Saturday :: Mar 8, 2008

More on the Obama NAFTA flap

by eriposte

Taylor has more on this but the interesting aspect is this new story in Canada's Globe and Mail (emphasis mine, throughout this post):

PMO: Officials only got briefing from Obama campaign

OTTAWA — Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton never gave Canada any secret assurances about the future of NAFTA such as those allegedly offered by Barack Obama's campaign, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office said Friday.

With the NAFTA affair swirling over the U.S. election and Canadian officials skittish about saying anything else that might influence the race, it took the PMO two days to deliver the information.

After being asked whether Canadian officials asked for — or received — any briefings from a Clinton campaign representative outlining her plans on NAFTA, a spokeswoman for the prime minister offered a response Friday.

"The answer is no, they did not," said Harper spokeswoman Sandra Buckler.

Also interesting is this:

Sources who overheard that conversation say [PM Stephen Harper's Chief of Staff Ian Brodie] specifically mentioned that Canadian diplomats did get assurances from the Clinton camp — and he never raised Mr. Obama's name.

That begs the question: why was Ms. Clinton's name raised at all?

Mr. Brodie does not deny downplaying the Democrats' anti-NAFTA rhetoric in a conversation with CTV, but he says he cannot recall mentioning any specific presidential candidate.

Ms. Clinton's team reacted furiously to the Brodie story and offered the Canadian government "blanket immunity" to publicly release the name of any campaign official who might have offered such back-channel assurances.

Taylor had written about the "blanket immunity" from the Clinton campaign earlier. However, you can guess how some "progressive" blogs of the Reality Based CommunityTM have played the original story, can't you? Here's Matthew Yglesias:

Note in this context that the NAFTA memo thing was a bum rap cooked up by Canadian rightwingers (who are very networked with U.S. rightwingers) to deliberately hurt Barack Obama's campaign and produce the sort of long, hard slog we're now looking at.

Really? Yglesias' post refers to a post by Marc Ambinder who says:

Familiarize yourself with that name. He's the chief of staff to the Canadian prime minister, and allegedly, the source of the leak to CTV about Austan Goolsbee's freelancing. Except... in his original comments, his seems to have also made the same assertions about the Clinton campaign.

Except that the story Ambinder links to says something else altogether. It is another earlier Globe and Mail story which says:

Mr. Brodie, apparently seeking to play down the potential impact on Canada, told the reporters the threat was not serious, and that someone from Ms. Clinton's campaign had even contacted Canadian diplomats to tell them not to worry because the NAFTA threats were mostly political posturing.

The Canadian Press cited an unnamed source last night as saying that several people overheard the remark.

The news agency quoted that source as saying that Mr. Brodie said that someone from Ms. Clinton's campaign called and was "telling the embassy to take it with a grain of salt."

The story was followed by CTV's Washington bureau chief, Tom Clark, who reported that the Obama campaign, not the Clinton's, had reassured Canadian diplomats.

Mr. Clark cited unnamed Canadian sources in his initial report.

There was no explanation last night for why Mr. Brodie was said to have referred to the Clinton campaign but the news report was about the Obama campaign. Robert Hurst, president of CTV News, declined to comment.

In other words, what Matthew Yglesias should have said is that the Canadian rightwingers (Ian Brodie) were really trying to hurt Hillary Clinton not Barack Obama, but someone clearly alerted CTV that the campaign that actually said something to the Canadians on NAFTA was Barack Obama's, not Hillary Clinton's. In other words, if the Canadian rightwingers were really trying to influence the Democratic primary, they were trying to shorten it by giving Obama a gift - not the other way around. Yet, I'm sure the myth propagated by Yglesias will live on. It's the Reality Based CommunityTM after all.

One aspect of this whole episode that has gotten less coverage is the background of Austan Goolsbee. Ron K in Seattle wrote about him in:

The Audiology of Hope: DLC Dogwhistle Economics

RonK's post is worth a read to discover why George Will likes Austan Goolsbee and why Sen. Obama's position on economic issues have often tracked to the right of Sen. Clinton. Also, here's an amusing observation from Big Tent Democrat at Talk Left:

Markos is riled up about Bruce Reed of the DLC working with Clinton on debate prep (not a policy position actually.) Funny how he missed this:

[DLC Chairman Al] From said Mr. Obama had an intellectual, and not just tactical, connection to the D.L.C.

“I mean his chief economist, Austan Goolsbee, is a fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, which is our think tank,” he said.

Economic advisor vs debate prep? Which matters more? For the record, having the DLC in the Big Democratic Tent is fine by me. I certainly would not want either candidate to cast out the DLC. I actually worry more about the DLC's Third Way Unity Schtick political advice. As From says, there is a very close political tactics connection between Obama and the DLC. It is what I complain about constantly. Some others used to complain about too. Not anymore apparently.

The Clinton Double Standard at work.

eriposte :: 8:12 AM :: Comments (13) :: Digg It!