American and Canadian Conservative Coordination?

by: Chris Bowers

Mon Mar 03, 2008 at 20:00

Remember the moment in the final 2004 debate when Bush said he wouldn't appoint any Supreme Court Justices who would overturn the Dred Scott case? It sounded exceptionally strange at the time, but it had a hidden meaning: Bush was indicating that he would only appoint Justices who sought to overturn Roe vs. Wade.

I bring this up because of John McCain's equally bizarre seeming statement on Canada, NAFTA and Afghanistan back on Friday:

"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.  

Chris Bowers :: American and Canadian Conservative Coordination?

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The Conservative party has always looked up to Republicans (0.00 / 0)
The party and its high-level politicians, that is. They have always taken whatever steps they could to hurt Democrats and help Republicans, but have also always been subtle about it. At most 2/3 of their domestic voters agree with and support our Republicans; there is at least one third of their base who openly and strongly hate the American right and do not believe the Canadian Conservative party is anything like them... to be fair, they're not or at least they haven't been so far. One theory is that they would be if they had the power but that theory has not been proven. They are struggling to hold on to a minority government and any slight move to the right would be enough for them to lose their plurality.

When you wonder why Liberals lost power in Canada, think of California Democrats and what it took for Davis to be replaced... I see a parallel in the two.

Hmm. (0.00 / 0)
Sadly I don't see Stephane Dion appearing with Obama.  Potential Prime Ministers have to avoid pissing off the other American party in case they win.  Jack Layton might do it, since the NDP has no realistic prospect of forming a government in the next election.  Harper wouldn't openly appear with McCain either (which would play badly also because it brings up the traditional spectre Canadian Conservatives fear:  Being too much in the US pocket).

Though the Liberals did have Howard Dean give a speech to their last leadership convention in 2006.  So it's not like the ideological sympathy between Liberals and Democrats is a great secret.

I'm trying to remember any history here of particular incidents because I'm honestly not sure where the line is.  

Not that unusual (0.00 / 0)
Howard Dean has addressed a Labour Party Conference in the past and the party hierarchy here has been attached to Bush at the hip for the past seven years.

I do suspect McCain has more opportunities for this kind of manouevring here though. He's well received here, yet if the UK was a state, it would probably have gone to Kerry by about a 75-25% margin - an informal poll of MPs suggested that even about 50% of Conservatives favoured Kerry over Bush.

Forgotten Countries - a foreign policy-focused blog

[ Parent ]
Campaign appearances (4.00 / 1)
Election campaigns are an entirely different matter than party conventions -- party conventions outside of the US are not held right before elections in order to pick a leader and kick off the campaign, they are held every year and are pretty bland policy-oriented affairs. No party leader in Canada would ever do anything that would be perceived as intervening directly in a foreign election by appearing with a candidate, whatever their ideological affinities -- as indeed no American president or nominee would. So no, Dion and Layton won't be appearing with Obama. If it could be proved that Harper was colluding with McCain, it would be a serious scandal.

[ Parent ]
Yeah, I tend to agree (0.00 / 0)
I believe an NDP leader probably has little to fear though from such a scandal as they don't have the same pragmatic concerns of pissing off a Republican who goes on to win the Presidency.

Ironically though, since the NDP are so much further left than the Democratic party and the US general electorate, there's some question of whether a Dem nominee would want Layton's help.

Still, Dean appearing at the Lib Leadership convention seemed a fairly big deal to me.  I'm not aware of a precedent of a comparable Democratic party office holder addressing a Liberal convention.  It's probably happened I'm not some kind of party historian, just saying it's rare in my experience.

[ Parent ]
Given how much Canadians despise Americans... (0.00 / 0)
...I'd be surprised to see any Canadian political parties inviting one of their evil overlords from the south to grace their party conference.

Clinton spoke at a Labor Party Conference in UK (is this what was being referred to?), and that was to bolster Blair's support in his own party after the Iraq invasion.  

[ Parent ]
we have a special view (0.00 / 0)
Of America.

Others hate you from afar.  We get to hate you all up close and personal :)

But really, the Canadian view of America is largely very nuanced.  There's very little true blind hatred of America, and also very little blind adoration.  It's not because Canadians are so smart or sophisticated it's because we have so much more interaction with and need for America.  Largest trading partner, only border partner, lots of similar values and shared history etc.  

but definitely like the rest of the world the esteem for the US here has fallen substantially since 2003.

