Obama: NAFTA? Never!
On February 27, 2008, days before Ohio’s primary, the Canadian network CTV broke the story that an Obama staffer had reassured Canada’s ambassador to the United States in a phone call that Obama’s tough talk on NAFTA was just campaign rhetoric. While some details turned out to be wrong, the basic facts were true: Proof later emerged that Obama’s senior economic adviser, Austan Goolsbee, had discussed NAFTA at a meeting with Canada’s consul general in Chicago (though Goolsbee denies he offered any reassurances). The Obama campaign became aware of the meeting “when [CTV] reported it,” spokesman Bill Burton has told Politico, meaning Obama and his campaign knew about the meeting as they proceeded to issue blanket denials to an inquisitive press. When asked about the story on February 29 by Cleveland television station, Obama said, “I think it’s important for viewers to understand that it was not true.” “So, completely inaccurate, did not happen, end of discussion?” he was asked. “It did not happen,” was his answer, which was technically true, it being the phone call with the Canadian ambassador to the U.S., versus the face-to-face meeting with the Canadian consul general. But the response was also awfully disingenuous—the report was far from “completely inaccurate,” and this would have been an appropriate time to come clean about the meeting that did happen. And some of Obama’s staff went even further: The campaign told CTV on February 28 that “no conversations have taken place with any of its senior ranks and representatives of the Canadian government on the NAFTA issue.” Susan Rice, Obama’s senior foreign-policy adviser, said on MSNBC, “Well, the Canadian ambassador issued a statement saying that that story was absolutely false. There had been no such contact. There had been no discussions on NAFTA. So we take the Canadians at their word.”
McCain: Flag of Our Fathers?
While campaigning in South Carolina during his 2000 presidential run, McCain made such a jarring shift away from his condemnation of the Confederate flag that he felt compelled to apologize for lying once the race was over. As a guest on Face the Nation on January 9, 2000, McCain referred to the flag, at the time the focus of protests by the NAACP, as “offensive” and a “symbol of racism and slavery.” Afterward, according to McCain’s account in his book Worth the Fighting For, his aides pressured him into taking a more politically beneficial stance. “I didn’t want to do this,” McCain writes. “But I could tell from the desperate looks of my staff that we had an enormous problem. And that it could come down to lying or losing. I chose lying.” The next day, McCain, reading from a prepared statement, said that the flag was a “symbol of heritage,” a phrase used by its supporters. But clearly, McCain could not both approve and disapprove of the flag at the same time. On April 20 of that year, long after the primary was over, he came clean at a luncheon in Columbia, South Carolina. “I feared that if I answered honestly, I could not win the South Carolina primary,” McCain said. “So I chose to compromise my principles. I broke my promise to always tell the truth.”