Commentary Magazine


Topic: Austan Goolsbee

An Ethics Code for Economists

The Times is reporting this morning that academic economists are considering an ethics code for the profession, something most other disciplines already have.

Naturally, there is opposition. Robert E. Lucas Jr. of the University of Chicago and winner of the Nobel Prize in economics is quoted as saying, “What disciplines economics, like any science, is whether your work can be replicated. It either stands up or it doesn’t. Your motivations and whatnot are secondary.” That, of course, is true up to a point. But economics is hardly the equivalent of, say, physics. Physics is a “hard science”; economics is squishy soft at best. Physics has only one basic theory; economics has many, often flatly at odds with each other. (I remember a doctor telling me once that “when there are a dozen treatments for a particular condition, you know that none of them are any damn good.”) And Lucas’s comment only applies to the academic literature, most of which is unintelligible to the man in the street (and not a few students taking Economics 101).

The real problem is that economics and politics are inextricably bound together. And politicians lie as often and as easily as they breathe. Indeed, the discipline was known as “political economy” in the 19th century. Economists often move between the academic and political realms, a professor one year, a chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors the next, and then back to academia. The council’s current chairman, Austan Goolsbee, is on leave from the University of Chicago. His predecessor, Christina Romer, was a professor at Berkeley before coming to the White House and is back there again. And they often have remunerative moonlighting gigs as well. Laura D’Andrea Tyson was chairman of the council in the Clinton years. She’s now a professor at Berkeley. She also sits on the board of Morgan Stanley, one of Wall Street’s biggest banks.

When an economist is writing a op-ed or being quoted in the popular media, as opposed to an academic paper, that’s at least as much politics as science. The various hats they wear should all be disclosed. That seems so simple that even an economist should be able to grasp it.

The Times is reporting this morning that academic economists are considering an ethics code for the profession, something most other disciplines already have.

Naturally, there is opposition. Robert E. Lucas Jr. of the University of Chicago and winner of the Nobel Prize in economics is quoted as saying, “What disciplines economics, like any science, is whether your work can be replicated. It either stands up or it doesn’t. Your motivations and whatnot are secondary.” That, of course, is true up to a point. But economics is hardly the equivalent of, say, physics. Physics is a “hard science”; economics is squishy soft at best. Physics has only one basic theory; economics has many, often flatly at odds with each other. (I remember a doctor telling me once that “when there are a dozen treatments for a particular condition, you know that none of them are any damn good.”) And Lucas’s comment only applies to the academic literature, most of which is unintelligible to the man in the street (and not a few students taking Economics 101).

The real problem is that economics and politics are inextricably bound together. And politicians lie as often and as easily as they breathe. Indeed, the discipline was known as “political economy” in the 19th century. Economists often move between the academic and political realms, a professor one year, a chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors the next, and then back to academia. The council’s current chairman, Austan Goolsbee, is on leave from the University of Chicago. His predecessor, Christina Romer, was a professor at Berkeley before coming to the White House and is back there again. And they often have remunerative moonlighting gigs as well. Laura D’Andrea Tyson was chairman of the council in the Clinton years. She’s now a professor at Berkeley. She also sits on the board of Morgan Stanley, one of Wall Street’s biggest banks.

When an economist is writing a op-ed or being quoted in the popular media, as opposed to an academic paper, that’s at least as much politics as science. The various hats they wear should all be disclosed. That seems so simple that even an economist should be able to grasp it.

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Now Liberal Women Are Mad at Him Too

Young people, old people, Hispanics, and independents have all grown weary of Obama. His base is grouchy, sensing that a deluge is coming. And now the self-appointed feminist bean counters are in a snit:

President Obama is facing new criticism from women’s rights groups for failing to nominate a woman to his core group of economic advisers.

Obama on Friday named longtime adviser Austan Goolsbee to head the Council of Economic Advisers after Christina Romer left to return to the University of California at Berkeley.

Women’s rights groups — including the National Organization for Women (NOW) and The New Agenda — have sharply criticized the White House for not including more women in prominent positions overseeing the economy and financial policy.