[ Parent ]
special view (0.00 / 0)
I'm trying very hard but i can't think of anything less nuanced than Canadians' views of the US.

[ Parent ]
I lived in Canada in the 90s (0.00 / 0)
and for my US-born wife, the constant "digs" at Americans got real tired real fast.  Canadians need to get over their national inferiority complex.  

Don't worry, you'll have plenty to complain about when the US military comes in to secure water supplies.

[ Parent ]
Is there more than that? (0.00 / 0)
I'm here at work where I don't have sound on my computer-box, but is that one quote in your text the only thing that implies anything against Obama?

I ask because that quote could also be read, especially with the "Mr. - Senator" verbal stumble as an unintentional insult that wiggled its way into what was meant as an apology.  That reading probably wouldn't be the first to occur to me, except for the fact that other events in this chain make it seem as if you've got it bass-ackwards and that in fact the Canadian government is doing everything it can to get Obama off the hook.

Canada has denied at various levels of government up to the very top--except for at the Consulate General level, where exist the only folks who were actually present at the Goolsbee meeting--that Obama's campaign walked back from his NAFTA position in a meeting with Canadians, and that includes denials from persons who really wouldn't have much of an idea of what happened.  I have been reading the tea leaves on this as evidencing a strong and very sensible desire on the part of the Canadian government not to do or say anything that will piss off the guy who is the betting favorite right now to be the next American President.  From Canada's perspective, that would be like lighting a match because you want to count your piles of gunpowder in the dark.

I'd be interested to know if anything further beyond your quote was said, but those lines standing alone don't convince me that Canada, at least at the highest levels of government, isn't on Obama's side on this one.  I think Canada wants this story to go away.

Who is Canada? (0.00 / 0)
You talk about Canada and what's in her interest... but there is not talking and thinking Canada. It's too simplistic to think that the government of Canada does what's in the country's interest at every twist and turn. What the Conservative government does will be very different from what Liberal MPs or NDP Members of Parliament do. The Conservatives would love to help our Republicans as long as they can have plausible deniability and do not lose votes at home for it.

[ Parent ]
Dream on (0.00 / 1)
What do you have to say about Obama lying about this? Don't you care? Is it just part of politics?  Are you going to say - But, but Clinton lies too?  

Troll rated (0.00 / 0)
If you don't have anything useful or coherent to say, shut up.

Forgotten Countries - a foreign policy-focused blog

[ Parent ]
Harper has other problems (0.00 / 0)
It has come out in a recent book that, when in opposition, he tried bribing a dying MP with a pension for his wife, in return for bringing down the Liberal govt.

The old moderate Conservative Party was wiped out in the 1993 election, when they were left with two (2) MPs in parliament.  Part of the reason for the collapse was the splitting off of the Bloc Quebecois in Quebec and the socially conservative Reform Party in the West.  The party was re-established when the Conservatives reunited with Reform (which had become Canadian Alliance) in 2005.  But Reform were much more right wing than the old Conservative party and the merger was opposed by stalwarts of the old party, including former PMs Joe Clark and Kim Campbell.

You know, people wanting to promote progressive politics in this country should be building ties with the New Democratic Party, which for example is responsible for UHC in Canada (via Tommy Douglas' CCF government in Saskatchwean in the late 40s).  I am amazed that Josh Marshall for example does not know who the NDP are!

Really? (0.00 / 0)
Why be amazed?  I don't know much about the Lib Dems in the UK or even the name of the Australian 3rd party (assuming they have anything comparable to the NDP).

The NDP have never formed a federal Government.  I can't blame non-Canadians for not knowing who they are, since they're hardly a factor on the foreign stage.

This isn't to disparage them (though I prefer the Liberals) but just to put their importance in context.  

[ Parent ]
fascinating (0.00 / 0)
I'm putting "build inter-country progressive alliances" on my to-do list.

Oy, my poor to-do list.

As they say in the mideast (0.00 / 0)

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.

Karma to conservatives: today's minor "victories" often turn into tomorrow's big losses.

