March 3rd, 2008
03:44 PM ET
15 years ago

Obama camp downplays conversation with Canada

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption=" 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. Jake

    Of course Obama isn't going to be held responsible for this. Once again it simply gets "explained away." No questions asked. What other promises do you suppose he has made while speaking out the other side of his mouth? While he is promising healthcare do you suppose he is sending messengers out to meet with the pharmaceutical and insurance companies telling them not to worry, this is just a political tactic. What about more affordable college for our young? Suppose he has representatives calming the banking institution telling them not to worry, they'll still be able to screw over our young americans that this is just a political tactic. WHEN WILL THIS GUY BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR ANYTHING?

    March 3, 2008 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  2. Carl

    Sorry to say this but I blame you CNN for causing all this trouble. I hope you post the truth about this story or you are just as bad as Hillary! This was an informal discussion that occured and the quote in that memo was never uttered by the Obama rep. MSNBC has more accurately covered this story. In Canada some reps are calling for whomever involved in this memo to be held accountable for trying to interfere with US politics.

    I hope you, CNN and Hillary, check the facts and accurately portray them. Obama would.

    Obama '08

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

    Obama is a LIAR.

    March 3, 2008 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  4. John T.

    Even the Canadian government has stepped in now and stated that this was not an official meeting and that there is nothing that implies Senator Obama's campaign rhetoric is at odds with anything they know about how he intends to deal with NAFTA.
    Has Senator Obama made use of the fact that Senator Clinton promised 200,000 jobs to upstate NY, which has had a job loss of over 30,000? Or that her answer to this was that she was banking on Al Gore being president when she made that promise? Funny, that qualifier was never mentioned during her Senate campaigning (I know, I'm from NY).
    There are three candidates for President at the moment – two are gracious. Figure it out.

    March 3, 2008 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |

    HAHAHAHAH!!! THE CURTAIN IS STARTING TO FALL MR. OBAMA. I CAN'T WAIT FOR THE HEADLINES GOING SOMETHING LIKE THIS: "BREAKING NEWS, SENATOR OBAMA...............this and that – you name it. All that has been behind that curtain thus far is about to come out!!

    March 3, 2008 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  6. katie

    Oh no, it's all starting to come out. If Obama wins the nomination McCain would surely take the white house. Nobody knows anything about Obama, and the more people dig in the less they like.

    March 3, 2008 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  7. TX

    Do research for yourselves don't let a media outlet make your decision.

    Support who you support.....if Hillary her. If Obama wins support him....

    Enough with the racism and's really showing our country may not be ready for a black man or white woman at all.

    We still have many issues........

    March 3, 2008 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  8. Joan

    I am a 65 year old woman who thought that I will see a Woman President in my lifetime.
    But the way Hillary has acted in these last few days I doubt it will happen now.
    Shame on you Hillary!

    March 3, 2008 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |


    March 3, 2008 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  10. Lee in Illinois

    Wise up America, Quit being blind sighted by Barrack. Even more stuff will be exposed, just wait and see!

    March 3, 2008 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  11. Newbie

    If it's not Clinton, then it must be McCain.

    I'm a Democatic, but I have to choose between Obama and McCain, I will pick McCain.

    Tomorrow will actually define if McCain will win the Presidency ir not.

    March 3, 2008 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  12. Carla F. Mollica, Albuquerque, NM

    Lies, deception, they always surface. Obama has been using unscrupulous tactics from day 1 of this campaign. He espouses "change" but offers no "how to" plan. Come on, people, America wants and needs change, but who is best qualified to bring it about? Hillary is that person. As a Democratic president of her intelligence, knowledge and clout, and with a Democratic led congress, this country will move out of the gloom predicament the Republicans have put us in.


    March 3, 2008 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  13. jwilliams

    well well the truth is coming out and Someone wonts to blame Hillary for it get real folks This is just one of the things Obama wonts us to believe we don't need him in the white house no telling what he will tell and then say he was misunderstood . You can't tell other country's that you are misunderstanding me i didn't say that
    this is a joke
    Don't Let him answerer the red Phone he will say the he misunderstand what was being said he thought they said Rezko Or Giannoulias was on the Phone and it really was the world being bombed sorry for the misunderstanding
    All the States That Haven't Voted yet Put someone in the Office that can with stand and will with stand!!!!!

    March 3, 2008 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  14. Yolanda

    I agree with my Follow Canadian (A Canadian Perspective). The Governor of Michigan said herself that it is cheaper to manufacture Cars in Ontario, because of the health care system in Canada. Furthermore, Nafta has caused jobs in Canada as well. I lost my job (as a customer service rep) to a young man in Pittsburgh.

