Mercury Rising 鳯女

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The Latest (Last?) Word On The NAFTAgate Non-Scandal

Posted by Phoenix Woman on March 13, 2008

From the CBC’s Neil Macdonald:

But an offhand remark by a political staffer is just a starting point so CTV brought Tom Clark, the network’s bureau chief in Washington, into the picture. Clark is known to be on friendly terms with ambassador Wilson.

In short order, Clark contacted Wilson, putting to him the tip from Ottawa. We know this because the embassy later confirmed the call. The actual conversation between the two men remains a private discussion, but by the time Clark went to air Wednesday night, his angle was no longer Clinton. It was Obama.

Citing what he would later describe as a “source at a senior level in the embassy,” Clark reported that an Obama “operative” had phoned Wilson personally in previous weeks, warning that “Obama would take some heavy swings at the trade deal,” but assuring the ambassador it would just be “campaign rhetoric,” not to be taken seriously.

The story, Clark emphasized, went beyond trade: “It goes to the question of truthfulness. In other words, did Barack Obama say one thing privately to a foreign government and then say something entirely different to the voters of Ohio and Texas? And it appears tonight that’s exactly what he did and that’s exactly what the Clinton campaign is zeroing in on,” concluded the reporter.

Oooh, sounds nasty! Too bad it never actually happened:

First of all, there had never been any call from Obama’s people to Michael Wilson about the Illinois senator’s real intentions. That discrepancy would emerge later.Obama’s campaign was focused on winning in Ohio and could not have cared less about reassuring Wilson or anyone else in Canada.

Second, the thrust of what Clark reported with regards to Obama’s campaign statements did not exactly square with the wording of DeMora’s summary, which had been sitting in Ottawa, with a copy in the Washington embassy.

Third, the evident leak of any communication between Canadian officials and anyone from the Obama campaign, even if distorted, was a terrible embarrassment.

The Obama campaign was furious. Goolsbee demanded a copy of the summary so that he could see for himself how his comments to the Chicago consular people had been reported. And the embassy agreed to provide him with the four or five paragraphs referring to his views on NAFTA.

When Goolsbee saw the paragraph about how “messaging” in Ohio is merely “political positioning,” he objected. That, he said, was not his language.

So the Canadian officials took a closer look. DeMora, it turned out, did not write his summary until five days after the discussion had taken place. And he had no direct quotes to support his characterization of Goolsbee’s remarks.

The summary’s self-congratulatory aside about Goolsbee agreeing with the consulate’s own analysis also raised eyebrows.

One former diplomat said it sounded like “a classic case of the wish becoming the father of the thought.”

Now you’d think that this would have put a stake through the nonsense. But of course it didn’t:

And in any event, Hillary Clinton and Republican John McCain weren’t listening. Both of them latched onto the hypocrisy angle and rode it hard.

In the days to come, the problem became worse for Obama. CTV, citing sources “at the highest level of the Canadian government,” changed its story, naming Goolsbee as the Obama adviser, but substituting Chicago Consul General Georges Rioux as the Canadian contact.

The disclosure of new names ginned up interest in the U.S. media, which had at first been tepid in following the story.

The Obama campaign countered by having Goolsbee speak on the record with Nedra Pickler of the Associated Press.


Canadian diplomats, under orders to remain silent, could only watch in anguish as the Obama campaign flailed and the wording of the memo they had acknowledged was flawed continued to drive the storm.

In Parliament, Harper rose to address the subject. But he didn’t repeat the embassy’s private repudiation of the summary. Instead, he said: “The Canadian embassy in Washington has issued a statement indicating it regretted the fact that information has come out that would imply that Senator Obama has been saying different things in public than in private.”

In other words, it certainly is too bad that information came out. Sorry.

Later that week, Harper said the whole episode had been “blatantly unfair” to Obama and promised to find the leak, wherever it may have originated.

I’m just so sure this broke Harper’s heart. Not.

What’s more, given Harper’s stated antipathy towards the Canadian diplomatic corps (he complained publicly last year that it has resisted implementing his foreign policy agenda), some of them fear they, rather than the government’s political appointees, will bear the punishment for the episode.

As the questions continued, two news organizations wrote that Ian Brodie, Harper’s chief of staff, had been CTV’s original tipster. The stories generated a storm in the House of Commons, but what really interested the Obama campaign was how the story had so quickly morphed from a tip about Clinton to a story about Obama.

Yeah, that would interest me, too.

3 Responses to “The Latest (Last?) Word On The NAFTAgate Non-Scandal”

  1. Afrian boo said

    Obama lied plain and simple and he got caught.

  2. MEC said

    Afrian Boo, repeating a libel doesn’t make it true. I notice you don’t provide any evidence to back up your allegation.

  3. Michael said

    Obama did not lie.

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