Commentary Magazine


Blame Canada

The flap over what Obama economic advisor, Austan Goolsbee, said to Canadian officials about Obama’s newfound fondness for protectionism just worsened. The Obama camp repeatedly denied any comments were made indicating that the Canadians should not worry about Obama’s talk of backing out of NAFTA. (What were they telling them, then–go ahead and start worrying?) A memo from the Canadian official documenting the call included this:

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.

Goolsbee’s denials were classic non-denials: he claimed the statement was not an exact quote and that it was a “ham-handed” way of charachterizing his comments. But there is no flat-out denial from Goolsbee on the substance of the remarks. This plays into the “say one thing and do another” charge that Hillary Clinton has been raising. It may be too little and too late, but I expected Clinton to drive a truck through this opening. And sure enough, a press release from the Clinton camp just hit my in-box:

I don’t think people should come to Ohio and you both give speeches that are very critical of NAFTA and you send out misleading and false information about my positions regarding NAFTA and then we find out that your chief economic advisor has gone to a foreign government and basically done the old wink-wink, don’t pay any attention this is just political rhetoric.