    March 3, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  15. Shannon McMurphy

    Obama must have seen the movie "South Park"...yes indeed, the theme song was "Blame Canada". Did his campaign call Canadian officials? Guess we'll have to wait for the sequel.

    By the way, I had my nephew count the number of times the words "Barack", "Obama", or "Barack Obama" were used in the first hour of the "Situation Room" the other was 117.

    And NOW you've uncovered news about Rezko months after everyone else did?

    You really are the "Best Political Team" in television.

    Good lord.

    March 3, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  16. P Graber

    Just say NO to O. So we will have no regrets.

    Go Hillary

    March 3, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  17. Maurice, Iowa

    What kinda sense does this make. Canada profits tremendously from NAFTA. Don't you think it would benefit them to say that Obama made the statements and in doing so, cast a bad light on him so he may possibly lose the nomination? They are flat out denying that he ever made the statement. So why is the Clinton campaign twisting the truth on this one? Because she is desperate and will say anything to get elected...

    March 3, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  18. Shannon Shiflett

    this is a rumor/lie from the clinton campaign.

    dick durbin already debunked this on msnbc. cnn, please stop reporting half-stories.

    hillary is desperate and will do anything to win–very republican. let's not forget it was HER VERY OWN HUSBAND who signed NAFTA into law. people, wake up.

    March 3, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  19. balthus

    I'd just like to say "thanks" to all my fellow Democrats here who are attacking Obama with such zeal.

    Your inaccurate, mean-spirited ventings are making it more likely that John McCain will be our next president, that we Democrats do not reach the 60 vote Senate plurarity we desperately need, and that the next 3 Supreme Court appointees are ultra-conservatives.

    Way to go! And here's your reward: if your wish comes true and Hillary is our nominee, next November you'll get to look yourselves in the mirror for four long years – just like the Nader supporters who tipped the tide for Gore over Bush – and wonder, "what the heck was I thinking?"

    March 3, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  20. Joe F.

    This is very sad; this is not the change people are looking for. A change for the worse. It did not take long for Obama to learn the bad ways. Very very sad, it strikes at the credibility of Mr. Obama. What else is he telling, but he does not really mean!

    This is what occurs when people do not have a good grasp of the issues. So, poor credibility and poor grasp of the facts. Imagine him trying to run the whole of the US when he can not get it right just running a few people in his campaign, at best, and at worst he is just not telling the true facts around who send the people to the meeting..

    March 3, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  21. pd4hillary

    Try again!
    You know what is one of the best things about being a Hillary supporter. We are not looking for her to inspire us, we expect to inspire her to do what we want and need as a nation.

    By the way, Hillary supporters, let's remove any doubt about her going on. Set tomorrow to be a record donation day for her to encourage her to go on. The rest of us around the country may only be able to watch at this point, but we can make a difference with our$$$. I plan to have a beer tomorrow night to celebrate her victories and will log in and send off a small donation!!

    A Hillary supporter inspiring Hillary's campaign!!

    March 3, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  22. charlene

    Poor Obama, he always plays the victim when caught in one of his
    double speaks.

    March 3, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  23. linda hemmingsen

    ps. the news ctv again went and investigated the obama thing and yes they have the documentation who was there and the timetable of the whole thing, sorry out national news right obama lied!

    March 3, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  24. Tom

    Being a Canadian and watching the CANADIAN NEWS, the report started with the CLINTON CAMP telling Canadian officials not to worry about NAFTA and 2nd that the Obama camp did the same thing. This seems to be very biased journalism when both camps were originally cited in doing the same thing. Big deal if they did–do you idiots think you're losing your jobs and factories to Canada–we've lost just as much as America–look down south and to asia for your answers. Idiots

    March 3, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  25. Bill

    Its obvious that Obama and the Obama campaign has told a little lie. However, this is a serious issue and should not be overlooked so easily. It does not matter if Bill Clinton signed NAFTA in, or Hillary ever supported or not. The point is that the Obama team has been caught in a lie to the American people. He used this issue to attack Hillary, all the while telling the Canadians not to worry about his political positioning. This is not change or hope that we need. This is a politician using old style tactics. The point is, they lied. When confronted about this last week, they claimed it never happend. It has to make you wonder what else the Obama camp has done.

    Obama does not deserve the vote's in the four states tommorow and should apologize to the american people and drop out of the race.

    So much for a new type of politics.

    March 3, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
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