Not enough for them to have the secretary of state, the secretary of health and human services, the labor secretary, two new Supreme Court justices, and a potential chief of staff (Valerie Jarrett). You can almost sympathize with the White House. Almost – because it, along with every other Democratic administration in recent history, has played the diversity game, proudly showing off its women and minorities as evidence of its anti-bias credentials. Apparently, one of the rules now in this tiresome game is that a woman has to substitute for a woman, or a woman has to be named in the same policy area.

Good golly. If anything, women’s groups should be pleased that their sisters haven’t been sullied by association with possibly the worst economic team since Herbert Hoover. All those men will have a blot on their records, but not the liberal sisterhood.

This sure does seem badly out of date, a creaky remnant of the 1970s: “‘The problem with the president insulating himself with the old boys around him is that he is really not getting information about how people are struggling, how women are struggling,’ Terry O’Neill, head of NOW, said earlier last week.” Do people believe this claptrap anymore?

The real motive, however, may be to pressure the Obami into appointing a left-wing zealot (Elizabeth Warren) to head up the new consumer financial protection office. Maybe if they guilt-trip him, they’ll get their gal in the spot. Well, if Obama is willing to use yet another recess appointment, it’s possible, but there’s little chance she’ll get through the Senate. The current Senate (not to mention the next one) will be reluctant to rubber-stamp another extremist.

You wonder how much longer NOW will be in business. Perhaps NOW and the NAACP should get together for a going-out-of-business sale. Really, the rest of us have moved on. Isn’t it time they did too?

Young people, old people, Hispanics, and independents have all grown weary of Obama. His base is grouchy, sensing that a deluge is coming. And now the self-appointed feminist bean counters are in a snit:

President Obama is facing new criticism from women’s rights groups for failing to nominate a woman to his core group of economic advisers.

Obama on Friday named longtime adviser Austan Goolsbee to head the Council of Economic Advisers after Christina Romer left to return to the University of California at Berkeley.

Women’s rights groups — including the National Organization for Women (NOW) and The New Agenda — have sharply criticized the White House for not including more women in prominent positions overseeing the economy and financial policy.

Not enough for them to have the secretary of state, the secretary of health and human services, the labor secretary, two new Supreme Court justices, and a potential chief of staff (Valerie Jarrett). You can almost sympathize with the White House. Almost – because it, along with every other Democratic administration in recent history, has played the diversity game, proudly showing off its women and minorities as evidence of its anti-bias credentials. Apparently, one of the rules now in this tiresome game is that a woman has to substitute for a woman, or a woman has to be named in the same policy area.

Good golly. If anything, women’s groups should be pleased that their sisters haven’t been sullied by association with possibly the worst economic team since Herbert Hoover. All those men will have a blot on their records, but not the liberal sisterhood.

This sure does seem badly out of date, a creaky remnant of the 1970s: “‘The problem with the president insulating himself with the old boys around him is that he is really not getting information about how people are struggling, how women are struggling,’ Terry O’Neill, head of NOW, said earlier last week.” Do people believe this claptrap anymore?

The real motive, however, may be to pressure the Obami into appointing a left-wing zealot (Elizabeth Warren) to head up the new consumer financial protection office. Maybe if they guilt-trip him, they’ll get their gal in the spot. Well, if Obama is willing to use yet another recess appointment, it’s possible, but there’s little chance she’ll get through the Senate. The current Senate (not to mention the next one) will be reluctant to rubber-stamp another extremist.

You wonder how much longer NOW will be in business. Perhaps NOW and the NAACP should get together for a going-out-of-business sale. Really, the rest of us have moved on. Isn’t it time they did too?

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Nothing to See Here

Not long after Rudy Giuliani announced his foreign policy advisory team last year, liberal bloggers and journalists cried that the group represented “AIPAC’s Dream Team” (Harper’s Ken Silverstein), was ginning to implement “bloody, bloody, bloody foreign policy” (Matthew Yglesias) and that “RUDY GIULIANI WILL KILL US ALL” (The American Prospect). One could simultaneously disagree with such unhinged assessments of what a Giuliani foreign policy might look like and still believe that the essence of liberal criticism was not unfair: to a large degree, we can divine what a candidate thinks based upon the sort of people from whom he seeks counsel.

