October 9th, 2008
08:05 PM ET
10 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. Bill Obama/Biden in 08 - REAL CHANGE

    Well....guess the "McCan't Tell the Truth" and the "Palenty of Lies" just doesn't know how low they can go. At least Barack was honest and forthright with his mistakes. Obviously McCain and Palin dont make them....ooooppppsss forgot about his cheating on his first (non-$100 million dollar) wife and Palin's daughter"s situation.

    October 9, 2008 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  2. Alex

    This is clearly a sign of desperation and action of a loser. Why did not any of these people call Bush the same for his experiment with drugs? Are there no whites who are street guy? Come on! give me a break. If you do not have something to say about the issues get out of the way.

    October 9, 2008 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  3. ken

    oh my god john you have keating as a co chain of your campain , keating the man who was found guilty of stealing millions from the elderly took there retirements , and almost caused you to loose your senate seat, but the senate gave you a slap . for fighting to keep every one away keating , at a time when this country things are so bad and money is the biggest problem we have, and you have one of the biggest theifs in history as your co chairman, this is why tou are looseing, the poeple you keep.your anger is now showing ,im shure cindy will not be that happy that she is looseing millions also, but oh yes her family did sell the beer company to another country, yes mc cains love america, as long as they see the america he wants. john you have allready lost all this is going to make it worse for you , your an angry old man. it is sad , the presidant of america can not be a angry old man , remember barry goldwalter lost also. ken

    October 9, 2008 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  4. Angry Republican

    Desperate MacPalin, what a bad and ugly team, they lost all our respect.

    October 9, 2008 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  5. Robert Barnett

    I hate to agree with the New York Times, but thi has beome the nastiest, dirtiest, lowest Republican campaign, ironic after McCain promised not to go down this route. There should really be laws that prevent misrepresentation of facts and lies in any publication. Freedom of speech should be limited by the ability to prosecute for libel.

    October 9, 2008 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  6. Michael in NC

    He hasn't been "forthcoming"?! He wrote about it in a best-selling book, idiot.

    October 9, 2008 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  7. roger dowdle, lockhart, Tx

    McCain and Palin should realize that when they condone people shouting "KILL HIM" about Obama, they are tacitly giving their approval to somebody who feels lik killing them. By incouraging such behavior, they may reach some nut case or really angry person who may not be thinking clearly, and possibly participating in a murder! And for Palin to tell those fools "you get it" shows how unworthy she is to be allowed on the repub. ticket.

    October 9, 2008 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  8. catherine

    Since when has drug use/abuse been a liberal or a conservative issue??? Do conservatives REALLY want to go through the litany of their greatest hits in this regard????

    Home ownership seems out of the question now. Talk to me about how I'm going to be able to afford groceries to feed my children, gas for my car, savings to pay for college - not this hogwash.

    October 9, 2008 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  9. mobiusinformer

    Drug use? Unimportant. Would improve both candidates if they did.

    Bailout NOW and it'll save the economy? Serious blunder.

    Ignore what the American People WANTED? Fail.

    Can anybody say 'oops'?

    October 9, 2008 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  10. NO McCain, NO Palin, NO CINDY

    Obama, you know you must be doing something right when these slim balls are trying to attack you. Hilarious!!

    I'm going to donate more to Obama right now.

    Go Obama!! Go!! Unite this country!

    Obama/Biden '08

    October 9, 2008 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  11. Cheryl in Florida

    This is ridiculous, what should be the issue is that as a teenager Obama may have experimented with drugs as many many others also did but turned it around, turned his back on it and went on to become a successful individual that made it his life goal to work for the good of citizens. If these individuals want to bring this up than is it not fair bring up the drug use Palin's 2 older children that was talked about by other teens in their town that partied with them or the fact the town Palin was mayor of has more than it's share of meth labs . Stop the nonsense and have your candidate focus on what matters, oh sorry I forgot he has no real policy to focus on just a hate filled campaigin so he does not have to discuss real issues.

    October 9, 2008 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  12. Sue

    The Republicans are sad, pathetic, desperate people. And I've been a Republican all my life (59 years). I'm voting Obama for the change this country needs.

    October 9, 2008 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  13. Kim

    Instead of discussing Obama's drug use from his TEENAGE years, can the McCain campaign provide us with solutions to HELP the American people, during this rough economy.

    This is getting really old – really fast.

