As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

There's A Lesson in Here

It was pretty clear to me that there was something wrong with this NAFTA/Canada story. Clinton was clearly using new rhetoric in Ohio too, and the differences between them, if there were any, was that Obama was at least more committed to adding environmental and labor standards in trade deals than Clinton ever was, considering her husband and the DLC establishment to which she still has ties pushed NAFTA through the Congress in the first place. But this story, which started as an Obama staffer reaching out to the Canadian government to reassure them, was actually the other way around, with Canadian officials approaching a random Obama economic advisor for clarification, the advisor (Austan Goolsbee) affirming that Obama wanted to renegotiate but not end the pact, and the conservative Canadian government, through Prime Minister Stephen Harper's chief of staff, leaking it in the most sensational way possible. The embassy has now actively apologized for misrepresenting the story, and now we have The Globe and Mail in Toronto reporting that Hillary's people did pretty much the same doublespeak as well:

A candid comment to journalists from CTV News by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's most senior political staffer during the hurly-burly of a budget lock-up provided the initial spark in what the American media are now calling NAFTAgate.

Mr. Harper announced Wednesday that he has asked an internal security team to begin finding the source of a document leak that he characterized as being "blatantly unfair" to Senator Barack Obama [...]

The former university professor found himself in a room with CTV employees where he was quickly surrounded by a gaggle of reporters while other journalists were within earshot of other colleagues.

At the end of an extended conversation, Mr. Brodie was asked about remarks aimed by the Democratic candidates at Ohio's anti-NAFTA voters that carried serious economic implications for Canada.

Since 75 per cent of Canadian exports go to the U.S., Mr. Obama and Ms. Clinton's musings about reopening the North American free-trade pact had caused some concern.

Mr. Brodie downplayed those concerns.

"Quite a few people heard it," said one source in the room.

"He said someone from (Hillary) Clinton's campaign is telling the embassy to take it with a grain of salt. . . That someone called us and told us not to worry."

Government officials did not deny the conversation took place.

They said that Mr. Brodie sought to allay concerns about the impact of Mr. Obama and Ms. Clinton's assertion that they would re-negotiate NAFTA if elected. But they did say that Mr. Brodie had no recollection of discussing any specific candidate — either Ms. Clinton or Mr. Obama.

This of course doesn't matter now. The controversy did its job, from Harper's perspective; it extended the race and helped his buddy McCain. Obama's team can try to resurrect this controversy, but it's their fault for not nipping the story in the bud in the first place. And the media really doesn't know a goddamn thing about trade policy and how it affects working people anyway, so this becomes a he said-she said instead of a legitimate conversation about the need to implement standards that protect workers around the world from rapacious corporate interests.

The lesson is that candidates have to be forceful from the very beginning of this kind of controversy, foreign countries should not be meddling in other countries' elections, and the media should shut their mouths instead of fanning flames.

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