Just ask a guy by the name of Newt Gingrich. Or Karl Rove. Or Donald Segretti. Or Chuck Colson. Or the ghosts of Lee Atwater and Dick Nixon. And yet they keep on trying, with the ratfucking, like an obsessive-compulsive lunatic who just can't help himself. Probably because it's literally all that they know how to do.

Conservatism is a mental and moral disease. Everyone commit that to memory.

"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" -- Alexander Hamilton

disagree (4.00 / 1)
and this is why (although opportunity knocks after the fact)

I think this story is real because Obama's economic adviser has previously denied trade having negative affects, outsourcing having any negative effects and is very consistent with their real positions to not plan on revamping trade policy and literally Obama's position statements say that.

I think they simply got busted, now maybe after the fact others are playing football with it, but I don't believe this was a coordinated attack because many people, including myself were pointing out Obama's real trade positions, economic advisers before any of this went down and this new event is consistent with all of those discoveries.  

The Economic Populist

It's not just Canada. (0.00 / 0)
The conservative movement is not country specific but is instead the legislative arm of multi-national corporations.  I read an article about US conservatives interfering in the Mexican election.  Also there are ties with Australian and British conservatives.

Greg Palast's book Armed Madhouse talks about this a little.

Obama on trade (0.00 / 0)
NYTimes on Naftagate

I'm sorry the Obama campaign is double speak.  Of course Obama is not "backing off of his position on trade" because I and many others pointed out at no time has he said he is going to revamp the trade agreements.  The only thing he mentions are environmental and worker protections, which is not a completely strategic revamping of these agreements.

It's so bad he has spun worker protections to imply worker mobility and that means guest worker Visas, which is frankly not a worker protection.

This is just not a conspiracy, more I think a few people, myself included, when Obama started blasting Hillary, we went and did our homework, which lead to more homework and reporter homework and now this.

The entire episode is consistent to what many people who researched out the real positions have been saying, including this latest "non-denial denial" by some clever wording.  

The Economic Populist

What is this all about? Could it explain McCain's NAFTA link to war? (0.00 / 0)
Leaders negotiate agreement criticized as "NAFTA plus guns" by: Eartha Jane Melzer Saturday (03/01) at 10:28 AM

The United States has lost hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs since the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and labor experts warn that this trend could escalate under the continent-wide "Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America" (SPP) negotiated in Los Cabos, Mexico, this week by officials including U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez.

Proponents of the SPP describe it as a White House-led initiative to increase security and enhance prosperity in North America through greater cooperation among the United States, Canada and Mexico. In working-group meetings since 2005 governmental officials and business representatives have created policies to speed the transport of goods over the borders and allow the armed forces of U.S. and Canada to collaborate under a broad range of circumstances.

The SPP has been the focus of intense opposition by civil rights, environmental and labor groups in Canada and Mexico who call it an executive-level pact between the governments and corporate sectors of Canada, the United States and Mexico that has never been debated publicly or voted on in any of the three countries.

Continued -


I tried to post this in Quick Hits, (0.00 / 0)
but couldn't figure out how.  The user manual said
On the resulting page, you can view all quick hits and add your own. To add a quick hit, click the "add quick hit" link at the top of the page.
 I couldn't find an "add quick hit" link anywhere.  

[ Parent ]
Canadian Ian Welsh comments (0.00 / 0)
Chris Bowers over at Open Left seems to think that the "leak" about Obama privately walking back his promise to renegotiate NAFTA if he wins the election was a deliberate attempt by the Canadian government, run by Prime Minister Harper of the Conservative party, to help McCain and damage Obama.

True? I haven't the faintest and there's no way to know. Plausible? Sure. The Conservative party has deep ties to the Republican party, Harper is personally on good terms with many US conservatives, and Harper's mentor is a standard Straussian who believes that dirty tricks in a good cause are entirely acceptable.

On the other hand, Obama's quite likely to wind up as United States president, and only someone who is a fool, or who puts his own interests before Canada's, would deliberately try to sandbag a possible US president unless he was sure it would take him out (and maybe not even then: sandbagging a president is a good way to make a lot of Senators angry, and Senators have a loooooong memory). One would like to think that Harper and the Conservatives are not that ideologically blind, or that self confident. But Harper, unfortunately, is something of an ideologue and thinks very very well of himself.

There's more at the link.

Jeff Wegerson


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