This non-partisan analytical instrument is useless, apparently, when it comes to the people advising Barack Obama. Over the past few months, several of Barack Obama’s advisers (foreign policy advisers in particular) have entered the spotlight for things they have said or written which are supposedly at odds with the beliefs of the candidate for whom they work. First, there was the incident in which Obama’s top economics advisor, Austan Goolsbee, reassured Canadian consular officials in Chicago that Obama’s anti-NAFTA position wasn’t sincere. Then, there was the now-departed Samantha Power, who told the BBC that Barack Obama’s real position on Iraq withdrawal was not, in actual fact, what he’d been saying on the campaign trail. Like Goolsbee, we were told at the time that Ms. Power was “just” an adviser — a past one, at this point — and that what she said about the Iraq War is ultimately irrelevant.

On a similar note, last week we discovered — thanks to the tireless reporting of the New York Sun’s Eli Lake — that Colin Kahl, head of Obama’s Iraq working group, wrote a paper calling for 80,000 American troops to stay in Iraq until at least 2010. Susan Rice, another Obama foreign policy adviser, told Lake that, “Barack Obama cannot be held accountable for what we all write.” Finally, a 2003 interview with top Obama adviser Tony McPeak recently surfaced in which the former Chief of Staff of the Air Force said of Iraq, “We’ll be there a century, hopefully. If it works right.” This is the exact same sentiment that John McCain expressed in his much-distorted “100 years” remark.

Of course, given the pattern I’ve elucidated, I presume that we cannot hastily jump to the conclusion that McPeak — like Power, Kahl and Goolsbee before him, and who knows how many advisers into the future — necessarily represents the views of Barack Obama. A great journalistic assignment for an enterprising young reporter would be to find out what Obama does believe.

Not long after Rudy Giuliani announced his foreign policy advisory team last year, liberal bloggers and journalists cried that the group represented “AIPAC’s Dream Team” (Harper’s Ken Silverstein), was ginning to implement “bloody, bloody, bloody foreign policy” (Matthew Yglesias) and that “RUDY GIULIANI WILL KILL US ALL” (The American Prospect). One could simultaneously disagree with such unhinged assessments of what a Giuliani foreign policy might look like and still believe that the essence of liberal criticism was not unfair: to a large degree, we can divine what a candidate thinks based upon the sort of people from whom he seeks counsel.

This non-partisan analytical instrument is useless, apparently, when it comes to the people advising Barack Obama. Over the past few months, several of Barack Obama’s advisers (foreign policy advisers in particular) have entered the spotlight for things they have said or written which are supposedly at odds with the beliefs of the candidate for whom they work. First, there was the incident in which Obama’s top economics advisor, Austan Goolsbee, reassured Canadian consular officials in Chicago that Obama’s anti-NAFTA position wasn’t sincere. Then, there was the now-departed Samantha Power, who told the BBC that Barack Obama’s real position on Iraq withdrawal was not, in actual fact, what he’d been saying on the campaign trail. Like Goolsbee, we were told at the time that Ms. Power was “just” an adviser — a past one, at this point — and that what she said about the Iraq War is ultimately irrelevant.

On a similar note, last week we discovered — thanks to the tireless reporting of the New York Sun’s Eli Lake — that Colin Kahl, head of Obama’s Iraq working group, wrote a paper calling for 80,000 American troops to stay in Iraq until at least 2010. Susan Rice, another Obama foreign policy adviser, told Lake that, “Barack Obama cannot be held accountable for what we all write.” Finally, a 2003 interview with top Obama adviser Tony McPeak recently surfaced in which the former Chief of Staff of the Air Force said of Iraq, “We’ll be there a century, hopefully. If it works right.” This is the exact same sentiment that John McCain expressed in his much-distorted “100 years” remark.

Of course, given the pattern I’ve elucidated, I presume that we cannot hastily jump to the conclusion that McPeak — like Power, Kahl and Goolsbee before him, and who knows how many advisers into the future — necessarily represents the views of Barack Obama. A great journalistic assignment for an enterprising young reporter would be to find out what Obama does believe.

