March 3rd, 2008
03:44 PM ET
7 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. Jay

    It's for people to wake up to the Obmination that could happen if Barak wins the presidency. This guy is as deluded as Junior. We don't need any more be presidents who aren't qualified for the job. I'd vote for McCain before I'd for for Barak. And I'm a lifelong liberal Dem.

    March 3, 2008 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  2. David - It's now Day 409!

    You people (readers comments) really need to get a grip. There is VERY little difference between Hillary and Barack. The real differance is but one. Hillary Clinton is not a leader and Barack Obama is.

    Hillary say's she ready on day one. Well it's day 409 since her announcement and so far we've had from her an arrogant and impotent campaign, a fiscally mismanaged campaign, a campaign that has gone through so many changes in tact, in managemment, in ideology, and in style we can't figure out whether she's Scarlett Ohara or Cruellla DeVille. One thing we do know, she give's Cybill a run for her money. Her long-time friends and supporters are turning thier back on her (anyone who says John Lewis changed camps becuase of political polls is just plain ignorant!).

    When she announced on Jan 20, 2007 Hillary was the darling of the press and appeared a sure thing. Since then she's lost the press, she's lost her base of support, she's loosing her super-delegates, and saddly, it appears she is loosing long time supporters and friends.

    Ready on day 1???? Excuse me? What planet are you from and what drug are you on? Can you imagine if something goes wrong in the first days of office? Hillary had her plan, and something knocked it off track (it's called life, we've all experienced it). Since then she's been a bumbling politician. Hell, she can't lead her own campaign let alone the Nation.

    March 3, 2008 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  3. Ted in Chicago

    Rhitoric is expected

    duplicity – speaking from both sides of your mouth at the same time saying different opposing things is not expected

    especially from the one who will bring in the new

    March 3, 2008 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  4. Ryan

    Somebody need to ask the question Who benefits from the Democratic primary going on? 1 Hillary Clinton, Republican Party,and the press. Just like the had an intrest in Obama contending now they have an intrest in hillary winning.

    Obama 2008

    March 3, 2008 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  5. sacto joe

    What have you got? One of Obama's economic advisers may have said something to someone in Canada that the Canadian construed as pro-NAFTA?

    And this thin reed is supposed to sway the electorate?

    Ho hum. Another molehill being built into a mountain by a desperate politician. It's the day before the primaries: TIme to toss as much filth as possible and hope some of it sticks.

    Another reason not to vote for Clinton.

    March 3, 2008 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  6. JA Cook

    Hillary has nothing left but attacks.

    Once again she's picking up dust and trying to make something bigger out of it.

    Please Texas and Ohio, put us out of her misery!!

    March 3, 2008 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  7. The Truth

    Sen. Obama's integrity is attacked yet again by another anonymous source, completely not credible!!! All parties involved have rejected those false claims on record...case and point!!!!

    March 3, 2008 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  8. d

    I was an obama supporter until i really started to listen to the victimology of what the Obamas teach. Why does Michelle make speeches and act like she was born in the turn of the century? She and her husband talk a lot of being a victims! If the obamas are in their forties, then that means they grew up in 1970s and 80s! …. They got all kinds of help growing up. I just got real turned off by the whole look at me I'm a victim speech its all emotional.
    So i woke up…. I don't want to be helping a movement of victim's like our country owes the Obamas something !
    Like our country needs to be run by victims crying about it all the time,…. eek I hope not!
    That all Americans should now pay for the sins of the south.
    I thought that is why Lincoln had us fight the Civil War! Hundreds of thousand died. Didn’t they?
    I think pamyment has been payed in full.
    I'm Voting Hillary Rodham Clinton

    March 3, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  9. ashley

    Had this came out about Hillary Obama and his people would have been all over it. So, Obama supporters dont act like you would NOT jump at the chance to just blast Hillary if a story came out about her contradicting herself.

    March 3, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  10. leedohyeel

    What else is he hiding? Why has he been claiming that he is different from other politicians? I do not find anything new about him other than the fact that he is one of those same politician with lie after lie!
    Just admit it he is one of them! If he denies the plain fact, he can not be a good politician. Again, he better admit that he is not an angel!!!!!
    If you are, you better stay with family at your home

    March 3, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  11. Carl

    Once again Hillary rushes to push a story without checking the accuracy of it – or does that not matter? It's causing quite the stir in Canada actually and some are calling for whomever responcible to be fired (or so I hear). I would hope Hillary would appologize for her following this story and accusing Barack of double talk but I know better than to have these false hopes of her being "Presidential".

    To all you out there, take a closer look at both candidates and I know you will make the right choice.

    Obama '08

    March 3, 2008 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  12. JJ in NY

    Why are all the stupid people rushing like lemmings to the sea to jump on this bandwagon? Hillary is desperate and will only get dirtier and more nasty . This is so overblown to lend credence to a third party informal and casual conversation . If hillary doesn't have anything positive to say about herself, she should just shut up and withdraw from the race .

    March 3, 2008 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  13. Amy in Iowa

    The Clintons created NAFTA! Who are they trying to kid.. or rather distract from the facts of this major Clinton blunder.

    March 3, 2008 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    what people fail to realize is that nafta has been a huge benefit to both canada and the united states. if you want to go back to economic protectionism, you might want to study the economies of the united states and canada in the 1970s.

