Obama staffer says he was misquoted (update x 2) Posted by: McQ
on Monday, March 03, 2008
First there was the story. Then the denial of the story. Then CTV's avowal to stand by the story. Then the non-denial denial. Now that a memo has come out which details a discussion between an Obama staffer and Canadian governmental officials about NAFTA, it is down to arguing over implications.
So, let's clear the air. An Obama staffer did talk to Canadian governmental officials about NAFTA after a flat denial. And Canadian governmental officials (from their consulate in Chicago) documented the meeting and summarized the discussion.
Barack Obama's senior economic policy adviser said Sunday that Canadian government officials wrote an inaccurate portrayal of his private discussion on the campaign's trade policy in a memo obtained by The Associated Press.
Yes, it's as if we're arguing the definition of "is" again. Read this very carefully. He's reacting to a section of a memo from the Canadians obtained by AP:
Goolsbee disputed a section that read: "Noting anxiety among many U.S. domestic audiences about the U.S. economic outlook, Goolsbee candidly acknowledged the protectionist sentiment that has emerged, particularly in the Midwest, during the primary campaign. He cautioned that this messaging should not be taken out of context and should be viewed as more about political positioning than a clear articulation of policy plans."
"This thing about `it's more about political positioning than a clear articulation of policy plans,' that's this guy's language," Goolsbee said of DeMora. "He's not quoting me.
"I certainly did not use that phrase in any way," Goolsbee said.
Note carefully what he says. He claims he didn't use "that phrase" in any way. But he says nothing about whether he conveyed those sentiments in different words. He is being completely literal and using that as a backhanded way of denying the sentiment by implication. More on the memo:
Goolsbee "was frank in saying that the primary campaign has been necessarily domestically focused, particularly in the Midwest, and that much of the rhetoric that may be perceived to be protectionist is more reflective of political maneuvering than policy," the memo's introduction said. "On NAFTA, Goolsbee suggested that Obama is less about fundamentally changing the agreement and more in favour of strengthening/clarifying language on labour mobility and environment and trying to establish these as more `core' principles of the agreement."
Goolsbee said that sentence is true and consistent with Obama's position. But he said other portions of the memo were inaccurate.
Heh ... yup, they got the part that tracks with his new story correct, but that which doesn't, well they're the ones who are inaccurate. This from a guy who was in on the denial end of the story until the memo showed up.
And it gets worse:
He said he has been surprised that such a banal and trivial meeting with a low-level consulate official has created so much controversy and resulted in such an inaccurate depiction. He said he was invited to the consulate to meet the officials and get a tour.
The meeting was with Joseph DeMora, who works for the consulate, and included the consul general in Chicago, Georges Rioux, who will be glad to know he's considered a low-level consulate official by Goolsbee.
It was an "introductory" visit and it appears Goolsbee was a little full of himself and probably spouted off, "reassuring" a nervous Canadian consulate that they shouldn't concern themselves too deeply with that which was mostly campaign rhetoric.
Seems a perfectly plausible scenario dutifully recorded by a consulate functionary who has no reason to make anything up. Given Goolsbee's "truth index" to this point, I'm forced to go with the consulate version.
And for the Obama campaign, a black eye and significant charge of politics as usual - say whatever you have to say, depending on the mood of the crowd, to get those votes. That's a "change", isn't it?
UPDATE: The story is certainly being played up by the Clinton campaign. They recognize the political value of the story in countering the "change" rhetoric spouted by the Obama campaign:
[Howard] WOLFSON: ... And I think, look, what voters in Ohio care about today is the fact that they're learning that a key policy adviser to Senator Obama was telling one thing to the Canadians about Senator Obama's NAFTA position while Senator Obama was saying another thing to folks in Ohio.
[Joe] SCARBOROUGH: That broke over the wires last night, didn't it?
[Howard] WOLFSON: A major piece that broke overnight, you know. For days the Obama campaign has issued denials, half-denials, quarter-denials, evasive denials, and we now know that the gentleman who is Senator Obama's chief economics adviser, who was an integral part of his campaign, told the Canadians, you know, Senator Obama is going to say some is negative things about NAFTA, but that's just political rhetoric.
Let me just be absolutely clear what happened, when I gave you that information, that was the information I had at the time. The Canadian Consulate in Chicago contacted one of my advisers, Austan Goolsbee, on their own initiative, invited them down to meet with them. He met with them as a courtesy. At some point they strated talking about trade and Nafta and the Canadian Embassy confirmed that he said exactly what I have been saying on the campaign trail.
Hmmm ... as I recall the "information" he had "at the time" flatly denied the meeting had taken place. Period.
So somebody fibbed. Was it this paragon of a consultant Goolsbee or someone else? It seems Obama doesn't really understand that it is about that point for which most of us want clarification. Who reported to him that there was no such meeting in the first place? And if it was Goolsbee, why should we believe him when he says he didn't try to reassure the Canadians that Obama's NAFTA talk was campaign rhetoric not to be taken seriously - especially when that was the impression he left on at least one Canadian consulate participant who wrote the memo saying as much?
There is communication between advisers, politicians, bosses, journalists, generally educated people, all the time, everywhere, and only one common thread links them all—the other side always, but always, misunderstands, misquotes, misses the point!
It’s as though we’re back in Babel on the day the languages were confounded, when brother asked brother to throw him a brick, and brother killed brother for insulting him!
Now I just hope no-one accuses Obama of "black-mailing".