October 9th, 2008
08:05 PM ET
5 months 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. Chris in Cincinnati

    Oh for Crying Out Loud McCain!!! Just give it up already with the mud!

    Just be a man and try to say something nice about your next President of the United States!

    October 9, 2008 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  2. Al

    All this show that McCain campaign is absolutely empty. No direction, no ideas, only ignorance and extremism. I never thought I'd see something worse that Bush/Cheney. But here they are: Cheney/Bush (reversed top/bottom), with even more bad temper, arrogance, ignorance and extremism.

    Obama/Biden 2008

    October 9, 2008 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  3. Nancy

    Did Sarah Palin invite Joe six-pack to the McCain rally today or did he make his way there all by himself? I sure hope he wasn't driving!

    October 9, 2008 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  4. Turning Arizona Blue

    Well Mr Keating and McCain. Your 15 minutes are ALMOST up!! HAHAHAHA!!!

    America, behold a Democratic majority in all the houses of government!

    BOO YA!

    Arizona for Obama 2008

    October 9, 2008 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  5. Louise

    We all have something in our background that we usually outgrow. Obama has matured. Keating is a smearer. He is very low. Obama HAS leveled with the people in his book. What does this despicable creep want...him to make up situations until Keating is satisfied even if they are false...What a creep.

    October 9, 2008 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  6. Los

    I don't care who has done what in their past, as long as they've learned from their mistakes.

    October 9, 2008 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  7. Tarheel

    George Bush admitted to drinking too much as a young man.

    October 9, 2008 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  8. Oforbarack

    The last two president have also been down that path. This is a non-issue.
    Go Obama

    October 9, 2008 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  9. Jennifer

    This old information is completely irrelevant to the presidential race. Another pathetic attempt at a smear. The republicans are really out of ideas at this point. Give it up and talk about the REAL issues, GOP!!

    OBAMA-BIDEN '08

    October 9, 2008 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  10. sam

    Should ANYONE by the name "Keating" be out there supporting McCain?...that is not what McCain need right now....Ring a bell?...Keating?

    October 9, 2008 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  11. Tommy Moore

    Sheer panic on the part of the Grand Old Party. Why was then Governor Bush's legendary partying not an issue in 2000, or 2004? Why isn't Cindy McCain's federal drug investigation, courtesy of Nancy Reagan's DEA, an issue? Perhaps because Joe Six Pack has bigger things to worry about than what our next President did in his 20s.

    October 9, 2008 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    So Keating as co-chair of the campaign did not direct himself to say it.

    PS any relation to the Keating 5?

    October 9, 2008 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  13. ken

    well folks it the time when you see crowds at mc cain rallys now being able oto speak out, on how mad they are , well its more like we are so darn far behind that there is no way we can win , but if the public sees us going over the edge with there leader, the fact that keating a man who tooo0k million from thousands of bpoeples grand parents , he was a theif , a very, very big theif just like the ones we have now. yet john has him as a member of his campain, it seems john is still buddy, buddy with this big theif , who almost cost him his job in the senate, is working for mc cain it seems we have to check mc cain out to the same way he is obama, perhaps keating is his new accountant.
    this is so sad , its not funny , they are looseing very ,very bad so now mc cain is selling his soul. well john bring it on , john you lost to this race and your the one who caused it. you will day by day you will loose , you will bring your scum , like keating , a theif who stoled thousands of poeples retirements, just at the right time for a man like keating to pop his heah up when he smells money, let more of the real angry john out the more you do the more the poeple will see who you reall are. ken

    October 9, 2008 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  14. Joe

    Wow, these people really do have no shame. Here we are with an economy in shambles and all they want to talk about is stuff that the American people have already heard time and time again. It just goes to show that the McCain campaign has nothing to say about where they want to lead America. Just sadly another campaign of fear.

    October 9, 2008 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  15. Some Things Never Change

    Ok tell us something new, we already know about this. like your goofy behind was innocent and pure when you were in your teens and twenties, give me a break. It is amazing that the Republican's will stop at nothing to change the subject in this election. It is amazing they care nothing for what is going on, they only care that their man wins at any cost. For these very reasons they will lose, this is about the suffering of the people not John McCain and the Republican Party holier than thou attitude.

    October 9, 2008 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  16. Oforbarack

    Bush and Clinton have admitted smoking. This is a non-issue

    Go Obama

    October 9, 2008 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  17. An American

    You are kidding me right...I am glad to see that McCain and the Republicans are keeping "Country First" with their attempt to tear down a fellow American! There are few people that get into public life for the "celebrity"...wait when last I checked nobody gets into it for that! If John McCain, a man that I truly respected prior to this campaign continues to try to tear Senator Obama down it is going to tear this Country apart.

    I beg you Senator McCain put your "Country First" and stop this foolishness. People are losing their homes and you want to talk about drugs and alcohol. At least Senator Obama was man enough to say he made mistakes as a youth.

    October 9, 2008 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  18. Christina

    At least he's honest about it.
    I mean, he obviously is not the only politician who has done drugs! He admitted it, it has never become a big deal, so why bring it up now?
    If you're going to attack a candidate, attack their views and plans, not the person they are!
    What are we? A bunch of 12 year olds?

    October 9, 2008 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  19. Even Steven

    No new information here...this stuff has been part of the public record for years.

    Folks, you're either going to vote for the guy or not. It's as simple as that at this point.

    October 9, 2008 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  20. Regent University girl for Obama

    These people are getting desperate. Next thing you know they will want Obama to talk about why his mother had sex when she was only 18. I mean can someone please tell me how we are going to fix the economy!

    Obama/Biden '08!

    October 9, 2008 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  21. A NATION OF WINERS for OBAMA

    I GUESS THE REPUBLICANS PREFER THEIR PRESIDENTS

    USING DRUGS CONTINUALLY, LIKE BUSH. THEN WE HAVE

    MCBUSH, WHO GOD KNOWS, CAN ONLY IMPROVE

    WITH SOME DRUG USE; BUT TRUTHFULLY SEEMS

    MORE LIKE AN ANGRY ALCOHOLIC & LETS NOT

    FORGET HIS DITZ THAT STOLE THE PAIN PILLS FROM

    SICK POOR PEOPLE. BOYS YOU CAN SHOVE IT !!!!

    October 9, 2008 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  22. What is next?

    Is Keating also asking McCain to talk about his gambling problem, his life spent as an adulterer, and binge drinker while in the Navy. This is the all time low. And besides Obama has been truthful to the American people and has already talked about this in his book. Maybe Mr. Keating should read about it there.

    October 9, 2008 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  23. Anne

    and what about Bush and his coke snorting and alcohol use. Does anyone bring up that or maybe Cindy McCain and her prescription drug thefts for her personal use. Ill take Obama over either of those anyday.

    October 9, 2008 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  24. dustin

    republicans are disgusting, if they bring this up, i want to know when did john mccain really learn about cindy's drug use which cost people their jobs and a charity to shut down.

    October 9, 2008 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  25. mike

    Obama had it in his past, he explained it and got past it... Just like McSame's drug using wife.
    what is the big deal? Another 'holier than thou' rebupliCON who wants to cast stones.

    October 9, 2008 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
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