October 9th, 2008
08:05 PM ET
1 year ago

McCain surrogate raises Obama's past drug use

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Keating is a McCain campaign co-chair.
Keating is a McCain campaign co-chair.

(CNN) - A prominent surrogate for John McCain on Thursday raised Barack Obama's admitted cocaine use as a teenager and said the Illinois senator should speak candidly about it to the American people.

Speaking to Dennis Miller, a comedian and conservative radio talk show host, former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating said Obama should be more forthright about his background and what he called his "very extreme" record.

"He ought to admit, ‘You know, I've got to be honest with you. I was a guy of the street. I was way to the left. I used cocaine. I voted liberally, but I'm back at the center,'" Keating, a co-chair of McCain’s campaign, said Obama should tell voters. "I mean, I understand the big picture of America. But he hasn't done that."

An aide to John McCain said Keating was not directed by the campaign to make the comments.

"We didn’t ask him to do it,” the aide said. “He didn’t clear it with us, but obviously he’s read Senator Obama’s books.”

The Obama campaign has not responded to the comments.

The remarks ring similar to comments made by prominent New Hampshire Democrat Bill Shaheen, a Hillary Clinton supporter, during the primary. Shaheen predicted in December that Obama’s drug past would be a major Republican talking point if her were the Democratic nominee. He later apologized for the comments, but stepped down from his role in the Clinton campaign. Black Entertainment Television founder Bob Johnson, another Hillary Clinton backer, also had to apologize after making overt references to Obama's drug use at campaign rally in South Carolina.

In Obama's 1995 book Dreams of My Father, he writes that he was once headed in the direction of a "junkie" and a "pothead. Referring to his emotional struggles as a young man, Obama writes, "Pot had helped, and booze; maybe a little blow when you could afford it. Not smack, though."

Obama did speak during his primary campaign about his past experimentation with drugs and alcohol in high school.

"I made some bad decisions that I've actually written about," he told New Hampshire high school students last November. "There were times when I, you know, got into drinking, experimented with drugs. There was a whole stretch of time where I didn't really apply myself a lot."


Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Extra • John McCain
soundoff (676 Responses)
  1. greta

    what is next mcnasty?

    your patheticness is showing.

    get a life.

    October 9, 2008 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  2. MarioB. from Berlin for OBAMA/BIDEN

    geeez read his books, idiot!

    He never tried to make it a secret.
    Well guys, President Nr. 43 hat some cocaine AND alcohol abuse...and well, America voted him twice.
    So from that, it might not be the worst skill, to become president lol.
    No, truly, that's NOT a point of the campaign, simply not important!!!

    STICK TO THE ISSUES; Repugs!

    Obama/Biden in a landslide

    October 9, 2008 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  3. Linda

    Get real. He wrote about it in a book! How much more candid and forthright can a person be?

    October 9, 2008 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  4. Darla (Edmonton, Canada)

    Oh, puh-leez !!! Can the McCain campaign minions spell D-E-S-P-E-R-A-T-I-O-N! If you want an examination of Obama's past ... are you prepared for the heat when your past John McCain ... and your wife's past ... and Sarah Palin's past ... and Todd Palin's past ... are put under the microscope?

    October 9, 2008 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  5. JERSEYGIRL 4 OBAMA

    What's the problem, that he tells the truth? SO WHAT!!! He eventually went on to Harvard Law school too! This is soooo idiotic to the poin that it is laughable. This highlights the fact that they have NOTHING to talk about. This is an obvious attempt to DISTRACT voters HOWEVER, STATES CONTINUE TO TURN BLUE...

    October 9, 2008 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  6. Chris

    Actually, he has spoken candidly about it with the American people. It's called a book; Sarah Palin might not read them, but I'm sure someone in the McCain camp could. In all seriousness, the kitchen sink attacks by the McCain campaign have gotten pathetic. Are they even capable of giving a reason to vote FOr their candidate rather than against Obama?

    October 9, 2008 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  7. Lisa

    Has our current president ever used cocaine? Has he ever come clean about his drug use? I believe he refused to answer the question.

    October 9, 2008 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  8. Barbara

    When will the McCain campaign get back to the problems with healthcare, energy, "the economy"? C'mon McCain, is this the best you can do?

    October 9, 2008 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  9. John "Sidney" Sixpack

    This is so yesterday. Obama has already admitted this and discussed it in his book... Isn't this old news? Come on CNN give us some real news! Stop being a vehicle for McCain talking points!

    THIS IS A DISTRACTION!!!

    OBAMA/BIDEN '08 & '12

    October 9, 2008 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  10. Tom, KS

    Give me a BREAK!

