Obama plays both sides of the street on NAFTA (updated)

From Canada comes a story that should give pause to any thinking voter. The CTV television network reports: (see update below)

Barack Obama has ratcheted up his attacks on NAFTA, but a senior member of his campaign team told a Canadian official not to take his criticisms seriously, CTV News has learned.

Within the last month, a top staff member for Obama's campaign telephoned Michael Wilson, Canada's ambassador to the United States, and warned him that Obama would speak out against NAFTA, according to Canadian sources.

The staff member reassured Wilson that the criticisms would only be campaign rhetoric, and should not be taken at face value.

But Tuesday night in Ohio, where NAFTA is blamed for massive job losses, Obama said he would tell Canada and Mexico "that we will opt out unless we renegotiate the core labour and environmental standards."

Late Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Obama campaign said the staff member's warning to Wilson sounded implausible, but did not deny that contact had been made.

"Senator Obama does not make promises he doesn't intend to keep," the spokesperson said.

Low-level sources also suggested the Clinton campaign may have given a similar warning to Ottawa, but a Clinton spokesperson flatly denied the claim.

The lack of an outright denial from the Obama camp suggests there is some truth to this. The Canadian Ambassador will no doubt refuse to comment (interfering in the American elections would be as undiplomatic as one could get), so we may be denied confirmation from that end. But count this as one more piece of evidence that there a gap between the public Barack Obama and the real Barack Obama.

It seems as though the Senator needs to at least add a question mark to his slogan: "Change you can believe in?"

Hat tip: Richard Baehr


Ben Smith of Poltico reports

A spokesman for the Canadian Embassy to the United States, Tristan Landry, flatly denied the CTV report that a senior Obama aide had told the Canadian ambassador not to take seriously Obama's denunciations of NAFTA.

He adds:

Belatedly, I also asked Landry whether the Consul in Chicago had spoken to the Obama campaign, and his response was more equivocal, though not on the substance:
Canada has diplomatic representatives posted in the US, including Chicago. These representatives are actively talking to decision makers, including those involved in all campaigns, about the whole range of Canada-U.S. issues. Our economic relationship and trade often come up in these meetings but in none of our conversations has any campaign advisor ever signalled that a candidate would say things that they didn't mean or that we should disregard.