    October 9, 2008 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  14. toohip

    And, yet those raising the issue of Obama's minimal drug use are the one and same who elected a former alcoholic and cocaine abuser, yes, I'm talking George W. Bush! And, what about that Rush Limbaugh-and what about Cindy McCain, and so on and forever.

    In other words, stop it all you mudslingers-your time is up! Oh, and, of course, once again, McCain did not approve this!!!!

    October 9, 2008 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  15. 100% support of OBAMA!

    let the numbers speak for themselves on GALLUP

    Gallup Daily: Obama 52%, McCain 41%
    October 9, 2008
    The latest Gallup Poll Daily tracking report shows Barack Obama maintaining a 52% to 41% lead over John McCain, unchanged from Wednesday’s report.

    October 9, 2008 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  16. Sandra - Illinois

    I sometimes wonder how dense the McCain staff think we are. It is amost funny to watch someone get up in a campaign speech and ask John McCain why he doesn't get tougher and then he stands there with a soft smile and acts like he is "holier than thou." Then Governor Keating brings up something like the teen drug phase which Barack Obama has already stated it happened and was a mistake that is long past. What what McCain's parties and almost flunking out of military school? They are even so dumb to state they are going after his character. I don't think they even "get the fact" that we are onto them.

    October 9, 2008 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  17. Steve A. , New Braunfels , Texas

    How about that ! Face the facts McSame if he can fix the economy it don't matter if he smoked dope or what ever, and remember the great george W bush was a cocaine freak for a while and has one dwi, Cheny has 2 dwi's-–try agin---Obama 08

    October 9, 2008 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  18. kayla

    NOW YOU KNOW HE IS NOT "THE ONE", IF HE WAS HE WOULD BE PERFECT. SO, IF YOU ARE WITH OUT SIN, PLEASE CAST THE FIRST STONE!
    OBAMA 08

    October 9, 2008 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  19. Matt

    Somebody really needs to call the people who publish the Oxford English Dictionary, because the McCain campaign is redefining the word "disgusting" on an almost daily basis.

    October 9, 2008 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  20. sly

    At one point I really did think McCain would be a good choice for president (yes I had drank the kool aid), but now I don't even think he knows what is going on. Do you guys really think McCain knows what is going on around him and his campaign? Everyday day is a bag of surprises and still no clear message from him how he is going to get us out of this mess. I think we lost him right about when he said we should be able to deliver hot water bottles to dehydrated babies........

    October 9, 2008 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  21. Tegan

    One would think that the Republican party would be ashamed of their Geezer (adultry, lying in own autobiograpy, USS Forrestal incident that left many dead, flipflopping all over the place about what he says he said, disrespecting other candidates, etc.) and Gidget (who is being investigated as I type for abuse of power, has made a speech for a seperatist group, and has just made a mockery of women who are in politics and personally intelligent women anywhere, etc.). The way they conduct themselves has nothing to do with being presidential or vice presidential. If you think the independents are responding well to their hate filled campaign, check the polls. On second thought, I guess maybe the Republicans don't care. Cheney and Bush aren't exactly role models.

    October 9, 2008 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  22. Susan from Scotts Valley, CA

    Desperation. By the time we get to the election, they'll be claiming it was Obama that orchestrated 9-11.

    October 9, 2008 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  23. Patty

    McCain and his surrogates are pathetic and dangerous....his wife is out there, his VP pick is out there, his mouthpieces are out there, all spreading hatred; inciting if not actually encouraging those at their rallies to yell threats of violence while they are speaking at the podium. I saw Palin actually smiling widely when some of this went on....and following up with more. McCain is allowing the hatred to continue with the reasoning that this is the only way he can win. The fact that he considers this an acceptable path to the white house really shows me the character of the man and the team.

    If McCain really was all about "country first" he would bow out now and wish Obama and the country well....

    October 9, 2008 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  24. Anonymous

    Very desperate tactics (not strategy) by Republicans.

    George W. Bush admitted to using drugs including pot and cocaine, as well as being a heavy drinker. "W" was arrested for DUI on at least 2 occasions.

    I'm disappointed that CNN would bother with this story.

    October 9, 2008 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  25. Larry

    Oh, come on, only a very small part of the US has NOT did drugs. This is not an issue to me. I did drugs in the 70's but haven't since then, I run a successful business and I don't need a bail out. McLost needs to give up.

    October 9, 2008 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
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