Obama: I don't carry a Council on Foreign Relations card or know any 'special handshake'
David Edwards and Eric Mayes
Published: Monday March 31, 2008

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Worries about One World Order and a North American Union have been "ginned up by the blogs and the Internet," Sen. Barack Obama told a Lancaster, Pennsylvania audience in a stump speech as he continued his tour through the battleground state.

The Illinois senator also defended the recently re-authorized Patriot Act.

Responding to a question from the audience, asking whether he was a member for the Council on Foreign Relations, a group many allege is leading a move toward one world government, Obama said:

"I donít know if Iím an official member. Iíve spoken there before. It basically is a forum where people talk about foreign policy. There is no official membership. I donít have a card, or you know a special handshake or anything like that."

Sen. Hillary Clinton has spoken several times to the club. Comments she made today against NAFTA, were posted on the group's website.

Often, because the council has served as lightning rod for conspiracy theorists, candidates shy away from listing their affiliation with the group.

Vice President Dick Cheney is a former director but has taken pains not to publicize the fact.

"Iíve been a member for long and was actually a director for some period of time," he told members in a speech broadcast on C-Span and now on YouTube, adding, "I never mentioned that when I was running for re-election back home in Wyoming."

The council has been at the center of several One World Order conspiracies with theorists contending that the group is conspiring to bring about one world government and a North American Union similar to the European Union.

Obama dismissed those notions.

"I see no evidence of this actually taking place," he said. "I think this is something that has been ginned up on certain blogs and the Internet. It was based mostly on the fact that there is this highway being built in Texas that will facilitate transportation more transportation between Mexico and the intercontinental United States and Canada...NAFTA helped to break down barriers, but I donít think there is some conspiracy to create this one continental government."

This video is from CNN.com, broadcast March 31, 2008:

Defends portions of Patriot Act

Obama said he opposed NAFTA because it didnít offer enough protections to American workers but he defended portions of the Patriot Act which he said he worked on to cut out some of the most objectionable portions.

Free trade has been an issue across the nation in this campaign particularly as many once prosperous industrial states struggle with ways to cope with the changing global economy. It was a critical issue for voters in Ohio where Clinton managed to beat Obama. Pennsylvania voters have expressed similar concerns.

Obama said he did not support NAFTA.

"I was opposed to NAFTA because I thought that it didnít have the labor and environmental standards and the safety standards that would look out for US workers," replied Obama.

Clintonís husband oversaw passage of NAFTA but today she called for parts of it to be renegotiated.

"I spoke out against it starting in 1992 -- the president made a different decision," Clinton said. "I think now with 14 years of experience under our belt, we can see that in some parts of our country there have been, perhaps, some economic advantages, but in other parts of our country, like where we are right here in northwest Indiana, it hasn't worked as it was promised, and therefore I think we need to renegotiate it," she told an Indiana audience today.

Obama also spoke about the Patriot Act, which he voted to re-authorize.

The Patriot Act is not the problem, he said. A series of executive orders is what has really eroded civil liberties.

"Most of the problem that we have had in civil liberties were not done in the Patriot Act they were done in executive order by George W. Bush...I will reverse them with the stroke of a pen," he said, listing the establishment of Guantanamo Bay, warrantless wiretaps and the suspension of Habeas Corpus.

Other parts of the law were valid, he said.

"There were some provisions in the Patriot Act that did address changes that needed to take place," said Obama, citing as an example a clause that now allows the government to tap cellular phones.

His work he said, kept many of the worst portions of the law from being re-enacted.

"We instituted a series of amendments that changed some of the worst excesses of the previous law," he said.