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The Politics of Cynicism

Two revelations in the past couple of weeks have raised the question of whether Barack Obama’s “politics of hope” is transmogrifying into the politics of cynicism.

First we learned that Austan Goolsbee, Obama’s chief economic adviser, was cited in a memo by a Canadian consular official in Chicago as saying in a private meeting that Obama’s vocal opposition to NAFTA doesn’t reflect his real views. Rather, according to the memo, Obama’s arguments are based on political positioning. (Goolsbee disputes the characterization of the memo.) We then we learned that Samantha Power, at the time a key Obama foreign policy adviser (she has since resigned for calling Hillary Clinton a “monster”), said on the BBC TV show Hardtalk said that Obama’s commitment to withdraw all U.S. combat troops within 16 months is simply a “best-case scenario.”

The Hardtalk host asked, “So what the American public thinks is a commitment to get combat forces out in 16 months isn’t a commitment?”

Power went on to tell the New Statesman in an interview:

You can’t make a commitment in March 2008 about what circumstances will be like in January of 2009. He will, of course, not rely on some plan that he’s crafted as a presidential candidate or a U.S. Senator. He will rely upon a plan–an operational plan–that he pulls together in consultation with people who are on the ground to whom he doesn’t have daily access now, as a result of not being the president.

The Obama campaign reacted by saying that his commitment to withdraw combat troops within 16 months is “rock solid.”

As it happens, I hope both Goolsbee and Power are right in what they say about Senator Obama’s true views on both NAFTA and Iraq. Their positions are certainly more responsible than the positions Senator Obama has taken on the campaign trail.

At the same time, Obama is running as a candidate who will transcend the usual politics. He’s spoken out forcefully against cynicism and fashioned himself as the candidate of “hope” and “change”–someone whom we can believe in, someone whose words and commitments can be counted on. So when two top aides are essentially saying that we shouldn’t take all that seriously what Obama is saying on two key issues, it raises question marks about his authenticity and candor. As the New York Times put it on Saturday, “[the Power controversy] is the second time in two weeks that the actions of a top aide have forced Mr. Obama to defend the idea that he means what he says–hardly the ideal situation for a candidate who asks voters to trust his judgment and integrity.”

Obama is apparently making promises that he knows will be problematic to keep if he were to win the presidency. But by putting forward the belief that he is something different, and something better, than most politicians, he’s creating problems for himself. The best thing for Obama to do is to run his campaign in an honest manner, one in which he says what he believes and qualifies what deserves qualification. Among the advantages of this approach is that it wouldn’t require him to say one thing now, for public (liberal) consumption, and plan to do something different if he were elected president.

In a powerful 1991 speech the playwright Vaclav Havel, then president of Czechoslovakia, spoke about the temptations of political power. In his remarks Havel said

I am one of those people who consider their term in political office as an expression of responsibility and duty toward the whole community, and even as a sort of sacrifice. But, observing other politicians whom I know very well and who make the same claim, I feel compelled again and again to examine my own motives and ask whether I am not beginning to deceive myself . . . Those who claim that politics is a dirty business are lying to us. Politics is work of a kind that requires especially pure people, because it is especially easy to become morally tainted. So easy, in fact, that a less vigilant spirit may not notice it happening at all.

I’ve had favorable things to say about Senator Obama, who has struck me as a fairly admirable, if left-leaning, figure. But it’s fair to ask now, in light of what we’re learning about Senator Obama, whether the Audacity of hope is gradually giving way to the audacity of politics.

Two revelations in the past couple of weeks have raised the question of whether Barack Obama’s “politics of hope” is transmogrifying into the politics of cynicism.

First we learned that Austan Goolsbee, Obama’s chief economic adviser, was cited in a memo by a Canadian consular official in Chicago as saying in a private meeting that Obama’s vocal opposition to NAFTA doesn’t reflect his real views. Rather, according to the memo, Obama’s arguments are based on political positioning. (Goolsbee disputes the characterization of the memo.) We then we learned that Samantha Power, at the time a key Obama foreign policy adviser (she has since resigned for calling Hillary Clinton a “monster”), said on the BBC TV show Hardtalk said that Obama’s commitment to withdraw all U.S. combat troops within 16 months is simply a “best-case scenario.”

