Blame Canada? Blame Obama

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A couple of days ago I blogged about this CTV story that the Obama campaign had reassured the Canadian government the Illinois Senator’s populist rhetoric on NAFTA was simply for the primaries and that Canada shouldn’t worry. At the time, both the Canada government and the Obama campaign vehemently denied the story.

Turns out, thanks to diligent reporting by AP’s Nedra Pickler, that there were talks on NAFTA between an Obama senior advisor, University of Chicago Professor Austan Goolsbee, and the Canadian embassy and the notes the Canadians came away with sound a lot like the CTV story, though Goolsbee denies he made any assurances.

From Nedra’s story:

The memo is the first documentation to emerge publicly out of the meeting between the adviser, Austan Goolsbee, and officials with the Canadian consulate in Chicago, but Goolsbee said it misinterprets what he told them. The memo was written by Joseph DeMora, who works for the consulate and attended the meeting.

Goolsbee disputed a section that read: “Noting anxiety among many U.S. domestic audiences about the U.S. economic outlook, Goolsbee candidly acknowledged the protectionist sentiment that has emerged, particularly in the Midwest, during the primary campaign. He cautioned that this messaging should not be taken out of context and should be viewed as more about political positioning than a clear articulation of policy plans.”

It will be interesting to see how the Obama campaign explains this one — if Obama comes back on our flight to Texas that’s about to take off, he can be sure he’ll be asked about it. I bet they’re glad this story didn’t pop two days ago. That said, what’s the conservative Canadian government doing leaking memos about meetings with U.S. campaigns? And it begs the question: what, if anything, did Hillary’s camp tell them?

Karen sent me this quote from Hillary’s press conference this morning:

She said this shows that Obama’s chief economic adviser has “done the old wink-wink, don’t pay any attention. This is just political rhetoric.” She also suggested the media would be treating this more seriously if she had done it. “With this story, substitute my name for Senator Obama’s and just ask yourself. ”

When we landed in San Antonio, Obama’s campaign manager David Plouffe held a conference call to talk about how Clinton’s mathematical hurdles to winning the nomination, but most of the questions were about the NAFTA flap. Finally, towards the end of the call Plouffe snapped that the issue is just part of Clinton’s “kitchen sink campaign.”

This was a formal conversation. This was not a request that came through the campaign. I certainly didn’t know that he had gone over there because it was something that was done in the context of his position at the university. It was not a discussion with the Canadian government about Senator Obama’s campaign or his position on NAFTA, so again, I think that this has been way over blown. Any suggestion that Senator Obama’s position on this has not been consistent and clear is just wrong.

We’re hoping that Obama will hold a press avail of his own at the next stop in Dallas this afternoon so we can directly ask him about the imbroglio and if they’re worried that this might put off blue collar voters.