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. Ryan

    The majority of people that are putting comments about Hillary and Obama sound like children writing about rockstars. I dont have any party affiliation and think this is a great race, but nobody seems to be talking about the two candidates political positions! Its all just "he lied, no she lied" crap

    March 3, 2008 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  2. Anthony

    This is just going to be yet another failed attempt by the Hillary campaign to trash Obama when this is simply untrue.

    Obama 08!

    March 3, 2008 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  3. mick

    This is only the begining to all the issues that the Obama people has talked about. I do believe it is to late for the right canidate to get voted in but it is not to late to show the media how wrong they were, however Obama will get out of this like the good boy again with the media on his side

    March 3, 2008 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |

    I'm sick of her shot gun approach. Lately, she's cocked, loaded and taking shots at anything that moves. No real message of her own, just a bunch of he did, he said that, he aint change.

    Memo to her and her campaign, tell America about you. Screaming, "shame, 3 in the morning, and he's not holding his position in D.C.", we are can't hear what you are going to do.

    The real shame is her approach, she claimed to be a bit busy lately and producing tax information and her first lady calendar was on the list of things to do, but she barely sleeps at night. Then skips out to SNL???

    I guess she’s taking notes from Bill, take shots at anything that moves, in a skirt.

    March 3, 2008 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  5. Ken in Dallas

    Americans being duped by false rhetoric isn't new either, Abe.

    March 3, 2008 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  6. Jasmine - AZ

    Honestly it doesn't matter.. The majority of democrats in this country have spoken...Obama is who the democratic party wants....Just give it up..If She is attacking Obama like he is a republican...

    You guys are just making it easy for McCain to win...Just stop being stubborn like Hillary...Do you guys realize this is serious business.. If McCain wins we all lose... We stay in the war, "No New Taxes"...Cmon...
    What are you Hillary supporters gonna do when Hillary loses and starts backing Obama..???

    Don't forget the big picture...We need to take back the White House...NO MORE REPUBLICANS!!!

    March 3, 2008 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  7. Chis in SF

    DUCK! Hit the floor!
    Here comes the kitchen sink again!

    Billary back in the White House?? I don't remember benefiting from their time in office... I DO remember the scandals and Kosovo and NAFTA!

    Why isn't the press looking into the Clinton vs. Paul item? Why won't they release their current tax records or their records when last in the White House?

    March 3, 2008 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  8. Robert in Toronto,ON

    If you look at this entire political election from an outsider's perspective, you would truly see two things

    1) The bias in the media for Sen. Barack Obama helping to fuel his popularity

    2) The underminding dirty politics that Sen. Hillary Clinton has been willing to go.

    That being said, even though there IS bias that doesn't mean that Barack Obama isn't your best candidate to run for President. And I fear that if for some reason Sen. Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic Party nomination, she'll be eaten up by Sen. John McCain. And now you're playing into the Republican's hands.

    There is division among the Democratic party that really needs to unify if you truly want to change things come your Presidential Election in November.

    With the current state of the U.S economy (which made ANOTHER new low against the Euro today I'd like to add) and a costly, continuous war in Iraq – America needs changes now and can't afford another 4 years along the same path.

    And on a side note – Dave, you're not from Canada so please don't act like you are.

    March 3, 2008 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  9. Heidi

    Why is it that the Obama camp's *every* response to *every* attack is to simply say "it's untrue, she's just politics as usual" and *never* provide evidence to the contrary?

    And why are people buying it??

    Think before you vote! What will Obama say when Iran accuses us of something? "It's not true, that's just politics as usual?"

    We live in a world where nations with nuclear ambitions would be thrilled to "renegotiate." Will Obama have the backbone to stand up to them?

    The problem with "politics as usual" is that the rest of the world's nations play the same game we do, and if Obama wants to change the rules, I want to know *exactly* how he plans to do it.

    I have serious doubts he can do it.

    March 3, 2008 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  10. Fundamental Question

    "Change" Question: What has Obama done while in Senate to bring Democrats and Republicans together?

    March 3, 2008 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  11. Willis


    The real Hillary Clinton stood up at the Democratic presidential debate this week: angry, sarcastic, stubborn, secretive, arrogant, mired in the past, victim of the media, and still firmly convinced that she is uniquely entitled to the Democratic Party nomination and the presidency.

    That Hillary hasn’t really been on display much since the debacle of her disastrous health care plan and the end of Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial, when she haughtily flaunted her combative personality.

    But make no mistake about it — that’s the Hillary Clinton that we’ll see if she somehow manages to steal the Democratic nomination.
    She’s always had a chip on her shoulder and a strange paranoia, but it’s definitely gotten worse. Now it’s not just the vast right wing conspiracy that is out to get her. Now it’s the mainstream media. How are they doing that? By asking her the first questions at the debates!
    Her lifelong pattern of secrecy was once again evident. While publicly promoting transparency in government, she steadfastly refuses to release her personal income tax returns. That’s a clear tip-off that there’s something to hide. Recall that the Clintons selectively released tax returns in Arkansas, but refused to go back to 1980, when Hillary had her windfall in cattle futures.

    During the debate, Hillary suggested that she’d release the returns “soon,” but her staff quickly backtracked. She implied that she’s been too busy to deal with releasing the returns. Does she really think anyone believes that it will take more than simply making a copy of the return? She’s stalling and there’s a reason for that.
    Most likely, the return will show how much Bill has been making from his partnership with the Sheik of Dubai and his other business ventures. Should the spouse of a presidential candidate be in business with a foreign leader who needs favors from the U.S. government? Definitely not. That’s why we’ll never see those returns.
    And then there are the Clinton Library records that document her schedule as first lady. She doesn’t want them released either because they will definitively show that she was never the co-president. The Library has been stalling on the release of those documents for years. During the debate, she said that she wanted them released as quickly as possible and seemed to blame the Bush administration for the delay. But today, the White House indicated that she had made no requests for any expedited release.
    The old Hillary, the real Hillary, is back.

