As mentioned yesterday, there have been allegations that the Obama campaign told the Canadian government that the NAFTA threats were just campaign talk. Initial reports suggested no such communication occurred, but there were new developments today:
Despite repeated requests, Barack Obama's campaign is still neither verifying nor denying a CTV report that a senior member of the team made contact with the Canadian government -- via the Chicago consulate general -- regarding comments Obama made about NAFTA.
The Obama campaign told CTV late Thursday night that no message was passed to the Canadian government that suggests that Obama does not mean what he says about opting out of NAFTA if it is not renegotiated.
However, the Obama camp did not respond to repeated questions from CTV on reports that a conversation on this matter was held between Obama's senior economic adviser -- Austan Goolsbee -- and the Canadian Consulate General in Chicago.
Earlier Thursday, the Obama campaign insisted that no conversations have taken place with any of its senior ranks and representatives of the Canadian government on the NAFTA issue. On Thursday night, CTV spoke with Goolsbee, but he refused to say whether he had such a conversation with the Canadian government office in Chicago. He also said he has been told to direct any questions to the campaign headquarters.
To the best I can gather, here is what most likely happened to set off CTV's reporting that the Obama campaign is fudging the truth about its NAFTA intentions. Someone from the Canadian consul general's office in Chicago got to talking with Dr. Austan Goolsbee, he the principle economic adviser to Sen. Obama, and NAFTA came up. Mr. Goolsbee may have warned him that the rhetoric about NAFTA might be amped up and that the policy follow through might not be as drastic as the volume of the rhetoric would indicate. By no means, though, does that mean that Obama isn't serious about renegotiating the labor and environmental provisions of NAFTA -- just that, Goolsbee may well have said, Obama recognizes that the normative case for NAFTA is not as one-sided as general campaign trail bromides make it out to be.
I have no idea if this is, in fact, what happened, but it sounds plausible.
Here is Austan Goolsbee's explanation: "Barack Obama's senior economic policy adviser said Sunday that Canadian government officials wrote an inaccurate portrayal of his private discussion on the campaign's trade policy in a memo obtained by The Associated Press."