From NBC's Mark Murray and NBC/NJ's Aswini Anburajan
Seizing on the release of a White House schedule showing Clinton at a 1993 NAFTA meeting, as well as a report suggesting that she praised the trade accord while there, the Obama campaign held a conference call arguing that Clinton hadn't been honest with voters.
Obama communications director Robert Gibbs noted that when campaigning in Ohio, Clinton told voters that she had been a critic of NAFTA. "How is that even possible, Sen. Clinton?" Gibbs added that the voters are owed not only an apology but an explanation for what the truth is.
Strategist David Axelrod chimed in, reminding reporters when Clinton wagged her finger in Ohio -- "Shame on you, Sen. Obama" -- over an Obama flier tying Clinton to NAFTA. Axelrod said she did that knowing she had been the featured speaker of White House-organized events talking up NAFTA. "This is a question of political character," Axelrod said
NAFTA was a defining issue in the race in Ohio, and despite wide opposition to the trade deal, Clinton managed to win handily in the state by presenting herself as a staunch advocate against it and for calling on a moratorium on all trade deals if she becomes president. Her campaign also seized on news that an Obama economic adviser had told Canadians that Obama's opposition to the trade accord was political positioning -- which the Clinton campaign once again pointed to when responding to the conference call.
"Instead of attacking Senator Clinton, Senator Obama should explain to the American people why his top economic policy advisor was telling the Canadians that his promise to fix NAFTA shouldn't be taken seriously," Clinton spokesman Phil Singer said in an email. "The fact is that independent accounts make clear that Senator Clinton did not support NAFTA and that she is the candidate Americans can trust to fix it."