Obama is telling Fortune magazine what his advisor told the Canadian consular official in Chicago: don't worry about the campaign "rhetoric", your money's safe with me. I know, I know this just proves that he is a viable candidate and is running a smart campaign. Blah blah. Sure sounds like the old Democrat bait and switch though.
This from The Nation:
Obama's interview with Fortune magazine -- headlined "Obama: NAFTA Not So Bad After All" -- is the best news the McCain camp has received since Mike Huckabee folded his run for the Republican nomination.
If Obama takes the economic issue that white working-class voters best understand off the table, he creates a huge opening for McCain in states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.
And that is precisely what the Democrat cynically dismisses his appropriately anti-NAFTA rhetoric during the primary season as "overheated and amplified."
In her interview with the candidate, Fortune's Nina Easton reminded Obama that earlier this year he had called NAFTA "devastating" and "a big mistake" and suggested that he would use an opt-out clause in the trade agreement between the US, Canada and Mexico to demand changes that would be more favorable to workers and farmers in all three countries.
Obama replied that, "Sometimes during campaigns the rhetoric gets overheated and amplified" -- which would have been enough of an indication that he was backing off the stance that contributed significantly to his success in the February 19 Wisconsin primary that proved to be a critical turning point for his campaign.
But the presumptive Democratic nominee for president dug the hole deeper.
"Politicians are always guilty of that, and I don't exempt myself," he continued, suggesting that those who doubted his sincerity when he denounced NAFTA in a speech to Janesville, Wisconsin, autoworkers might have been right.
Abandoning the tough talk of the winter and spring, Obama sounded an awfully lot like free-trader McCain when he said he was for "opening up a dialogue" with trading partners Canada and Mexico "and figuring to how we can make this work for all people."
Easton took it that way.
"The general campaign is on, independent voters up for grabs, and Barack Obama is toning down his populist rhetoric - at least when it comes to free trade," she began. "In an interview with Fortune to be featured in the magazine's upcoming issue, the presumptive Democratic nominee suggests he doesn't want to unilaterally blow up NAFTA after all."
Referring to Obama's soft-peddling of the fair-trade position he embraced in the primary campaign, Easton writes, "That tone stands in marked contrast to his primary campaign's anti-NAFTA fusillades. The pact creating a North American free-trade zone was President Bill Clinton's signature accomplishment; but NAFTA is also the bugaboo of union leaders, grassroots activists and Midwesterners who blame free trade for the factory closings they see in their hometowns.