On March 3, the day before the critical primaries, Clinton accused Obama of hypocracy, criticizing NAFTA in speeches while having no intention of following through with his comments. This made headlines the day of the primaries and was carried the evening before. The remark by Clinton was made to Ohio voters who are highly concerned about NAFTA. She worked it into several of her themes. “I don’t just criticize [NAFTA]. I don’t have my campaign go tell a foreign government behind closed doors: ‘That’s just politics. Don’t pay attention to it'” Her campaign even ran radio ads in Ohio on the subject the evening before the vote.
Clinton won in Ohio by a more convincing margin than say Texas, effectively curbing the movement toward Obama over the last two months in that state. This is also an old “dirty trick,” to say something questionable on the eve of a primary before the target can respond meaningfully and before research can be done.
The Globe and Mail investigated this report and reported after the primaries on March 5 that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s most senior political staffer had told reporters that Clinton’s staff had been in touch and advised that the campaign rhetoric about NAFTA meant nothing. It also reported that when this was reported in Canada Clinton was mentioned as a source and attention was drawn to a memo about an Obama advisor who had had a conversation with the a diplomat in Chicago.
Thus, Clinton was not only first mentioned in this respect, but the Canadian report included her as well. Nonetheless she timed her disclosure for election eve and accused Obama of hypocracy while acting rather sanctimonious about never ever doing any such thing herself.
In my mind when a newspaper, such as The Globe and Mail, disputes something a candidate says, particularly an accusation made on election eve without meaningful opportunity to investigate or rebut, people should talk about it. This sort of thing should be discouraged; it’s a cheap trick, whether its done by Clinton, Obama or anyone else.
Subsequently of course the Prime Minister has denied whispered reassurances from the Clinton camp and the Canadian diplomat has withdrawn the remark in his memo saying it was not accurate. I could have waited a week to see what the status was going to be. The Globe and Mail article was accurate. The only thing that happened after the article was that the Canadian government withdrew all comments about the assurances it was getting from both candidates, or their advisers.
As an aside, I think there are only two worthy topics out of this: Clinton’s campaign strategy; and Obama’s ineffectual handling of it.