Tuesday, March 4

Obama NAFTA Facts: All Smoke and No Gun

FactCheck has the whole story.

Clinton’s spokesman says a newly surfaced memo proves that Obama's campaign issued false denials about sending a private message to Canadian officials to disregard his criticisms of NAFTA. The Obama camp says it’s all a misunderstanding, and the Canadian embassy in Washington says it regrets the whole thing.

Is this “NAFTA-gate” as the Clinton campaign would like Ohio voters to believe when they vote in the March 4 primary? Or is it, as the Obama camp describes it, just a botched description by a low-level official in Canada’s Chicago office of a meeting with a senior Obama adviser?

It's now clear that a Canadian news report that started this flap wasn't accurate. No evidence has surfaced to show that any Obama "staffer" telephoned the Canadian ambassador in Washington, and all concerned deny that any such conversation took place. But it is equally clear that Obama's senior economic adviser did visit Canada's consulate in Chicago on Feb. 8, and that NAFTA was one of the several topics discussed.

Exactly what was said is not so clear, however. The memo says Obama's anti-NAFTA stance was described as just "political maneuvering," but the adviser says he said no such thing. The campaign says the adviser wasn't authorized to convey any message from the candidate anyway. No audio recording or verbatim transcript of the disputed conversation is available, and there’s no reason to expect that any exist. So the best we can do is to provide readers with the essential details as they have unfolded over the past several days, with links to original sources when available. On this one, you’ll have to be the judge.

Here is what the Canadian Embassy had to say:

Statement by the Canadian Embassy: The Canadian Embassy and our Consulates General regularly contact those involved in all of the Presidential campaigns and, periodically, report on these contacts to interested officials. In the recent report produced by the Consulate General in Chicago, 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.

The people of the United States are in the process of choosing a new President and are fortunate to have strong and impressive candidates from both political parties. Canada will not interfere in this electoral process. We look forward, however, to working with the choice of the American people in further building an unparalleled relationship with a close friend and partner.

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