Thursday, March 6, 2008

Who Started It?

The question of how the story about the Obama campaign nodding and winking at the Canadian government over NAFTA got leaked takes on a decidedly interesting twist. From the Toronto Globe and Mail:

The leak of a confidential diplomatic discussion that rocked the U.S. presidential campaign began with an offhand remark to journalists from the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Ian Brodie.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper vowed yesterday to use whatever investigative means necessary to find the source of leaks that, he said, were “unfair” to U.S. Democratic candidate Barack Obama and may have been illegal — although opposition leaders insisted the Conservatives cannot be trusted to investigate political players on their own team.

But the story that reverberated through the U.S. presidential campaign began as a terse, almost throwaway remark that Mr. Brodie made to journalists from CTV, according to people familiar with the events.

Mr. Brodie, during the media lockup for the Feb. 26 budget, stopped to chat with several journalists, and was surrounded by a group from CTV.

The conversation turned to the pledges to renegotiate the North American free-trade agreement made by the two Democratic contenders, Mr. Obama and New York Senator Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Brodie, apparently seeking to play down the potential impact on Canada, told the reporters the threat was not serious, and that someone from Ms. Clinton’s campaign had even contacted Canadian diplomats to tell them not to worry because the NAFTA threats were mostly political posturing. [Emphasis added.]

So if it was the Clinton campaign that nodded and winked at the Canadians, how did it end up in Sen. Obama’s lap?

The news agency quoted that source as saying that Mr. Brodie said that someone from Ms. Clinton’s campaign called and was “telling the embassy to take it with a grain of salt.”

The story was followed by CTV’s Washington bureau chief, Tom Clark, who reported that the Obama campaign, not the Clinton’s, had reassured Canadian diplomats.

Mr. Clark cited unnamed Canadian sources in his initial report.

There was no explanation last night for why Mr. Brodie was said to have referred to the Clinton campaign but the news report was about the Obama campaign. Robert Hurst, president of CTV News, declined to comment.

My guess is that the Canadian consul in Chicago had an unrelated but coincidental meeting with the Obama staff at the same time the Clinton campaign was reassuring the Canadian diplomats elsewhere and the two got tangled together with the fallout landing on Sen. Obama. Or, to put on the tinfoil hockey helmet, the conservative Harper government is deliberately trying to influence the Democratic primary race so that the Republicans win the election. (A Canadian friend refers to Prime Minister Stephen Harper as “our Bush and who speaks French as well as Bush speaks English.”)

I think the last theory is a little over the top; I can’t imagine the Canadians being so ham-handed about something like that; that’s our shtick.