UPDATE: At the conclusion, there’s now a fully sourced timeline of Obama’s denials of this meeting, now obliterated by the emergence of the Canadian diplomats’ memorandum distributed widely to Canadian officials — and now in the hands not only of the A.P. but CNN’s John Roberts, who waved a copy as he reported the story on CNN’s American Morning.
“Obama, you are busted.”
That was Larry Johnson’s response tonight when I showed him the New York Times/A.P. story just published that confirms what the Obama camp has scurried away from: That Obama economic adviser Austan Goolsbee contacted officials with the Canadian consulate in Chicago and assured them that they should not worry about Obama’s remarks about NAFTA. Goolsbee, reported national Canadian media giant CTV.ca, “said that when Senator Obama talks about opting out of the free trade deal, the Canadian government shouldn’t worry. The operative said it was just campaign rhetoric.”
The A.P. has obtained the actual memorandum produced by the Canadian consulate as a record of its meeting. (How that works, and the regular preparation of a memorandum to record such meetings, is explained by Larry Johnson below, and is a must-read to understand how diplomatic meetings are conducted.) That Canadian consulate-prepared memorandum, which Goolsbee denies is accurate, states:
“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.” [...]
The memo obtained by the AP was widely distributed within the Canadian government. It is more than 1,300 words and covers many topics that DeMora said were discussed in the Feb. 8 ”introductory meeting” between himself, Goolsbee and the consul general in Chicago, Georges Rioux.
Goolsbee ”was frank in saying that the primary campaign has been necessarily domestically focused, particularly in the Midwest, and that much of the rhetoric that may be perceived to be protectionist is more reflective of political maneuvering than policy,” the memo’s introduction said. ”On NAFTA, Goolsbee suggested that Obama is less about fundamentally changing the agreement and more in favour of strengthening/clarifying language on labour mobility and environment and trying to establish these as more `core’ principles of the agreement.”
Here is Larry Johnson — he was Deputy Director of Counterterrorism for the U.S. State Department — on how such meetings take place and are recorded:
Obviously the Obama advisors don’t understand a thing about foreign relations. They assume that any comment with a member of a diplomatic representative of a foreign government is somehow not noteworthy. To reiterate, a consulate (i.e., a place that issues visas and handles immigration issues for a government, in this case Canada) is a part of the Canadian Embassy. The Consul General is not the Ambassador. However, he or she would be considered number three in the Embassy pecking order (he or she is subordinate to the Ambassador and the Deputy Chief of Mission).
In meetings like the one with Obama’s economic advisor, Goolsbee, the ConGen (shorthand for Consul General) would be accompanied by at least one note taker. The junior diplomat who wrote up the results of the meeting had to submit his report to the ConGen, who signed off on the report or cable (A cable is diplomatic speak for an official message sent back to the home government).
And why did the Canadians meet with Goolsbee? Because of his relationship with Obama. The Canadians, doing what good diplomats do, wanted to get an idea of what Obama’s stance on Nafta is because they are recognizing he could be President. This is what diplomats do.
The other day, in an update to my February 29, 2008 story, “CTV Reconfirms Obama NAFTA Story,” Larry Johnson added:
[I]t is important to help younger readers understand that Goolsbee’s conversation with the Counsel General (CONGEN in State Department speak) is a senior Canadian Embassy official. A Consulate is a place where folks go for a visa or to work on immigration problems. The Consulate is subordinate to the Embassy in Washington. Best to think of it as a branch of the Embassy. Clearly the CTV report confused Embassy with Consulate. Bottomline is the same–a senior Obama advisor told a representative of the Government of Canada (in this case, the CONGEN) to ignore Obama’s rhetoric.
You can read all of our earlier stories on NAFTA-gate by clicking on this search-based link.
Many young Obama supporters never understood that CTV.ca is an internationally respected, first-rate national Canadian news organization that carefully vetted its original story, and issued a reconfirmation. Now, thanks to the A.P. story, we know that the memorandum “was widely distributed within the Canadian government” and was 1,300 words in length.
