Feb. 28, 2008 — -- Responding to a Canadian Television report that an aide to Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, had reached out to the Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. to reassure him that Obama's anti-NAFTA rhetoric was not to be taken seriously -- a report the Obama campaign and the Canadian Embassy deny -- Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Thursday said that Obama seemed guilty of not being straight with voters, and called such behavior "wrong."
"I don't think it's appropriate to go to Ohio and tell people one thing while your aide is calling the Canadian Ambassador and telling him something else," McCain told reporters. "I certainly don't think that's straight talk."
CTV reported Wednesday night that a "senior member" of Obama's "campaign team" telephoned Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Wilson within the last month "and warned him that Obama would speak out against NAFTA" but that "the criticisms would only be campaign rhetoric, and should not be taken at face value."
The report was attributed to "Canadian sources." Spokesmen for the Canadian Embassy and the Obama campaign deny its accuracy.
Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton said that "the news reports on Obama's position on NAFTA are inaccurate and in no way represent Sen. Obama's consistent position on trade.
When Sen. Obama says he will forcefully act to make NAFTA a better deal for American workers, he means it." Burton added that "both Canada and Mexico should know" that Obama would demand amendments to NAFTA to include labor and environmental standards not currently in the treaty.
The Canadian Embassy issued a statement Thursday stating that "at no time has any member of a Presidential campaign called the Canadian Ambassador or any official at the Embassy to discuss NAFTA" and stated the CTV story is "untrue. Neither before nor since the Ohio debate has any presidential campaign called Ambassador Wilson or the Embassy to raise NAFTA."
Both Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, have been expressing reservations about NAFTA as they try to woo Ohio Democratic voters, one quarter of whom belong to unions that blame NAFTA for massive job loss in the states. Both candidates have accused the other of misrepresenting their positions; both insist that they have serious reservations about NAFTA and as president will push to revise the treaty.
The fact that NAFTA was signed into law by President Bill Clinton puts his wife in a tough spot as she tries to distance herself not only from what he considers one of the major accomplishments of his presidency but several comments she has made touting NAFTA as a success.
Calling the positions of the Democratic candidates on NAFTA "protectionist" and "isolationist" McCain said that "objective statistics show that trade with Canada, trade with Mexico, has been good for our economy as well as theirs."
McCain made his criticisms on his campaign plane as he flew from Houston to Dallas.
He added, "I just think it's wrong if one of your top assistants calls the Canadian Ambassador and says, 'don't worry about this rhetoric.' The American people are making a judgment...I just think that candidates owe the American people the truth."