Hillary ...thank God Obama has been decent enough not to talk about all your garbage and skeletons....what ever happened to white water etc, Here comes the kitchen sink Obama ...may sure you take dodge ......No matter what you have my vote......Obama ......and OBAMA FOREVER ..

    March 3, 2008 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  22. Diane in TX

    Why is it when Obama gets caught in a sticky situation, he is either misquoted, misjudged, or he plainly just made a mistake. With his gift of gab, and his ability to smooth over, why is he always opening his mouth only to insert his foot? Also, why has no media outlet never corrected Obama on his vote for the war that he was not in the Senate at the time. He did not get the same info as what the actively seated Senate received so he doesn't know how he would have voted. No media will report him as being wrong on this. Why is that? Obama was not a US Senator when the Resolution was signed in 2002, or when we went to war in Mar 03. He was not sworn in until Jan 05. Why does the media not correct this and let him march on with his band of lies.

    March 3, 2008 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  23. Taj

    Why are so many saying that this attack is evidence for Hillary's "desperation"? Is desperation pointing to the difference between Obama's talk and his actions, when the media is failing to do so? No, it's shows concern for America and the American people.

    This Obama campaign official says his statements were mischaracterized, but I read that article and there was no way those quotes could be distorted – he explicitly states that Obama's anti-NAFTA stance is mere campaign rhetoric. Of course the Canadians will deny it as well, since they like NAFTA.

    March 3, 2008 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  24. Jbecks

    Canadian Government seems to agree with the Obama camp that this is misrepresentations of statements. Not news. But then again if CNN can keep this race going it will be good ratings!

    March 3, 2008 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  25. Derrick

    This is just the beginning to the Obama crisis!!!! To all the Obama supporters, do you see how you have been deceived by the words "change" and "hope"? Barack Obama's definition of "change" and "hope" are simple. He believes change is where he says one thing to get the votes, and then changes his mind later. His definition of hope is that he HOPES his supporters don't find out about it until the primaries are over!!!

    Barack is like a mirage. It looks good until you get upclose, and disappears!!!

    March 3, 2008 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
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