March 3rd, 2008
03:44 PM ET
6 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. JJ

    Man the title of this story is very misleading. Downplay???

    March 3, 2008 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  2. A Canadian Perspective

    This notion of Obama appeasing Canada is just plain silly. But then so is the argument that NAFTA cost American jobs. The real job losses went to India and China. Some factories stay open In Canada because the country has a single payer health care system which allows some companies like GM to stay competetive in this market. So health care is the main issue here not the trade agreement.

    March 3, 2008 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  3. TO

    This is exactly the reason why Hillary should stay in the race.
    Think about how will Obama handle this from Republicans? and this is just the start.

    March 3, 2008 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  4. D R

    The Clinton's pushed this bill into congress. How can she talk about NAFTA.... If the people in Ohio and Texas fall for this they deserve Hillary. And they will not get their jobs back! What's up CNN??? I know a bunch of anti Hillary folks that are not getting their comments onto these pages!

    March 3, 2008 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  5. dana

    Oh, please who's the rookie? Clinton miss I have experience has made more than one big mistake during this campaign, poor management and leadership, financial mismanagement, conflicting messages, unable to control surrogates, unwilling to release tax returns and other important documents… Why don’t you Hillary supporters look at that fact instead of whining about the media and other things

    March 3, 2008 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  6. SPQR753

    As I wrote so many times before:

    Obama in nothing more than a HOT AIR BALLOON.

    This "gaffe" with Canadian diplomats is umpteen proof he is just a Rookie.

    Probably, 8 (EIGHT) years from now he may be ready for the TOP spot..........

    March 3, 2008 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  7. Ian

    First it was Hillary the tough, then Hillary the sensitive, then Hillary the victim, then Hillary the scrappy underdog, now you see, Hillary the hopeful positive candidate for bringing everyone together (literally stealing that mantle from Obama). You all saw the true Clinton mustard when Bill spilled his hubris, his power hungry guts all over the airwaves. People, I want a woman pres, but not THIS woman. Talk about fake... Talk about lying... What happened to all those liberated women who hated Hillary for "standing by her man" as he humiliated her with sex in the whit house? We all knew why she stood by her man. AMBITION. These final hour tactics prove it.

    March 3, 2008 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  8. Bryan Myrick

    Isn't it amazing how the story becomes everything else but what might be important to voters? The issue of at least the implication that Obama is talking out of both sides of his mouth (the NAFTA issue being one example among many) should be the centerpiece. Instead, this becomes a process story. Hey CNN: Any thought given to getting Senator Obama on the record again as to what his stated position REALLY is?

    March 3, 2008 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  9. me, NY

    Hopefully this comedy might be over tomorrow
    Even her husband Bill did admit it and also her friend Bill Richardson
    It's time to focus on the general election...but even she loses tomorrow apparently she's not willing to step aside for the good of the party. I am not surprised at all, all is about her, I don't know why she's ready to do anything to get back to the white House even running a nasty campaign ...

    March 3, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  10. ME

    I am so disappointed by Obama.
    I though he would change the old politics in Washington, now he just looks like anyone else.

    March 3, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  11. Craig H, Mpls, MN

    The Canadians deny the Clintons allegations against Obama in the 5th and 6th paragraph of the above article. The Clintons are calling the Canadians liars. Not a good display of foriegn policy by the Clinton campaign. How will the Clintons repair this damage if she becomes president. She will have to say "oh, that was just campaign rhetoric, I just called you Canadians liars to fool people into voting for me." This would be the same sin that she is falsly condemning Obama of. What hypocracy on the Clintons part that would be. Please Hillary, for the good of the party, the nation and the world, stop the smear tactics.

    March 3, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  12. Dave from NH

    tune into the dispute that is happening right now regarding this issue... they are calling for the person or persons who are manipulating the American election process to be fired...both sides are saying the reports that the Clinton's campaign is putting out is false.

