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Obama Nailed on NAFTA-Gate [+ Must-See Timeline Update]

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:

UPDATE:

THE TIMELINE of Obama Campaign Denials of CTV/NAFTA Report:

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]

  • http://link SouthWind84

    Although serendipitous contact is more frequent at small residential colleges and universities, faculty members at large schools and those with commuter students also make time for students by being clear about the value of student-faculty interaction outside the classroom. ,

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  • ChrisXP

    From a Politico poster on the Obama on Canada thread…

    Ben wrote:
    ———————————————————————————————————-
    Come on Obama, keep it interesting! Why not deny that anyone named Goolsbee works for you? Why not deny that CTV ever made the broadcast? Why not deny the existence of Canada? At least that would have been interesting. —– Does anyone still believe that this man will usher in a new age of anything?
    ———————————————————————————————————-

    BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!

  • http://newsusa.myfeedportal.com David

    This story stinks like rotten fish- show me catch, right out of the water, or better said, the facts. Until then, looks like Hillary trying to gain ground on Barack the hard way;

    Barack vs Hillary Analysis
    The Home Stretch- Hillary’s Personal Alamo:

    http://newsusa.myfeedportal.com/viewarticle.php?articleid=53

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  • jkhan

    This is sheer stupid to discuss the internal US matters with foreign government without a discussion in congress / senat. This act will create damaging impact in the US economy. Politicians like obama thinks that the people will forget all that he promised in few days time after the election. Because he knows that he has promised so much that its difficult for him to keep track of so how can people keep track of these things?

    This will lead to a dangerous situation for the nation when it comes to foreign policies. Guys if obama discusses with foreign government without having a debate with congressmen and senators as he did on NAFTA. It will be just his hidden agenda that you will see

    No politician even the aboriginal tribal leaders will not discuss the internal economic factors with foreign governments unless they debate among parlament and congress to reach conclusions.

    This act seems to be a rediculous! Think about what he will be talking to Iran and Iraq folks?

  • Pingback: Statements on NAFTA-Gate : NO QUARTER

    • kenoshaMarge

      Big Tent Democrat frequently posts about Obama failures yet still, tepidly, supports him. I don’t get it. I really don’t.

      He agreed with a comment from someone today that having a “black” president would be more significant than having a “female” president. I don’t get that either.

      Quite honestly, the dishonety, the unfairness, the lies, the distortions, the misogony the Clinton-hating from left and right has me so depressed I wonder if I even care anymore.

      I will vote, just because I always do as a civic duty, but I will not vote for Obama if he is the nominee, I could not vote for McCain. So if worst comes to worse I’ll just write in Hillary Clinton and vote for any other Democrat I think worthwhile.
      Wonder how many of them will turn out to be back-stabbing, Blue Dog Democrats who wouldn’t know a progressive idea if it bit them in the ass. Like “The One”. Gag!

      • ChrisXP

        They’re more about “unity” over there at TalkLeft. I left posting there, because they’re more interested in being “So happy together” (and so offended by calling Obama, OBABA [let alone Barack Hussein Obama]), than fighting to win.

        I’m more interested in winning the election (forget the DNC nomination), even if it takes running over O-Bomba with his short NAFTA bus to do so.

        Either fight the fight, or just give McCain the election. It’s that simple. No win, the party will disintergrate anyhow over blaming everyone but themselves for picking the loser.

        Just being mad or singing one to sleep isn’t enough. ACTION is what matters.

  • mostest

    Upon hearing the NAFTA story by CTV, my first thought was, Why would CTV lie? Why would a respected news organization report on something so BIG and not have all their t’s crossed and i’s dotted? In other words, why would CTV pull a story out of their A$$ just for the fun of it?

    This one was a no brainer from the start.

  • Marjorie

    I SENT THIS MESSAGE TO OLBERMAN AND MATTHEWS A FEW MINUTES AGO:

    I obtained this from the blog “No Quarter” by Larry Johnson and Susan. All credit for making this public on their blog belongs to them. Also, check “No Quarter” for further explanation.

    New York Times/A.P. confirmed Obama economic adviser, Austan Goolsbee, contacted the Canadian consulate in Chicago in regard to Obama’s public remarks about opting out of NAFTA. According to CTV.ca, Goolsbeen “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. 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.”

    See actual memorandum for specifics [link above].