    Hillary Clinton is furious that America has not agreed to her coronation. She doesn’t understand why voters are rejecting her and embracing Barack Obama. She just doesn’t get it.

    Never one to engage in self reflection, she can’t blame herself or even her incompetent strategists and advisers. They’re too close to her. She can’t accept the sorry fact that her campaign has been a disaster because it was based on the past and not the future, because it was premised on her phony experience and maintaining the status quo, and because her negative outlook is completely out of step with the mood of America. So, she’ll blame the media. It’s their fault.

    And she’ll keep screaming about what a fighter she is. More like a bully.

    March 3, 2008 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  12. Tom

    and talk about getting real? Hillary did not have to try and use this now did she. But she did and will do anything. typical washington insider and more of the same old crap. Don't you all just get tired of this? Hillary could have left it alone but she didn't and she knows it is absurd.

    March 3, 2008 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  13. John

    Canada is telling lies, so they can influence who will become the next President of the United States!

    Bill Clinton signed the NAFTA agreement, and afterwards many American Corporations shut down their factorys in America. Americans lost jobs, and those factorys re-opened in Canada and Mexico. Thereby hurting the American Economy, but improving Canada and Mexico's economys!

    Ofcourse Canada wants to keep those jobs and keep NAFTA. So naturally, they would rather see Hillary as President. The wife of the man who made it possible for Canada and Mexico to steal jobs from America in the first place!

    Obama wants to amend or end NAFTA, so that those jobs will come back to America! To give us jobs and improve our economy after all the damage that the Clinton and Bush familys did!!

    We know Hillary will say anything to get elected! Obviously, Canada will say anything to get her elected to!

    Would you rather have Obama who wants to improve the American Economy and give Americans jobs????

    Or would you rather have Hillary, who is more concerned about the Canadian and Mexican Economys???

    March 3, 2008 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  14. adam

    Obama and Clinton and McCain supporters: You just don't get it do you? They're ALL liars! They ALL love NAFTA- Heck, BILL CLINTON was the one to SIGN the agreement! Do you think Hillary's got a different view than Bill? Get real! As for McCain- Mr. Amnesty himself- is singing a different tune now just to get elected in relation to border ENFORCEMENT. And the fact Obama has only sponsored ONE bill, yes, that's right, ONE BILL during his entire tenure as a senator shows a complete lack of initiative and experience. (The bill by the way was a supporting UN measure to help the impoverished of Congo, NOT the poor of America!) Until Americans stop being so ignorant to the facts, and start doing a little homework (which means doing more than just watching CNN or the six o'clock news,) we will all be bamboozled. I'm voting for the only SANE and EXPERIENCED candidate- Ron Paul, for better or worse. I've never given up on my favorite sports teams just because they aren't winning- which is a great sign of character.

    March 3, 2008 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  15. Me

    MSNBC just told the rest of the story which PROVES this is nothing but smear from the Clinton campaign. The Canadians were on there saying it was false themselves. Get with it and report the truth. OHIO for Obama!!

    March 3, 2008 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  16. 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 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  17. RAM

    This is republican propaganda being legitimized by Hillary. Going down in a flame of glory.

    I am sure Hillary will be donating some portion of that $35 million she just raised to Barack in the next few weeks.

    March 3, 2008 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  18. Becky in Indiana

    I like how the most important line is in the third to last paragraph. It is unfortunate that CNN is looking for a flashy headline instead of a truthful one. There is nothing to downplay.

    Why don't we discuss the way Clinton supported NAFTA and now denies it!

    OBAMA 08!!!

    March 3, 2008 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  19. Jesse - San Antonio TX

    Caught with his hand in the cookie jar!

    I tell you this: This man will tell people what they want to hear so that he can get elected.

    People like what he has to say. But will they like what he will actually do?

    Hope .. That he doesn't run America further into the ground.

    I honestly think he isn't qualified.

    Sure he's charasmatic, but he's still immature and arrogant. He's not ready.

    March 3, 2008 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  20. Christopher





    March 3, 2008 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  21. Mitch

    Barack Obama is not using again his good judgement. This is another that is going to be used against him in this contest. You see, he does not have enough experience. he is just talking and there is no action. He is good in speeches and he is time ofr the people to recognize that we need someone who has enough experience to handle this country and to unify it. I don't think that he has executive experience while Hillary has legislature and executive. He is hyppocrite against this country. whatever he said today in this campaign, he will be against it tomorrow. He is just talking to win this election, I believe.

    March 3, 2008 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  22. priscilla

    Hillary is desperate she is becoming more and more desperate if you read the full memo which is on New York times. com you will see that it was taken out of context! Hillary is pretty sad I once had respect for her but everyday she stays in this race I respect her less and less! All you hillary supports talking crazy Obama one 11 straight states, more states than Hillary put together I think we Americans have already spoke

    March 3, 2008 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  23. Kyle

    Liar Liar ....

    did anyone notice, Obama's nose is getting longer every day.

    March 3, 2008 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |

    Boy she plays very dirty keep it up Hillary YOU ARE DONE.

    March 3, 2008 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  25. James

    The slick-tell-them-what-they-want-to-hear Obama is just now learning that President Lincoln was right " ... you can't fool all of the people all of the time.".

    March 3, 2008 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
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