"One of our greatest assets we have in Afghanistan today, frankly, are our Canadian friends," he said. "It's very controversial in Canada, their commitment and the suffering and the losses they have faced. And we need, we need our Canadian friends and we need their continued support in Afghanistan.
"So what do we do? The two Democrat candidates for president say that they're going to unilaterally, they're going to unilaterally abrogate the North American Free Trade Agreement. Our biggest trading partner, they're going -- who we made a solemn agreement with -- they're gonna unilaterally abrogate that. Now, how do you think the Canadian people are going to react to that -- who we are having now their enormous and invaluable assistance in Afghanistan and we're going to abrogate a free trade agreement?"
I mocked McCain for making such a bizarre statement, but I am starting to think that, like with Bush's seemingly strange Dred Scott comment, there is a hidden meaning to it. Consider McCain's statement in the context of conservative Canadian Prime Minster Stephen Harper responding to allegations from New Democratic leader Jack Layton that Harper is interfering the Democratic primary against Barack Obama:
Here is Harper's response to the allegations (transcript mine):
The Canadian embassy in Washington has issued a statement indicating its regret at the fact that information has come out that would imply that Mr.--Senator Obama has been saying different things in public than in private.
So, the Canadian conservative prime minister is calling Barack Obama two-faced on NAFTA at the exact same moment that John McCain is indicating that Canada might pull out its troops on Afghanistan if we make too much a stink about NAFTA? That strikes me as more than a little suspicious. In fact, it strikes me as a directly coordinated attack by McCain and Harper to neutralize McCain on trade during the general election. It wouldn't be the first time Harper and Republican leaders have coordinated, given that Harper uses Republican pollsters and the conservative movements in both countries are deeply intertwined. Further, in addition to making Obama look like a two-face panderer who will anger key international allies, this attack serves a triple purpose of weakening Obama by extending the Democratic primary, which might (I emphasize might) further weaken Obama in the general election. Other conservatives, such as Rush Limbaugh, are already pushing supporters to vote for Clinton for exactly this same reason.
I generally agree with Josh Marshall on this one: the whole thing stinks of cross-border conservative coordination on the presidential campaign. The plus side is that not only is what Harper doing probably unpopular in Canada, but that in the general election Obama can probably appear with opposition leaders like Layton or Stephanie Dion to reinforce his position on the issue. That way, not only does Obama's position gain credibility, but his victory might even bring down the Canadian conservative government.