October 9th, 2008
08:05 PM ET
12 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. Nick

    Keating ... Keating ... That name reminds me something ....

    Oh yeah, the McCain Keating 5 scandal !!

    October 9, 2008 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  2. Kim

    Hmmm if I was McBush. I would not want the name 'Keating' coming up in my campaign. Considering McBush is a lifetime confidant of the Corporate Swindler Keating who bilked people out of Billions of Dollars. The McCain familiy and Keating Family took many vacations together over several years. McCain led the De Regulation that allowed Keating to commit his despicable crimes.

    October 9, 2008 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  3. A.D. Vasquez

    Sheer and utter nonsense.

    October 9, 2008 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  4. Ba"Rock" the Vote

    Did McCain blow weed in the "Nam? Probably? You know what else...who cares. If he did or didn't ..I still wouldn't vote for him.

    Did Paiin or the first dude ever do dope? Who cares! I wouldn't vote for her either.

    So if Obama did drugs in college....who cares. I did!

    October 9, 2008 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  5. Marc

    More issues, less smear tactics please.

    October 9, 2008 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  6. Peter

    And what about our dear Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton's drug use? Remember the "I smoked but did not inhale" act of Clinton's marijuana confession? Only Senator Obama is more honest about his past drug use.

    October 9, 2008 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  7. cindy

    I think that the McCains should also speak candidly to the American people about Cindy McCains drug addiction and illegal prescriptions. See entry cut and pasted from Wikipedia.
    Prescription drug addiction:
    In 1989, Cindy McCain became addicted to Percocet and Vicodin, opioid painkillers, which she initially took to alleviate pain following two spinal surgeries for ruptured discs, and to ease emotional stress during the Keating Five affair.[38][39][39][40][41] The addiction progressed to where she was taking upwards of twenty pills a day,[15] and she resorted to having an AVMT physician write illegal prescriptions in the names of three AVMT employees without their knowledge.[38][42] In 1992, her parents staged an intervention to force her to get help;[22] she told her husband about her problem, attended a drug treatment facility, began outpatient sessions, and ended her three years of addiction.[39] Surgery in 1993 resolved her back pain.[39][41]

    In January 1993, Tom Gosinski, an AVMT employee, who had discovered her illegal drug use, was terminated on budgetary grounds.[43] Subsequently, he tipped off the Drug Enforcement Administration, and a federal investigation ensued.[38][43] McCain's defense team, led by John McCain's Keating Five lawyer John Dowd, secured an agreement with the U.S. Attorney's office for McCain, a first-time offender, that avoided charges while requiring her to pay financial restitution, enroll in a diversion program and do community service.[38][10][43] Meanwhile, in early 1994 Gosinski filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against McCain, which he told her he would settle for $250,000.[38][43] In response, Dowd characterized this request as blackmail and requested that officials investigate Gosinski for extortion.[38][43] In the end, both Gosinski's lawsuit and the extortion investigation against him were dropped.[38][39]

    Knowing that the DEA prosecutors were about to publicly disclose her past addiction, McCain preemptively revealed the story to reporters saying she was doing so willingly: "Although my conduct did not result in compromising any missions of AVMT, my actions were wrong, and I regret them."[38][39][10

    October 9, 2008 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  8. Non-voting socialist felon (rights reinstated for '08)

    What is there to say. Drugs are fun. But like most of us, Obama left them behind as he matured. This is really a non-issue, except for those trying to detract from the current issues.

    October 9, 2008 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  9. keith

    it's hard for a man or woman of prominence to disclose their wilder, woolier past years to the public. I haven't much good to say about Palin, but I have to tip my hat to her for disclosing her use of pot in her youthful days also.

    October 9, 2008 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  10. Tom, Maine

    . . . . . Then he went on to Columbia, Harvard law School, became a
    Constitutional Scholar, A law professor, and a US Senator, and
    President of the United States.

    I would compare those credentials to McCain and Palin's anyday.

    October 9, 2008 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  11. tigerakabj

    To: Veteran for OB

    You are so right. Their ilk like James Dobson prayed for rain on Obama at the DNC and guess what, Hurricane Ike squashed their 1st day. All they do is cast stones, acting like they are perfect. They do act like Pharisees. Obama spreads love, they spread hate.

    Obama/Biden 8/12.

    October 9, 2008 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  12. chris

    These people are "kettle calling pot black" talk about drug use, what about cindy McCain who was addicted to pain meds and hid that from her husband a couple of years ago. I loved the McCain that ran for president in 2000, I do not know what is wrong with the McCain that is running for 2008 president. MAYBE AGE IS GETTING IN THE WAY OF HIS THINKING

    October 9, 2008 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  13. Barbara - 65 yr old white female in NC

    Old CNN – this is not new – it's irrelevant – why are they wasting taxpayers money on these things?

    Obama/Biden '08

    Man, these negatives things turn me 180 degrees away from the party doing them – ha ha ha ha ha

    October 9, 2008 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  14. Jake

    Does this guy have any relationship to the Keating 5 scandal?

    October 9, 2008 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  15. Hannah Stevens

    McShame is disparate. We should talk about Cindy's drug habit and she actually stole the drugs from the charitable organization that she was working for. And everyone should read the new article out on McCain in the Rolling Stone magazine. McCain is so much like baby bush it is frightening.

    October 9, 2008 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  16. OHIO FOR OBAMA

    and he is still running around with the crook keating. so he should concentrate on what he is going to do after the november election.

    October 9, 2008 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  17. Mike Rule

    If you put in a book, then is that not being straightforward? Or do McCain/Palin followers not read books?

    October 9, 2008 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  18. Don of Wisconsin

    How about his Packistani "Occidental College" roomates????

    October 9, 2008 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  19. Kevin

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

    Riiiiiiiiight.....

    Please. Try harder McCain. Wait, don't. You're an epic failure.

    October 9, 2008 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  20. Fazio

    This shows the desperation of the Republicans. This also shows how unethical these supporters of John McCain have become. As well, this also shows how the Republicans out of touch – Obama addressed this issue during the primaries, and it was recognized for its significance – a non-issue.

    This Keating should crawl back to the hole in the ground that he came from. We don't need slim like you.

    October 9, 2008 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  21. Debby

    Oh who cares about this Bush used drugs when he was younger to.

    October 9, 2008 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  22. Paula

    Folks, if you can, every time you see this ad on TV, donate $5.00 to Barack. (if you have a lot of money, donate every time McCain says "my friends")
    Something good should always of something bad.

    October 9, 2008 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  23. Surge

    Don't you hate it when the things you've said and done come back to haunt you?

    October 9, 2008 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  24. Sandy

    Obama does not have to explain nothing, didn't we all see the The Life Story Of Obama's upbringing on CNN? Oh My People, I'm sure those in Office probably tried someking of drug in their lifetime.

    October 9, 2008 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  25. Nevada City Republican for Obama

    Nowadays the only time Obama is around dope is during the debates.

    October 9, 2008 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
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