Friday, February 29, 2008

Is Harper Interfering in the US Election?

That's the question that immediately came to mind when I read this ABC News story which names Harper's chief of staff, Ian Brodie, as the person who leaked the Obama/NAFTA story to CTV on Wednesday. Here's the money quote from that article that has denials and non-denials being flung about so carelessly now:

Within the last month, a top staff member for Obama's campaign telephoned Michael Wilson, Canada's ambassador to the United States, and warned him that Obama would speak out against NAFTA, according to Canadian sources.

The staff member reassured Wilson that the criticisms would only be campaign rhetoric, and should not be taken at face value.

According to ABC News:

Both the Canadian Embassy and the Obama campaign have repeatedly denied the CTV report.

However, a source close to the Canadian prime minister's office tells ABC News that the original communication was between Austan Goolsbee, Obama's senior economic adviser and an economics professor at the University of Chicago, and Georges Rioux, Canada's consul general in Chicago, about Obama's rhetoric against NAFTA.

According to the source, Wilson exaggerated the communication between the Obama campaign and the Canadian official during discussions this week with Ian Brodie, the prime minister's chief of staff, who leaked the story to CTV.

I had suspected from the outset that the Harper government was the source of that story since any talk of reforming NAFTA obviously has them worried - to the point where David Emerson threatened that oil and other energy resources might be on the table if a future Democratic president insisted on renegotiating the agreement - as both Clinton and Obama said they would during Tuesday nite's Ohio debate.

Putting aside the accusations flying back and forth between the campaigns, our government and various other unnamed sources, what we clearly have here is Harper's chief of staff trying to influence the Democratic primaries. NAFTA is a huge issue in states like Ohio and Texas, which are holding their primaries next Tuesday. And, with Emerson issuing his threats this week, it looks like it's a very coordinated effort coming straight from the top.


The latest CTV News update: Obama campaign mum on NAFTA contact with Canada

The TO Star: Double-teaming NAFTA, for now

Susan Delacourt: Sourcing a cross-border smear. She notes what I spotted as well - you have someone "close to the Prime Minister's office" apparently slamming Ian Brodie and Michael Wilson. What's that about? Or are they all just so bloody incompetent that they have absolutely no idea what they're even talking about anymore? She's also posted an e-mail by Bob Rae on the entire affair. "This is Republican International in action," Rae writes.

(h/t to steve9631 at Daily Kos for pointing the way to the ABC News story.)

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