    October 9, 2008 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  11. Sam

    Are they prepared to talk about John McCain's use of alcohol, are they prepared to talk about anything that John McCain ever did that some people might regard as reckless..his affairs, etc.
    The fact of the matter is that Sen. Obama does not now engage in reckless behavior...yeah sure, talk about it, but in order to bring his past into this campaign we must have an open book for Sen. McCain as well.

    October 9, 2008 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  12. Marvin

    It seems to me that the Sheriff of Cook County is right. The Banks being interested in getting their money (supposedly) should collect the rent these people are paying the homeowners, and then deal with the homeowner on a legal basis. Can not a lease to own plan be setup for these honest people who pay rent on a expected basis? An empty property does nothing for the citizens, community or the financial institution.

    October 9, 2008 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  13. Nancy

    The more we know about Obama, the more worries me. Who is this guy, surrounded by drugs, former terroist firend, radical group like Acorn. And his middble name. Of course name is not that important, but if you don't feel you are part of a religion, I am sure that you could change it, it is not that hard to change a middble name? Or even drop it. If Mr. Hussein becomes my president, I am sure it will bother me a lot.

    October 9, 2008 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  14. Tia

    Ok, this is low. I am a conservative teenager and I can say this very seriously. Obama has already said that he regrets his choices and did them impulsively. He can't change his past, nor should he. He did drugs, and that was dumb. But to bring it up after 30 years is even worse. Mccain is really pushing his luck if he thinks that his friends can get away with this kind of moronic smears. It's like saying, "Senator McCain is a bad choice for President because he left his wife all those years ago...." Stop looking to the past. Let's try and fix the FUTURE!

    October 9, 2008 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  15. Rumsfeld

    Oh, that's right. ...and Keating is as pure as the driven snow.
    Nice try slime-guy.

    October 9, 2008 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  16. 58 old white ladies for OBAMA

    NOW THE RESIDENT GENIUS PALIN

    CAN REMEMBER THE BUSH & MCBUSH

    DOCTRINE WITHOUT ANY MENTAL FATIGUE

    IT'S CALLED "THE DESTRUCTION OF AMERICA".

    October 9, 2008 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  17. Bushwhacked in Eugene, OR

    So Barack was a kid and then he grew up. So? He hasn't tried to hide it - even put it in a book. What more do you want to know? Grow up.

    I love how the conservatives conveniently forget about George Bush's past drug and alcohol abuse issues. Oh - excuse me - it's ok if a conservative does it, just not if a democrat does it? Hypocrits.

    October 9, 2008 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  18. Eric

    How many idiots live in this country? Obama was honest and outspoken about his youth, his struggle with identity and his mistakes. So clearly, because the repthugs can not come with a campaign that has a glimpse of a plan, they are asking Obama to basically try to scare the voters away by reminding them eveyday he did snort cocaine when he was young. Can someone explain how this dummy's views are of public interest. Oh yeah, he's McCain co-chairman. Great.

    October 9, 2008 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  19. Dennis English

    Drugs are but one more thing that Barama does not recall or refuses to discuss. How he paid for college, his friendships, support of the Freddie's, etc.?

    October 9, 2008 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  20. JD in NC

    This is the best they have?

    They plan to lead the country based on their ability to rumor-monger?

    October 9, 2008 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  21. Judi, San Antonio

    "Speak with Good Purpose"
    I am a teacher and a counselor. I am saddened by the irresponsible language currently produced by Palin and the McCain campaign. We teachers spend our long hours and years trying to instill character and encouraging students to speak with good purpose. I do not believe that McCain-Palin quite understand the seriousness of the problems within our country right now .

    October 9, 2008 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  22. Nedi

    Past drug use by George W. Bush has been off limits. Why bring it up in regards to Barack Obama? Is there a double standard? Barack Obama has been candid about his past. There is no reason to discuss it further and be distracted from the real issues, like the economy and national security.

    October 9, 2008 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  23. B

    why does admitted drug use while a teen automatically make Obama "a guy of the street". If that's not a racist statement, I don't know what is.

    October 9, 2008 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  24. D in Austell

    Are they serious? This is getting way beyond the pale...

    How can a campaign where its top gun treated his 1st wife so poorly start down this kind of road of personal attacks? I truly don't understand.

    It's not as if Obama has ever made this a secret, but the manner in which it's brought up now... I am disgusted.

    Obama/Biden '08

    October 9, 2008 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  25. Michael

    This is really ridiculous..... Conservatives are just going to let any comment that digrades Obama's character slip through and destroy any Honor left in this campaign... The Republicans really are stuck in the past........ Very sad..... I and all Americans should pity them......

    October 9, 2008 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
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