October 9th, 2008
08:05 PM ET
9 years ago

McCain surrogate raises Obama's past drug use


[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/10/09/art.keating.agi.jpg caption="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. dollorbil

    This is much ado about nothing. This has nothing to do with the election or the way Obama will run the country. How many americans have used some kind of drug recreationally in their teen or early twentys. I would say a very large majority has and does it effect the way they do their life or work no it doesn't. This is another repuklican attempt to dicredit Obama and as usual it will have no effect on the outcome of the election. Repuklicans go hang it up you are finished.

    October 9, 2008 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  2. Paul

    The GOP is out of ideas, out of time and increasingly, out of slanderous attacks. Now they have to extract an honest politician's admissions of past weaknesses and mistakes and try to smear him with them?

    Enough garbage – bring November 4 on.

    October 9, 2008 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  3. Yann

    What's wrong with somebody telling the truth. MCSame won't admit it but I'm sure I did use drug one in his lifetime.

    Obama 08

    October 9, 2008 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  4. Ron was a REP now a DEM

    Someone please POLL the RED States. Most of them have not been polled 2nd week of September some the 1st week. I would like John McCain see the light

    October 9, 2008 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  5. Mrs. Texas Teacher

    At least Obama is open and honest about his rough patch. I don't think the McCains actually want an open discussion about drug use, not with McCindy's history.

    October 9, 2008 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  6. Lorenzo Clemons

    It is the republican way. Smear, kick, and kill the spirit of the American people is the way to win elections. However it is a way to set this country back to pre-slavery days. I appreciate those wise Americans who believe we can overcome racism, a bad economy and stupid politics to make this world better. The ones who believe in the best America, must be the people who must get up and stand up for what is right!!

    October 9, 2008 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  7. valerie

    let me a replublican they are pathatic

    October 9, 2008 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  8. Jean, Indiana

    Can't believe this issue is being raised by a surrogate named KEATING! Obama already discussed his early drug use in "Dreams from My Father" (1995, 2004). Now, let's hear McCain acknowledge that his wife not only abused drugs but STOLE THEM FROM HER CHARITY!

    October 9, 2008 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  9. Rick

    Obama has written and talked about it already and been more forthright than McCain has about the circumstances of his divorce and filed of a marriage license with Cindy in AZ before his divorce was even final.

    McCain, through surrogates or otherwise, really doesn't want to have a character debate with a man who is still married to his 1st wife, owns 1 house, is worth less than 1million dollars, has not been censured or investigated by the Senate ethics committee and has not hired people to work in his campaign who previously referred to either of his daughters as illegitimate (Steve Schmidt and others worked for Karl Rove when Rove started the phone campaign in SC 2000 primary saying that McCain has an "illegitimate african american baby out of wedlock") If McCain would sell out his own daughter by hiring the people who smeared her and his family's name like that, he has no business trying to debate character with Obama or Biden because they are way out of his definitely minor league

    October 9, 2008 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  10. ToddDC

    This is absolutely RIDICULOUS!!!

    October 9, 2008 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  11. Joseph Adewole

    No more ammunition for the Republicans; George Bush did same b4 he was ellected to the White House.....All you can be doing now is to organise a send off party for John McCain....away from the Senate and White House.
    What you started talking about now will only hurt John McCain more.

    October 9, 2008 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  12. Republicans= Me First Country Last

    Keating is the guys name. Kind brings back memories doesn't it Mccain?

    October 9, 2008 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  13. Patrick

    Keating: "Obama should admit to the past drug use he's already admitted to."


    The McCain campaign is starting to become disgusting.

    October 9, 2008 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  14. Obama for President

    "We didn’t ask him to do it,” the aide said. Wink wink.

    “He didn’t clear it with us" the aide said. Wink wink.

    October 9, 2008 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  15. Mike G

    You can just smell the desperation coming from the McCain campaign lately.

    Here's a hint on what to focus on instead:
    "It's the economy STUPID!!!!!"

    October 9, 2008 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  16. Tracy

    Desperation is setting in. And shame on you CNN for "reporting" this dribble. It is old news and you have become a pawn for the GOP hate machine!!!!!!!!!!! Is this the best they have? Bringing up attacks that Clinton used first???? McCain and his camp are becoming more disgusting by the day...................... 27 days and counting.

    October 9, 2008 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  17. AQ

    why are they even bringing it up? Obama HAS spoken about this and that should be the end of it –

    October 9, 2008 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  18. Republlican for OBAMA...

    well well well, Here comes another frend of Mccain......I think american people have seen and heard enough from McCain camp and his party.........we have seen this movie twice in the last 10 years back in 2000 and 2004 elections.........all they can do now is teliing a

    LIE after LIE LIE after LIE LIE after LIE LIE after LIE LIE after LIE

    until Nov 4....its up to you americans dont get fooled this time.......

    October 9, 2008 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  19. Greed is not good

    Is this man related to Charles Keating? What about Bush saying he couldn't remember whether or not he used coke coz he partied so hard in the past?

    October 9, 2008 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  20. sola

    Obama also needs to explain why he smoked cigarettes until 4 years ago

    October 9, 2008 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  21. Lisa

    Well, well..how selective this McCain surrogate appears to be. Why not disclose everything...let's start with McCain and the Keating 5, come on let's hear the truth. Next, why doesn't America's #1 Hockey mom come clean and testify in "Troopergate". Answer some questions Palin, after all the American people want to know the truth. Between McCain's "Bomb Bomb" comments and Palin's Bridge to no where and I did nothing wrong, but I won't testify approach in Troopergate, not to mention her husbands DUI...I think that there are a lot of issues that need addressing on the Republican side before they open up someone else's closet. Oops, maybe McCain doesn't want to remember how many homes he owns because there are a lot of closets there.

    October 9, 2008 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  22. Bob (Illinois)

    Good grief! Will the McCain campaign trash talk ever cease? This is old news that has been covered long ago.

    McCain and his surrogates are sounding more and more like angry old men.

    October 9, 2008 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  23. boriskat

    How has he NOT told us about it, if everyone knows about it? Jeez McCain (and surrogates), be a little more desperate.

    October 9, 2008 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  24. Eric

    If there's a question of moral character it should go to the McCain camp and their dirty campaign. Why talk to the American public about what solutions you have to our financial crisis, heathcare, eduction etc. when instead, as the McCain campaign is doing big time, fuel the flames of gossip, innuendo, and racism .... Frankly, I see the story of a teenager who could have easily turned down a permanent wrong path and instead makes higher choices and eventually becomes a candidate for President of the United States as a story of integrity, triumph, and the American dream.

    October 9, 2008 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  25. marie

    He didnot try to hide this. He was honest about this in his book. Get a life old man. The republicans are not the saints that they claim to be.

    October 9, 2008 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
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