The Hardtalk host asked, “So what the American public thinks is a commitment to get combat forces out in 16 months isn’t a commitment?”

Power went on to tell the New Statesman in an interview:

You can’t make a commitment in March 2008 about what circumstances will be like in January of 2009. He will, of course, not rely on some plan that he’s crafted as a presidential candidate or a U.S. Senator. He will rely upon a plan–an operational plan–that he pulls together in consultation with people who are on the ground to whom he doesn’t have daily access now, as a result of not being the president.

The Obama campaign reacted by saying that his commitment to withdraw combat troops within 16 months is “rock solid.”

As it happens, I hope both Goolsbee and Power are right in what they say about Senator Obama’s true views on both NAFTA and Iraq. Their positions are certainly more responsible than the positions Senator Obama has taken on the campaign trail.

At the same time, Obama is running as a candidate who will transcend the usual politics. He’s spoken out forcefully against cynicism and fashioned himself as the candidate of “hope” and “change”–someone whom we can believe in, someone whose words and commitments can be counted on. So when two top aides are essentially saying that we shouldn’t take all that seriously what Obama is saying on two key issues, it raises question marks about his authenticity and candor. As the New York Times put it on Saturday, “[the Power controversy] is the second time in two weeks that the actions of a top aide have forced Mr. Obama to defend the idea that he means what he says–hardly the ideal situation for a candidate who asks voters to trust his judgment and integrity.”

Obama is apparently making promises that he knows will be problematic to keep if he were to win the presidency. But by putting forward the belief that he is something different, and something better, than most politicians, he’s creating problems for himself. The best thing for Obama to do is to run his campaign in an honest manner, one in which he says what he believes and qualifies what deserves qualification. Among the advantages of this approach is that it wouldn’t require him to say one thing now, for public (liberal) consumption, and plan to do something different if he were elected president.

In a powerful 1991 speech the playwright Vaclav Havel, then president of Czechoslovakia, spoke about the temptations of political power. In his remarks Havel said

I am one of those people who consider their term in political office as an expression of responsibility and duty toward the whole community, and even as a sort of sacrifice. But, observing other politicians whom I know very well and who make the same claim, I feel compelled again and again to examine my own motives and ask whether I am not beginning to deceive myself . . . Those who claim that politics is a dirty business are lying to us. Politics is work of a kind that requires especially pure people, because it is especially easy to become morally tainted. So easy, in fact, that a less vigilant spirit may not notice it happening at all.

I’ve had favorable things to say about Senator Obama, who has struck me as a fairly admirable, if left-leaning, figure. But it’s fair to ask now, in light of what we’re learning about Senator Obama, whether the Audacity of hope is gradually giving way to the audacity of politics.

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Re: No Great Shakes Either

Samantha Power has resigned, but not before she was caught telling the BBC “never mind” about Obama’s promise to pull out of Iraq in 16 months. It appears to be a full time job for Barack Obama’s advisers, like Power and Austan Goolsbee, to tell people around the world that their candidate does not mean what he says.

On one hand, this could be good news: Obama might not really favor ripping up NAFTA and may not really mean to yank American troops out of Iraq immediately and without regard to the conditions on the ground. However, I suspect the Obama team will quickly come rushing forward to say, “No! No! We really do believe in economic and military retreat as an article of American foreign policy.” John McCain must be rubbing that lucky penny he keeps in his pocket. Political gifts like this don’t come along every day.

Samantha Power has resigned, but not before she was caught telling the BBC “never mind” about Obama’s promise to pull out of Iraq in 16 months. It appears to be a full time job for Barack Obama’s advisers, like Power and Austan Goolsbee, to tell people around the world that their candidate does not mean what he says.

On one hand, this could be good news: Obama might not really favor ripping up NAFTA and may not really mean to yank American troops out of Iraq immediately and without regard to the conditions on the ground. However, I suspect the Obama team will quickly come rushing forward to say, “No! No! We really do believe in economic and military retreat as an article of American foreign policy.” John McCain must be rubbing that lucky penny he keeps in his pocket. Political gifts like this don’t come along every day.