    March 3, 2008 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  15. vl

    Listen folks, if you love Sen. Obama, please read this post that was listed above:

    David March 3rd, 2008 3:24 pm ET

    As a Canadian I'm absolutely thrilled that Barack Obama is more concerned about the welfare of NAFTA on behalf of Canadians rather than keeping his word/rhetoric to the American electorate. Mr. Obama will be just the kind of President that Canada would like. A champion on behalf of Canada and agreeable to Canadian issues. Although if I were an American I might find myself staring at him to read his face….particularly his mouth as I wouldn't be sure which side of it he was speaking from and what to believe comes out of it. Maybe the "amazing" Mr. Obama can learn to sing both national anthems out of his mouth at the same time.

    March 3, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  16. PY

    Look at all the BO suppoters here !!! The story is that he "DENIED" having such a meeting and now that the cover is blown its been downplayed .... Wow !!! a real change we believe in...

    March 3, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  17. keith

    The Canadian government denied the substance of the meeting.

    Now what?

    March 3, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  18. Anonymous

    Hi! I find it amusing that Obama backers throw the Iraq vote on Hillary without really understanding the context in which it was framed and brought to vote on the senate floor. First off – she gave him authority to go to war as a LAST resort – after the inspection regime had done its job. Bush and Cheney did not follow the script – so its her bad judgement that she trusted her President?!!

    Obama did not even vote on the resolution, so how can he say he was against it from the beginning? giving a speech, like he does so brilliantly, does not truly reflect one's intentions, for if they did, why in the world is Obama railing on NAFTA, while having his senior economic adviser tell the Canadian government that this is just CAMPAIGN RHETORIC??

    and where was he when they had to vote on the IRAN resolution? where was he for the past year when Afghanistan was tumbling into chaos and the Taliban marched onto Kabul? he's responsible for the committee overseeing Afghan affairs and NATO. he says he couldnt hold a committee meeting because he was campaigning to be president!!. tell me – as president he's going to tell us – 'er, sorry, i couldn't handle the so and so crisis, because i was campaigning for re-election in 2012." !!!! this is getting ridiculous.

    if he cant do his job that he was elected for, how in the world is he going to handle the toughest job that exists? WAKE UP AMERICA. Obama is a wonderful speaker – lets send him around the world to inspire with speeches.

    Lets put Hillary in the house to actually get the work done! otherwise, its McCain and the loony right wing fringe of the GOP. I'm moving out of the country if that happens.

    March 3, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  19. SC in FL

    Why is it when Obama gets caught with something that goes against what he states – all you Obama-freaks act like Bush-ies. Whatever George Bush says MUST be right – so whatever Obama says MUST be right as well. Give me a break.

    Why is it that the Super Power Of the World – has such aweful choices for President? For me it is picking the least worse of the three choices; McCain, Obama and Hillary. I'll take Hillary.

    March 3, 2008 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  20. dale

    Hi! I find it amusing that Obama backers throw the Iraq vote on Hillary without really understanding the context in which it was framed and brought to vote on the senate floor. First off – she gave him authority to go to war as a LAST resort – after the inspection regime had done its job. Bush and Cheney did not follow the script – so its her bad judgement that she trusted her President?!!

    Obama did not even vote on the resolution, so how can he say he was against it from the beginning? giving a speech, like he does so brilliantly, does not truly reflect one's intentions, for if they did, why in the world is Obama railing on NAFTA, while having his senior economic adviser tell the Canadian government that this is just CAMPAIGN RHETORIC??

    and where was he when they had to vote on the IRAN resolution? where was he for the past year when Afghanistan was tumbling into chaos and the Taliban marched onto Kabul? he's responsible for the committee overseeing Afghan affairs and NATO. he says he couldnt hold a committee meeting because he was campaigning to be president!!. tell me – as president he's going to tell us – 'er, sorry, i couldn't handle the so and so crisis, because i was campaigning for re-election in 2012." !!!! this is getting ridiculous.

    if he cant do his job that he was elected for, how in the world is he going to handle the toughest job that exists? WAKE UP AMERICA. Obama is a wonderful speaker – lets send him around the world to inspire with speeches.

    Lets put Hillary in the house to actually get the work done! otherwise, its McCain and the loony right wing fringe of the GOP. I'm moving out of the country if that happens.

    March 3, 2008 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  21. Ben

    I don't understand Clinton supporters who say they'll vote McCain if Obama is the Democratic Nominee..

    You are going to vote McCain simply out of spite? Both candidates are fantastic, choose who you think has the best chance of beating McCain.. because Obama and Clinton share almost identical ideals.

    Put the "I'll vote for McCain" comments to rest please.

    March 3, 2008 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  22. Black

    Why does No one every pay attention to what this man does?????

    It is GOP Strategy.

    First let Clinton out, then against such Obama, will MCCain win.

    if Obama--McCain, then Go McCain 08

    March 3, 2008 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  23. Susan K. TX

    I feel betrayed by Obama. I was a supporter of his and now I feel I cannot trust what he says. I don't think I will vote for anybody tuesday. A lot of my family feel the same way.

    March 3, 2008 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  24. Chris, Middletown, CT

    Who signed NAFTA in again?? Oh right....Clinton....who didn't have the forsight to negotiate a document right the first time....oh right....Clinton.....who doesn't have a shot ...oh right....Clinton (unless people are dumb enough to listen to this argument)

    March 3, 2008 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  25. Derrick In Washington State

    Well well, what a surprise. There she goes again. Hillary is just a flat out failure and a dirty minded politician who will say or do anything just to make herself look good, with no regard to using the facts.

    Nice Try Hillary, but that strategy has failed you already, and beating a dead horse is not going to bring a different result.

    March 3, 2008 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
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