  • Mel

    Funny how this story broke last night and yet no major webpage has it on their sites! In the meantime, Obama is allowed to defame a major and highly respected reporter and news organization in a forgeign country and now a forgeign government as interfering in American politics!

    Canada has every right to report on issues facing its country and its agreements, what is a forgeign country Who has a major agreement with America suppose to fold up and ignore statements made that will have an affect on it, its economy and its day to day investments?

    If the shoe was on the other foot and it was a trading partner with the US who was toting this around, would the US not be reporting on it to the people and calming the Wall Street people and the people who’s livelihoods are based on that trade agreement?

    The continuation of lies being stumped by Obama combined with the dirty trail Obama followed to his present stature in the US Senate could cover a full section in any major newspaper and consume over half of the news medias nightly television broadcasts, yet it doesn’t do so fairly, it allows the Obama camp to respond before going to air, if it was Clinton, it would be front and center!

    And America wonders why it has lost its reputation through-out the world!

    PS Condolances to Senator Edwards for the loss of his father-in-law this past week-end!

  • rjj

    I am speed (aka sloppy) reading, but is this an accurate summary of the timeline:

    highly equivocal denials devolving into outright lies, then wrt the evidence “Oh, you mean that!

    so the operative words really were HERE (as in DC) and SENIOR (a somewhat elastic concept)?

  • ebonyscrews

    Hopefully, this story will get broken wide today now that there’s a memo or “hard evidence” as the bobble head punditry like to call it. Get the story out today. They have little option put to report on this controversy now. This may help draw the curtains on amateur hour at long last.

  • OldCoastie

    I wrote CNN last night after, once again, they repeated that the Obama/CTV/NAFTA allegations had been “debunked”.

    Keep up the pressure gang.

  • http://noquarterusa.net/ SusanUnPC

    Just woke up, and it was on CNN. Even Candy Crowley and John Roberts. Roberts said excitedly, “I have the MEMO HERE!” (Like in his hands. The actual memo!) He said the Obama people will have a hard time explaining this one.

    • Andy

      They still haven’t reported on Sen. Clinton’s flag officers endorsements…They *know* who do they want to pick up the phone at 3am…

      Of course they report on every
      insignificant one of Obamas like Russell Simmons, bif story yesterday at the NYT “The Caucus” (uh?).

    • Andy

      Any chance this story can get compouned with the Rezko trial? (still an optimist…barely).
      Seriously any movements on that front that will make noise today?

  • rjj

    As I said before, this will be a big story on (or after) Wednesday. CorpsMedia does not like to release incendiary material too close to voting day, um, lest it influence voters.

    • rjj

      Anyway the Obama Youth insignia bear the old Reagan motto:

      “Facts are Stupid Things.”

  • mimi

    I really had thought this story was dead in the water. Thank God!!!!

    This is why I am not in this guy’s camp. He is NOT READY! He has no experience and we’re going to be up shit’s creek with no toilet tissue with this guy in the WH. I can actually forsee China calling in our debt with this guy at the helm. He’s a chump!!!!

    Americans need to learn how government really works. There’s no such thing as some Messiah coming along. There are only politicians. And I want one who’s experienced.

    This ain’t Hillary’s first day at the rodeo!!!!!

  • Anne

    Unfortunately, I look for the media to either ignore the NYT article, or to parse the language so that it all comes out good for Obama; they will avoid the fact that there have been nothing but denials out of the Obama camp that any conversation with anyone in any official capacity ever took place, and will instead latch onto the claim that Goolsbee was speaking in his role as an academic. They will not ask why Goolsbee did not admit that from the get-go.

    Sigh.

    Interestingly, having sort of shot themselves in the foot with ther article on McCain that was so heavy on sexual innuendo which allowed the real issues to be ignored, the NYT may have set themselves up so that people can dismiss the Obama-NAFTA-Goolsbee article as just more tabloid journalism.

  • Eurogirl70

    This is a copy of the email I sent to Dan Abrams at MSNBC:

    Mr. Abrams:

    First you said that Senator Clinton and her advisors “jumped the gun” on this story. Then CTV stood by their story and now the A.P. produces the Canadian consulate memorandum (from the consulate log-in book) which clearly shows that a call took place; as well as “detailed” information regarding the nature of said call.

    But, what? The Obama campaign denied that a call ever took place; which you said, along with all your panelists, with the exception of Craig Crawford, should be taken at face value. I mean after all, some low level Canadian patsy, with no connections to the Candian consulate, just came out and said so!
    [Boy you guys really don't know what "investigative journalism is anymore...do you?]

