Barack Obama's supporters are rushing to his defense after reports of a meeting between the campaign's senior economic adviser and Canadian government officials over trade.
The adviser, Austan Goolsbee, has disputed an account of the meeting in which he supposedly told the officials that Obama was railing against the North American Free Trade Agreement on the campaign trail for political reason, but wasn't really as critical of it.
"Noting anxiety among many US domestic audiences about the US 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," one Canadian official in the meeting wrote in a memo obtained by the Associated Press.
UPDATE: The Canadian embassy in Washington, D.C., just issued a statement that appears to disavow the memo.
"In the recent report produced by the Consulate General in Chicago, there was no intention to convey, in any way, that Senator Obama and his campaign team were taking a different position in public from views expressed in private, including about NAFTA. We deeply regret any inference that may have been drawn to that effect.
"The people of the United States are in the process of choosing a new President and are fortunate to have strong and impressive candidates from both political parties," the statement continued. "Canada will not interfere in this electoral process. We look forward, however, to working with the choice of the American people in further building an unparalleled relationship with a close friend and partner."
UPDATE: The memo became an issue in the Canadian parliament today, with the opposition leader accusing the ruling party of interfering in the Democratic primary and the prime minister expressing regret over the episode.
Still, Hillary Clinton's campaign, calling the issue "NAFTA-gate," is accusing Obama of misleading voters in Ohio, where trade is a crucial issue for Tuesday's primary.
Ohio Governor Ted Strickland said at a rally this morning with Clinton in Toledo that Obama's vow to renegotiate NAFTA and be tough on trade is "just political rhetoric." "Well, we people in Ohio believe that you ought to say what you mean and you ought to mean what you say," Strickland said.
The Change to Win labor federation issued a statement saying, "Our unions decided to endorse Senator Barack Obama because of his strong stand on the issue of fair trade. In all of our discussions with him, it became clear that Senator Obama is the strongest candidate to protect America's workers and the environment through a new trade policy.
"We are disappointed that the Clinton campaign has decided to peddle a memo from a low-level bureaucrat of an anti-worker Canadian administration that is in complete contradiction to the actual positions of Senator Obama," the statement continued. "Our members should remember that it was the Clinton Administration that was the driving force behind the passage of NAFTA in 1993 and its aggressive campaign for NAFTA is a big reason the Democrats lost the House in 1994."