[digg-reddit-me]I was listening to a podcast this morning and came across some comments that I am surprised haven’t gotten more attention.
Last Friday, March 7, the Council on Foreign Relations hosted a discussion among top foreign policy advisors to Mr. Obama (Susan Rice), Ms. Clinton (Mara Rudman), and Mr. McCain (Randy Scheunemann). There’s audio of the whole event here. The event wasn’t insightful, but the tensions between the campaigns kept it from being boring. As you can imagine there were a few testy exchanges, including one where after Ms. Rudman told a rather large fib about Mr. Obama and NAFTA. More on that later.
The most revealing comment was not on foreign policy – a matter on which all of the advisors remained rather bland – but on the Democratic primaries. Mr. Scheunemann addressed Ms. Rudman:
Well, let me first address what Mara said about the experience and judgment. Can I just say, please keep running those 3 a.m. phone call ads about who you want to answer the phone – (laughter) – because we like those.
That’s right – a top McCain advisor was thanking a top Clinton advisor for softening up the likely Democratic nominee. At this point, everyone paying close attention to the Democratic primaries has noticed that short of a huge stumble by Mr. Obama, he will be the Democratic nominee. His leads in delegates, states, and the popular vote look insurmountable – and in the event he wins all of these categories, it seems extremely unlikely that the superdelegates will impose a different choice on the party. Even after Ms. Clinton’s best week in the campaign so far, she lost ground on Mr. Obama.
Yet Ms. Clinton has decided on a strategy which severely undercuts her party’s nominee against his Republican opponent – and seems extremely unlikely to win her the nomination.
I’m sure John McCain will call her to thank her after she concedes.
Less exciting, but still interesting is the other exchange I mentioned above was between Ms. Rice and Ms. Rudman. (Although many people missed it, Ms. Rice refers to this story which broke last week indicating that the comments supposedly made by an Obama aide to the Canadian government were actually made by a Clinton aide. Of course, Ms. Clinton’s surrogates have continued to use this story to attack Mr. Obama’s campaign as disingenuous, despite the fact that the Canadian government now reports that the campaign at fault was the Clinton’s.)
To me, the bigger question is, again, in how you approach tough situations, how you approach tough issues, how you approach challenging discussions with both friends and adversaries. And not only how you do it but how, frankly, the people who are working with and for you do it. And that’s where, I think, we are particularly dismayed to see what happened within the Obama campaign with their economic adviser because that was an example of just, you know, in however it played out, a perhaps lack of experience and how you communicated with a foreign government on a particularly delicate and sensitive issue….
I’m going to stop an argument that you two have already had or your candidates have had – (laughter) –
I’m going to go to a questioner right here.
Life is not fair. (Laughter.)
Well, sometimes it is, and I’d really love to –
If you’d state your name and any affiliation.
My name is Rebecca Barnard, Goldman Sachs, formerly of Senator Biden’s office.
I would just be very interested in hearing Senator Obama’s response to that last point, because it has – (laughter and applause) –
The deck was stacked!
Thank you, Rebecca. (Laughter.)
As the Canadian government has repeatedly acknowledged and has now been amply reported in the press, Austan Goolsbee said nothing to the Canadian government that he or Senator Obama have not said many times in public. And Mara, I think, in all fairness and with due respect, that needs to be clarified and acknowledged.
What he said is exactly what I just said, which is that when we revisit NAFTA, it is with the aim of putting binding labor and environmental standards into the core agreement. Anybody who wants to see the memo that the Canadian government wrote reporting on their meeting can find it on the Internet. You will find that that is exactly what Austan Goolsbee said.
You will also find that he made a general statement which was then taken out of context in the press reporting, which was that neither Senator Obama nor Senator Clinton nor the Democratic Party in general is protectionist. We want to fix certain specific agreements.
What happened was the summary paragraph of the memo is – those of you who have seen cables know – was not reflective of the body of the conversation and indeed, the quotations or the statements, the characterizations of Goolsbee’s statement in the body of the cable. So the summary was distorted. That was what was leaked to the press. And the Canadian government has said it wasn’t accurate and apologized.
And by the way, while we’re talking about this, now the press is reporting that indeed not only was there a contact which we have now acknowledged and explained from Senator Obama’s campaign that actually began with the Canadian government, not us, but in fact the Clinton campaign, at least that’s what the reports are suggesting, initiated a contact with the Canadian embassy or government for the same purpose. I have no idea if that’s true. There’s been a lot of false reporting on this.
Well, maybe Mara can respond to that.
But let’s be accurate.
No, I think that’s been completely denied by the campaign. There’s no name –
Well, then, it can’t be true. Okay. (Laughter.)