    And now?

    Obama’s economic advisor Goolsbee disputes his comments, regarding NAFTA. Well how can Mr. Goolsbee be in the position to dispute his phone comments, if no phone conversation ever took place; Mr. Goolsbee’s original denial? Now his denial centers around the mischaracterization of his words?

    What exactly would have been the MSM response to this story had it centered around Senator Clinton and not Senator Obama? Would the dismissive tone been the same? I seriously doubt it! That is why I no longer watch MSNBC!

  • fribbles

    Hubris, thy name is Obama.

    Or should that read, Obama, thy name is hubris.

    Either way, it shows incredible arrogance to practice “diplomacy” with a foreign nation before you even have the nomination.

    And he even bungles that up.

    Not. Ready. For. Prime. Time.

  • gqmartinez

    Everyone keeps talking about Obama being the emperor with no clothes on. That’s absurd. He’s definitely got pants on. How else could they be on fire?

  • ChrisXP

    From the NYT article:
    ———————————————————————————————————-
    He said he has been surprised that such a banal and trivial meeting with a low-level consulate official has created so much controversy and resulted in such an inaccurate depiction.
    ———————————————————————————————————-

    Why amateurs should never be elected into government.

    This is a classic diplomatic SNAFU that can cause more than national embarassment, it can even jeopardize a sitting president’s policy — which borders on treason.

    May dislike a president for 1001 reasons, but you NEVER negotiate with a foreign power without State Department approval. As it’s about American lives and pocketbooks, not some hot shot’s career.

  • http://pacificgatepost.blogspot.com/ James Raider

    NAFTA is absolutely not the challenge facing America . . . . .

    http://pacificgatepost.blogspot.com/2008/02/americas-china-quandary.html

    Some Asian relationships, however, are inevitably going to be revisited.

    • ChrisXP

      Can’t be done. China holds our debt, which means if they want to play hardball, our economy WILL tank.

      Welcome to the real world of “free markets”. Where any country can hold your country hostage by $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$.

      BTW, we also can’t go into China to “teach them a lesson” by force alone. Their conventional army is so huge, they could afford losing MILLIONS of soldiers, to fight for their country’s existence.

      Personally feel “free traders” should be drawn and quartered in the city square, and their head mounted on pikes, for their will to undermine their own country. In the fight for survival, it’s either us or them, and damn is it’s going to be them!

      • Simon

        BTW, we also can’t go into China to “teach them a lesson” by force alone

        Anyone who thinks in this manner should be immediately disregarded.

        As if the concept of asymmetrical war is non existent, they’re either incredibly ignorant, or baiting you into unwise action.

        Chavez had his tanks move to the Colombian border yesterday, in answer to an assassination that occurred in Ecuador.

        Doesn’t it occur to those idiots they’re being baited? Are they so inept, so stupid, so unsophisticated, they can only respond in a knee jerk manner with the weapon?

        Not much ability to think, there, is there?

        • ChrisXP

          One day it maybe the action. Survival is the #1 priority, not only for a nation, it’s citizens.

          Thus, Hillary is wise to also say nothing is off the table. A CiC will have to make trying decisions, and sometimes wars are necessary.

          If anyone claims that all wars can be avoided, can definitely be disregarded as being disconnected from reality. Mankind has had wars since the dawn of time, and will have wars to the end of time.

          We just like to avoid them as they’re pretty expensive!

  • TeakWoodKite

    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.”

    labour mobility? HUH? Which way did he go? Mexico? China?

    He said the visit lasted about 40 minutes,

    About as lond as the house tour Rezko took with Obama of his new cribe. :
    Gee Tony do you think this Mohgney floor is ok? Yeah? How about the wine cellar? ”

    Obama spokesman Bill Burton said Goolsbee’s visit was not as an emissary from the campaign, but as a professor from the University of Chicago. He was not authorized to share any messages from the campaign, Burton said.

    “As always, should you or any of your IM force be caught or killed,, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This tape will self-destruct in five seconds. Good luck, Barak”

    Bada Bing!

  • ChrisXP

    Just like I said. Embassy/Consulate officials log such conversations, as the president has a diary of who’s who and a summary of what business was discussed. It’s CYA material.

    That the MSM was so quick to deny it, shows how quick they’re willing shelf critical and important news. They’re such amateurs at journalism now, it’s amazing it’s even called journalism anymore (should be called just tabloid fare).