    Tune in and listen and see for yourselves

    March 3, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  13. LatinaUs

    Of course they deny it now that it becomes hot. But nothing will hurt Mr. Teflon, will it?

    March 3, 2008 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  14. Dave from NH

    sorry I meant tune into the Canadian Parliament it is unbelievable... they are up in arms over this false reporting of this Obama NAFTA thing and believe it is someone trying to influence the campaign!

    March 3, 2008 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  15. Push

    "OH this is not what I mean " again.
    Give me a break.
    Obama is a flip flopper, says one thing and does another.

    March 3, 2008 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  16. vixtor

    according to abcnews.com the BO campaign DID NOT negate that the meeting took place immediately, but here it says that yes it was denounced immediately...essentially do not blame Hllary for him getting caught doing dirty politics...and i have a feeling this is only the beginning of the truth about him

    Hillary 08

    March 3, 2008 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  17. Edd

    Never underestimate a woman with wide experience in fiscal policy! She will fight to the end to win this!!!!!

    GO HILLARY!

    March 3, 2008 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  18. Jon - Atlanta, GA

    B.O. – something stinks and I hope the people of Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Vermont smell it.

    Hillary '08
    Madame President

    March 3, 2008 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  19. A. Harrison

    It must be horrible being in Hillary's shoes.

    She can see plain as day what's going on and the country is in a trans with Obama.

    Be careful what you ask for, cause we know the Clintons, we don't know the OBamas.

    March 3, 2008 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  20. mark

    will someone define "experiance" then "judgement' ?EXPERIANCE IS WONDERFUL IF ALL CONDITIONS ARE THE SAME AT ALL TIMES, HOWEVER GOOD JUDGEMENT ,IS BETTER IF CONDITIONS ARE CONTINUALLY CHANGING,

    March 3, 2008 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  21. Dave from NH

    sad very sad if the Clintons actually did have a hand in this.

    March 3, 2008 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  22. Paul

    The fact here is that Hillary will be our next President because America can finally see that Obama is one more politician a talker who promises "change." That s right, he can be change, 'cause as we can see , obama changes positions on different issues depending on what makes him look good in public. We are the Democratic party, and this is not about speeches, we should be responsible for the future of our nation. Or should we tolerate a person (Obama) who says something but does a different thing? Is that the change we hope for ?, give me a break!

    VOTE FOR

    HILLARY IF YOU R AN AUTHENTIC DEMOCRAT , someone
    who wants the best not just for our party, but for our entire nation

    Hillary 08- President of The United States of America

    March 3, 2008 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  23. Wayne

    Wow. It looks like the Clinton smear machine is working. Due to lowere education level Clinton supporters dont read to the bottom of the article. I sure hope voters are dumb enough to fall for these last minute tactics. Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton..do we have a two FAMILY system of government?
    This from the Canadians ", 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"

    March 3, 2008 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  24. Texas Voter

    I cant wait to get up EARLY tomorrow morning and vote in Texas, and then go back to caucus at 7pm. You left wingers/right wingers/who give a winger had your chance to change the world and ya'll picked Bush.....TWICE....now that Im old enough to vote, its time for change.

    OBAMAAAAA 2008!

    March 3, 2008 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  25. John Adkisson, Sacramento, California

    I can envision a meeting involving Wolfson and Penn (Clinton's top advisors) cackling over how they can take an unsubstantiated report, about an unauthorized communication, which has been denied by its participants, and turn it into an actual issue in the minds of voters on the day before the election.

    This whole episode reveals two things: (1) Clinton's team has no respect for the truth or the voters; and (2) Obama's message of change is particularly relevant with respect to changing the Rove-like attack machine tactics that have divided this nation for so long.

    Clinton has proved time and again in this campaign that fair play is for sissies and she will say and do anything to win. Unfortunately, this sort of thing often works and it may effect the Ohio vote. But to people who are tired of this sort of tactic, the Ohion results will mean that much less if it does work.

    March 3, 2008 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20