Canadian Public Broadcasting Exonerates Obama
by mattw, Tue Mar 04, 2008 at 10:01:30 PM EST
I think it's safe to say that the turmoil surrounding the so-called "NAFTAgate" played into Hillary's strong performance tonight. On the heels of "Super Tuesday II", CBC, Canada's Public Broadcaster, has done a piece on the NAFTA scandal.
The CBC piece details the involvement of the conservative Harper government in creating a sensationalized leak, which itself had almost no resemblance to the actual memo, which itself is now being disclaimed as perhaps not accurate at all. We peel off layers of deception, and there is nothing left at all, except a successful attempt to promote bloodletting among Democrats.
Video from CBC:
This piece details the sordid affair, that begins not with Obama contacting Canada, but nervous Canadians contacting the campaigns. Austan Goolsbee agreed to accept an invitation from Canadians, who pressed him for answers about protectionist sentiments emerging in the US Presidential election. He tried to reassure them that Obama did not want to do away with the agreement, but wanted to add labor and environmental protections.
Someone in the Harper government - Prime Minister of Canada and a member of their Conservative Party - apparently decided to leak a sensational lie that bears a very loose resemblance of the truth. A source leaked to CTV that the Obama campaign had called Michael Wilson, Canadian Ambassador to the US, and warned them that Obama was going to talk tough on NAFTA, but it would be just talk.
According to CBC, all the details were wrong. Canada contacted the campaigns. Michael Wilson was not involved. And, most damning, they are now admitting that the memo at the heart of the controversy "may not accurately reflect what they were told".
In other words, according to CBC, this scandal was manufactured out of whole cloth. Goolsbee said something consistent with Obama's official position - that he wanted protections added, but it wasn't going to be a fundamental change or revocation of NAFTA, and that Obama was not a protectionist. This was morphed somewhat going into the memo, and now the embassy admits they "may have misrepresented the Obama advisor". Even after the memo misrepresented Obama, the Harper government took it a step further and then leaked a completely fantastic version of the story to the press, in order to maximize the bloodletting.
In short, Chris Bowers was right. This whole thing is clever maneuvering on the part of the Harper government to bolster McCain by sowing dissent among Democrats.
We have long had many of these pieces. The sensational misrepresentation of the original CTV story was shocking. But now CBC has cleared the air, with the final note from the embassy that they "may have misrepresented the Obama advisor". In the end, there's nothing to the story but air. It all boiled down to a memo, which was far less dramatic in content than the first story that ran, and now they are even disclaiming the accuracy of the memo.
In short, people have been duped. With the memo disclaimed, there is nothing left to support this story.
What about the denial?
Much has been made of Obama's looking right into a camera and claiming the story was "completely false". I want to address this in particular because of the timing.
2/27 11pm - CTV breaks initial story, claiming the Obama campaign called Canada to warn them he would be saying something he didn't mean. A shocking claim to a shocking level of duplicity.
2/28 - The story makes the rounds, absolutely exploding. Denials about, such as the Canadian embassy flatly denying it.
2/29 - Obama's TV interview where he unequivocally denies the story.
3/3 - Now, finally, the memo is out. Not only does the memo not even approach the level of duplicity implied by the original CTV story, but according to CBC, after the Embassy staff reviewed the notes about the meeting, they now believe they may have misrepresented Goolsbee's comments.
Given this timeline, and the drastic change in the story, it is very easy to see why Obama was comfortable with a blanket denial. The claims of the original story bear so little resemblance to what eventually surfaced that it is unlikely Obama even connected the story to Goolsbee's meeting, given that the talk of NAFTA took up only a few minutes of that meeting - even if Obama knew of the particulars of that meeting. (Given his schedule, also not a given.)
In the end, the leak by the Harper government achieved its goal - it helped Hillary on her offensive and has helped ensure that the Democratic primary will drag on, causing Democrats to spend money fighting each other instead of John McCain, and giving McCain more time without a clear Democratic nominee, allowing him to catch up to our fundraising ability.
I don't think any of this casts any aspersion on Hillary's campaign or candidacy. She was the unwitting beneficiary, but not the cause. However, I think the eagerness of some to attack and tear down our candidates is something we - as people who want to see a Democrat in the White House - need to be cautious with. Having a spirited debate over an issue - like the difference in our candidates' health care plans - is one thing. Letting conservative forces drum up outrage with fake news stories, on the other hand, does not serve our interests. This will not be the last time we see tricks like this.
It is to the Republican advantage that we become so committed to our candidates, so myopic, so hateful of the "other side" that is keeping our candidate from their rightful nomination, that we are unwilling to use our vote or our money wisely in the general election. The Republican base is scattered. They are disorganized. They are dissatisfied with their nominee. Their last, best hope for a win relies on Democratic bloodletting reaching a historic level, leaving us too bloodied and battered to be on our game for the General Election.
It isn't fair to expect either candidate to bow out at this juncture. But I am coming to terms with the need to make a commitment to maintain a certain level of respect, so that if the "other candidate" is the winner, I am mentally and emotionally ready to take the fight where it belongs - to John McCain and the failed and irresponsible policies of George W. Bush. I firmly believe that if we put our hearts in the right place, we can make it to the convention and pick a nominee there, and still be united and ready to win.
Whatever we do, let's not let dirty tricks like the "NAFTAgate" scandal distract us from our ultimate goal.