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NAFTA, Obama, and The Politics of Disingenuousness

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama last week took turns smashing NAFTA with rhetorical baseball bats as though it were a birthday pinata that had failed to open and pour its goodies out on the heads of unfortunate Ohioans. Hillary was forced, during that debate, to address the fact that she was lying through her teeth about the whole business, since she had said in 2004 that NAFTA had been good for America. This left Obama seemingly alone as an honest-to-goodness free-trade-basher. Then came the news that Obama’s chief economic adviser, Austan Goolsbee, had told the Canadian consul in Chicago that Obama didn’t mean what he was saying about NAFTA – and several days of backing and forthing, with the Canadians saying yes indeed Goolsbee had said it and Goolsbee saying he hadn’t said it that way. And of course Goolsbee is lying, because what possible incentive could the Canadian consul in Chicago have had to misrepresent their conversation in a private memo?

The proposals being offered in Ohio by the Democrats — pausing NAFTA, reopening NAFTA, doodling on NAFTA likethe treaty was a menu at Applebee’s — are not remotely serious, and will not be undertaken by either candidate should either candidate become president. What they are talking about cannot be done. NAFTA has the status of settled international law. We could abrogate it entirely, perhaps, but we cannot revise it at will, since there are two other signatories to it who might object to such a ploy.

More important than that, those two signatories (Mexico and Canada) are our largest trading partners, and it is not believable that two candidates who claim their primary foreign-policy platform is to correct the international image of the United States as a buccaneering unilateralist will actually dedicate a presidency to an act of buccaneering unilateralism the likes of which the world has never before seen.

Democrats are trying to ignite populist fire among voters in rust-belt states, and are doing so with an astonishing degree of disingenuousness. The only comparable act of disingenuousness I can think of is the repeated promise, made by Bill Clinton and by George W. Bush in election years as they hungered after Jewish contributions, that they would move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. They said it, knowing full well they would never actually attempt it, and my guess is, somebody will say it again this year too. And not do it.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama last week took turns smashing NAFTA with rhetorical baseball bats as though it were a birthday pinata that had failed to open and pour its goodies out on the heads of unfortunate Ohioans. Hillary was forced, during that debate, to address the fact that she was lying through her teeth about the whole business, since she had said in 2004 that NAFTA had been good for America. This left Obama seemingly alone as an honest-to-goodness free-trade-basher. Then came the news that Obama’s chief economic adviser, Austan Goolsbee, had told the Canadian consul in Chicago that Obama didn’t mean what he was saying about NAFTA – and several days of backing and forthing, with the Canadians saying yes indeed Goolsbee had said it and Goolsbee saying he hadn’t said it that way. And of course Goolsbee is lying, because what possible incentive could the Canadian consul in Chicago have had to misrepresent their conversation in a private memo?

The proposals being offered in Ohio by the Democrats — pausing NAFTA, reopening NAFTA, doodling on NAFTA likethe treaty was a menu at Applebee’s — are not remotely serious, and will not be undertaken by either candidate should either candidate become president. What they are talking about cannot be done. NAFTA has the status of settled international law. We could abrogate it entirely, perhaps, but we cannot revise it at will, since there are two other signatories to it who might object to such a ploy.

More important than that, those two signatories (Mexico and Canada) are our largest trading partners, and it is not believable that two candidates who claim their primary foreign-policy platform is to correct the international image of the United States as a buccaneering unilateralist will actually dedicate a presidency to an act of buccaneering unilateralism the likes of which the world has never before seen.

Democrats are trying to ignite populist fire among voters in rust-belt states, and are doing so with an astonishing degree of disingenuousness. The only comparable act of disingenuousness I can think of is the repeated promise, made by Bill Clinton and by George W. Bush in election years as they hungered after Jewish contributions, that they would move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. They said it, knowing full well they would never actually attempt it, and my guess is, somebody will say it again this year too. And not do it.

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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.

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.

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