Further updated: Naftagate

Curiouser and curiouser. Commenters on my previous post draw my attention to reports that the Clinton campaign also contacted Canadian officials to tell them the very thing that she excoriated Obama's adviser, Austan Goolsbee, for saying--namely, to take all the anti-NAFTA stuff with a grain of salt, it was all just politics. This is from AFP:

OTTAWA (AFP) -- US presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton's campaign, while rapping rival Barack Obama for telling US voters he is anti-NAFTA and saying otherwise to Canada, tried to reassure Canada too, local media said Thursday.

A top aide of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper meanwhile was identified as the likely source of an alleged leak that provoked a diplomatic fiasco involving both US Democratic presidential contenders.

Last month, Harper's chief of staff, Ian Brodie, purportedly made impromptu remarks to journalists about Clinton's US presidential bid, said Canadian reports.
The offhand comments apparently sought to downplay the potential impact on Canada of Clinton and Obama's attacks on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) during stops in the US state of Ohio.

Brodie told reporters that the Clinton campaign had called the Canadian embassy in Washington to tell officials to take her anti-NAFTA rhetoric "with a grain of salt," said local media.

It beggars belief that if this is true, and Hillary knew about it, she would have made such a big deal about the Goolsbee meeting. This is what she said just before the Ohio vote:

NAFTA--I don't just criticize it. I don't have my campaign go tell a foreign government behind closed doors, "That's just politics. Don't pay attention to it."

I thought this campaign had eroded my capacity to be surprised by politics. I was wrong.


The NYT says (after getting around to this in the story's eighth paragraph) that the Canadian official who mentioned the Clinton campaign's intervention was muddled--or created the appearance of being muddled. Or at least, I think that's what it says.

But The Canadian Press said that this year Mr. Brodie did more than talk up the budget. According to the news agency, he also told a group of CTV employees that the campaign of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York had contacted the Canadian government and told it "not to worry" about her promise to reopen the trade agreement. Canada's economy is heavily dependent on trade and most of its exports go to the United States, making Nafta a delicate issue.

The news agency suggests that CTV picked up on Mr. Brodie's remarks and began reporting the story. It apparently found, however, that in fact it was the Obama campaign that had offered the reassurances to Canadian diplomats.

Further update:

Is this the last word on this bizarre tale? (Dumb question, no doubt.)

OTTAWA -- Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton never gave Canada any secret assurances about the future of NAFTA such as those allegedly offered by Barack Obama's campaign, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office said Friday.

With the NAFTA affair swirling over the U.S. election and Canadian officials skittish about saying anything else that might influence the race, it took the PMO two days to deliver the information.

After being asked whether Canadian officials asked for -- or received -- any briefings from a Clinton campaign representative outlining her plans on NAFTA, a spokeswoman for the prime minister offered a response Friday.

"The answer is no, they did not," said Harper spokeswoman Sandra Buckler.