When someone (no one knows who) leaked a confidential memo describing how one of Democratic candidate Barack Obamas top aides allegedly told a Canadian official that Obamas anti-NAFTA stand was political positioning, not policy, it touched off a storm of denials from the senators camp.
Turns out those denials werent convincing enough to dissuade Ohio delegates from backing Hillary Clinton in the March 4 primary. And in the wake of Obamas loss, the leak was bearing part of the blame, highlighting (as it did) the nontrivial question of whether President Obama would practise in office what he preached on the hustings.
This is as it should be. Questions of character, not to mention the veracity of campaign rhetoric, are fair game in politics. If they cost a candidate points in Ohio, then so be it.
But what I cant figure out for the life of me is why, here in Canada, there has been so much finger-pointing and accusations over who leaked the memo and how he or she should pay for the indiscretion.
Whats the crime here, exactly?
Canadians have a vital self-interest in the NAFTA debate in the U.S. electionits our treaty, too, after all. And yes, while its important for our government to respect that process and let it run its course, its more important that Canadians are well-informed about whats at stake, whats realand whats not. (In the upcoming issue of the magazine, Canadian Business’s U.S. correspondent Rachel Pulfer gets into these questions in detail.)
In other words, Canadas self-interest trumps that of U.S. politicians. Sorry, Obama, it just does.
What I find strange about coverage of l’affaire du memo is how few people are talking about the most important point: whether its true or not.
After all, this is not just a political story. Its also about how a potential leader of the United States envisions the economic future of the continent, of which I like to think Canada is an important part. The Democrats anti-NAFTA platform is a policy storyone thats far more important than any political damage wrought on either side of the border by a leaked memo.
But such considerations apparently havent stopped the Prime Minister, the Opposition and the NDP from falling over themselves to declare outrage at the leakthe PM promising a Privy Council investigation, the Liberals calling for the resignation of Stephen Harpers top aide, and the NDP calling for a full-scale RCMP investigation.
Maybe, rather than who leaked what, they should care more about the answer to this question: How far, exactly, would a Democratic president go to reopen NAFTA, and how much would it jeopardize our trade relationship with the United States?
Maybe, by making public a document that provides a clue to that mystery, whoever leaked the NAFTA-gate memo did us all a huge service.