According to a leak of a recent memo, Barack Obama’s recent campaigning in Ohio against NAFTA has been all part of “political positioning.” The memo was reportedly written by a Canadian official reporting Sen. Obama’s reassurances from his senior economic adviser Austan Goolsbee.
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.
Goolsbee however, claims the conservative Canadian official, Joseph DeMora, was not directly quoting him and had misinterpreted his message:
This thing about ‘it’s more about political positioning than a clear articulation of policy plans,’ that’s this guy’s language. I certainly did not use that phrase in any way.
That’s a pretty ham-handed description of what I answered. A: In no possible way was that a reference to NAFTA. And B: In no possible way was I inferring that he was going to introduce any policies that you should ignore and he had no intention of enacting. Those are both completely crazy.
Apparently when DeMora met with the Obama camp NAFTA came up for a total of two or three minutes out of the 40 minute meeting. Reportedly in regards to concerns that Obama is a protectionist Goolsbee
…said he responded that Obama is not a protectionist, but that the Illinois senator tries to strike a balance between the economic struggles of working Americans and recognizing that free trade is good for the economy.
The Clinton campaign understandably jumped all over this one with Hillary stating:
It raises questions about Senator Obama coming to Ohio and giving speeches about NAFTA and having his chief economic adviser tell the Canadian government that it was just political rhetoric.
However, the Canadian government attempted to resolve the issue by clearing things up through a statement released by the embassy:
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.
Let’s hope they’re right, because if this is true it would easily be the biggest hindrance of Obama’s bid for the nomination. For a man who’s appeal comes from his ability to seem like an honest guy who will fulfill his promises, this has the possibility to be crippling.