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....
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.
The Canadian Press cited an unnamed source last night as saying that several people overheard the remark.
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."
Hat tip: Jason Zengerle.
The leak has become a bit of a scandal for the Canadian government, with calls for the Mounties to investigate. I know from experience that the Canadians take confidentiality seriously - before I went to graduate school, I wrote about Latin American syndicated loans for a trade publication, and when the Latin deals were drying up in '98 and '99 in the wake of the Asian crisis, we made an attempt to extend my beat to Canada. It was a futile effort - the Toronto bankers, unlike their New York counterparts, were unwilling to violate their confidentiality rules to gossip about their deals.
Of course, this hasn't been very enlightening about where the next President actually will stand on trade issues. A hopeful sign are the intelligent comments that Goolsbee made at a forum in January, as reported in this story on the Chronicle of Higher Ed's campaign blog.
Update (3/7): Or maybe not... more confusion on who said what to whom.