Here is the video of one of CTV’s television news reports:
2/26/08 – CTV reported that a senior member of Obama’s campaign called the Canadian embassy within the last month — saying that when Senator Obama talks about opting out of the free trade deal, the Canadian government shouldn’t worry. The operative said it was just campaign rhetoric not to be taken seriously. [CTV, 2/27/08]
2/26/08 – “Late Wednesday, Obama campaign said the staff member’s warning to Wilson sounded implausible, but did not deny that contact had been made. ‘Senator Obama does not make promises he doesn’t intend to keep,’ the spokesperson said.” [CTV, 2/27/08]
2/27/08 – “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.” [CTV, 2/29/08]
2/27/08 – Goolsbee: Canada’s consul general in Chicago contacted him ‘at one point to say ‘hello’ because their office is around the corner.’ [ABC, 2/29/08]
2/27/08 – Goolsbee: “I am not confirming or denying any meetings with anyone,’ Goolsbee told ABC News, directing queries to Bill Burton, Obama’s campaign spokesperson.” [ABC News, 2/29/08]
2/27/08 – “ABC News spoke to Goolsbee, Thursday, and who denied calling the Canadian embassy in Washington, or calling Rioux, but would “neither confirm nor deny” whether he had spoke to Rioux about Obama’s NAFTA rhetoric.” [ABC News, 2/29/08]
2/27/08 – CTV: “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.” [CTV, 2/29/08]
2/27/08 – CTV: “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.” [CTV, 2/29/08]
2/28/08 – Burton: ‘The news reports on Obama’s position on NAFTA are inaccurate and in no way represent Senator Obama’s consistent position on trade. When Senator Obama says that he will forcefully act to make NAFTA a better deal for American workers, he means it. Both Canada and Mexico should know that, as president, Barack Obama will do what it takes to create and protect American jobs and strengthen the American economy — that includes amending NAFTA to include labor and environmental standards. We are currently reaching out to the Canadian embassy to correct this inaccuracy.” [TPM, 2/28/08]
2/28/08 – Burton: “It’s telling that the Clinton campaign’s closing argument is based on a story run on a Canadian television station that’s already been debunked by the Canadian Embassy.” [ABC, 2/29/08]
2/28/08 – Burton: “Again, this story is not true. There was no one at any level of our campaign, at any point, anywhere, who said or otherwise implied Obama was backing away from his consistent position on trade. The only flip-flopping on NAFTA has come from Sen. Clinton, who talked about how good it was for America until she started running for President,” [ABC, 2/29/08]
2/28/08 – Sen. Obama: “The Canadian government put out a statement saying that this was just not true, so I don’t know who the sources were.” [CTV news, 2/29/08]
2/28/08 – Rice: “The Canadian ambassador issued a statement that was absolutely false. There had been no contact. There had been no discussions on NAFTA. So we take the Canadians at their word…period.” [MSNBC, 2/28/08]
2/29/08: Sen. Obama: “Our office has said the story is not true. It’s important for viewers to understand that it was not true.” Anchor: “So, completely inaccurate, did not happen, end of discussion.” Sen. Obama: “It did not happen.” [WKYC TV, 2/29/08]
2/29/08 – Goolsbee: “It is a totally inaccurate story…I did not call these people and I direct you to the press office.” [New York Observer, 2/29/08]
2/29/08 – Burton: ‘This story is not true. There was no one at any level of our campaign, at any point, anywhere, who said or otherwise implied Obama was backing away from his consistent position on trade.’ [Greg Sargent, 2/29/08]
2/29/08 – Plouffe: “The story’s just not true…. No one in our campaign has said or otherwise implied that he would back away from his position on NAFTA.” [The Page, 2/29/08]
2/29/08 – Burton: “There was no one at any level of our campaign, at any point, anywhere, who said or otherwise implied Obama was backing away from his consistent position on trade.” [Politico, 2/29/08]