Clinton Campaign Demands Obama Answers on NAFTA

Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign questioned the sincerity of rival Sen. Barack Obama's recent rhetoric against NAFTA today, citing a Canadian television report that suggested a senior Obama campaign official had told an official within the Canadian government not to take Obama's anti-trade agreement statements seriously.

On Wednesday, the Canadian Television network reported that two unnamed Canadian sources said a "senior member" of Obama's campaign team had called Michael Wilson, Canada's ambassador in Washington, in the last month to warn him that Obama would be ratcheting up rhetoric against the North American Free Trade Agreement, but that he should "not be worried about what Obama says about NAFTA," adding, "It's just campaign rhetoric. … It's not serious."


Both the Canadian Embassy and the Obama campaign have repeatedly denied the CTV report.

However, a source close to the Canadian prime minister's office tells ABC News that the original communication was between Austan Goolsbee, Obama's senior economic adviser and an economics professor at the University of Chicago, and Georges Rioux, Canada's consul general in Chicago, about Obama's rhetoric against NAFTA.

According to the source, Wilson exaggerated the communication between the Obama campaign and the Canadian official during discussions this week with Ian Brodie, the prime minister's chief of staff, who leaked the story to CTV.

Democrats Turn Up Heat on NAFTA

Since the Ohio Democratic debate last week, the Canadian government has fielded questions from opposition parties and the media about Obama and Clinton's anti-NAFTA rhetoric.

ABC News spoke to Goolsbee, Thursday, and who denied calling the Canadian embassy in Washington, or calling Rioux, but wouldn't confirm or deny whether he had spoke to Rioux about Obama's NAFTA rhetoric.

"It's not correct that I contacted them," Goolsbee told ABC News Thursday. "They contacted me at one point to say 'hello' because their office is around the corner but it is not correct that I contacted them at all," he said.

"I am not confirming or denying any meetings with anyone," Goolsbee told ABC News, directing queries to Bill Burton, Obama's campaign spokesperson.

Rioux, who was in Ottawa for meetings this week with the Prime Minister's Office, told ABC News that he too will neither confirm nor deny whether he spoke to Goolsbee.

Both men live in Chicago, where Obama's campaign is headquartered.

The Obama campaign isn't responding to requests for information about the reported conversation between Goolsbee and Rioux.

Clinton Camp Demands Answers

Howard Wolfson, Clinton's communications director, demanded today that the Obama campaign answer whether or not Goolsbee had reassured the Canadian official about Obama's rhetoric.

"It is a very simple question. It requires a simple yes or no. We don't need any equivocation — just a simple yes or no will do," Wolfson said.

If true, Wolfson alleged, it would be an example of Obama's saying one thing and doing another.

"I'm reminded of Sen. Obama's vociferous criticism of NAFTA when he's in Ohio, but his praise of it before a group of farmers when he's running for office in the state of Illinois in 2004," Wolfson said, pointing to a September 2004 Associated Press article quoting Obama as saying the United States should continue to pursue trade deals such as NAFTA.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...