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. Catrina R.

    This is just another example exposing the McCain campaign's desperation. Obama was in high school at the time- give me a break. I couldn't care less that he smoked marijuana and drank 30+ years ago. Let's focus on the issues at hand please!!! Not teenage character mistakes.

    October 9, 2008 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  2. JANET


    October 9, 2008 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  3. Ann

    Okay, here we go. Look at what Barak Obama had done with his life. He had a rough start and he overcame enormous odds. Good for Obama. Obama is a inspiration much like John McCain is an inspiration for POW status.

    October 9, 2008 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  4. bill

    obama=acorn=ayers=rezco=cocaine=corruption=no surprise!

    October 9, 2008 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  5. Ken

    The McCain campaign is getting desperate because they can feel the election slipping away. I am feeling more and more confident in Obama's candidacy every day.

    I could not be more proud.

    Obama '08

    October 9, 2008 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  6. Monroe W. DeVos

    Grasping at straws......this is not new!

    October 9, 2008 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  7. rachel

    nice try. no one cares. there is way too much going on right now for scare tactics and digging up dirt to matter one bit. People are losing their homes, savings and hope. We need change. Obama/Biden 2008

    October 9, 2008 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  8. Slacko

    Haha, the Republicans really have no where to turn but to things that Obama has already admitted to doing in the past? This is pathetic. Republicans don't know how to govern anymore, and their slimeball tactics are being rejected by the American people thoroughly.

    October 9, 2008 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  9. Pier Giacalone

    Yes, let's make an issue of Obama's light drug use as a teenager even tho he never developed an addiction and was able to put it behind him on his own when he grew into adulthood. Then let's talk about Bush's alcohol addiction that went into his 40's and Cindy McCain and Rush Limbaugh......etc etc etc. Frankly the Democrats can't begin to compete with Republicans when it comes to substance abuse whether it's on the "street" or the CEO office.

    It's so pathetic, almost as pathetic as Dennis Miller wetting his pants on 9/11 and disavowing his politics because he came to the realization that he's a scared little girl.

    October 9, 2008 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  10. AIB

    Give a break. Tired of your stupid and pointless suggestions. McCain and his will have to come forward of their drug use.

    October 9, 2008 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  11. deidre

    That is right if you disagree or raise questions about Obama you are a racist and are deamed erractic.

    Is Obama erractic because he changed his mind about his offshore drilling? How about his plans for Iraq? How about his opinion of the surge- boy that changed really quickly didn't it? What about his plans for withdrawl- remember what he said in the primary? He would have troops out with 60 days.

    Please define erractic Sen. Obama.

    October 9, 2008 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  12. CO

    Gov, why not bring up Sarah Palin's admitted drug use, too, while you're resurrecting these irrelevant things of the past.

    Must McCain's surrogates rely on smears to push him over the top?

    October 9, 2008 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  13. Eric

    STICK TO THE ISSUES! No one cares, and furthermore, Obama has said plenty about it. McCain has alcohol, adultery, and "poor judgment" with taxpayers money in his past. Everyone makes mistakes and moves on.

    Meanwhile, our economy is tanking and our "leaders" are giving more of your money away to irresponsible business. On top of that, McCain now wants you to bail out irresponsible people who are living far beyond their means.

    Someone please bring back the conservatives! Kick this current group of liberty hating, big spend, faux conservatives out on their wrinkly old bums and get us real conservatives back in office.

    October 9, 2008 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  14. Disgusted By McCain and Palin


    You guys are simply disgusting. With our economy in shambles, people's retirement accounts imploding, and workers being laid off, this is what you are focused on?

    Get a clue! We are not stupid. Talk about the issues we care about. I am more certain than ever that Barack Obama will provide our country with the leadership that we desperately need. He actually talks about the issues we care about!

    October 9, 2008 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  15. Janine

    Actually this is a point that I actually like about Obama. Not that he did drugs but that he is transparent. I'm confident that many of our elected officials and past presidents have. They are just good at lying and covering up there indiscretions. John McCain has done things in his past that he's not proud of and he's not man enough to own up to any of them.

    October 9, 2008 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  16. djw

    desparate campaign.

    October 9, 2008 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  17. Jill

    And this matters to me how?

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

    Obama has always been candid about this & frankly,I know there are many of my generation (60 yr. old) & after who experimented or sporadically used alc.,marijuana or cocain but when we moved past our teens ,we got on with the business of careers & family life as law abiding productive citizens. Is this a relative of the Keating who McCain solicited bailout for in the late '89's ??
    While we're talking about being forthright ,can we hear about the maverick's propensity for crashing planes even before Vietnam & lying to cover up some of them ?

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

    Senator Obama has been very forthright in his acknowledgement of his drug use in his past. What a silly comment for Mr. Keating to make. He obviously hasn't watched any of the "life of the candidate" programs.

    Shall we bring up McCains "past sins" also? What a royal waste of time and energy from a very desperate Republican party.

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

    It's so clear why this, Ayers, Wright, etc. are all becoming issues now. When the campaign began I'm fairly sure John mCCain wanted to run the game clean, about the issues, all the stuff he complained about in 2000 when he lust to Bush Jr.

    But now that he's losing, and losing big with no way to turn this around in sight, McCain has chosen to sell his ideals to the lowest bidder with the hope that sleaze politics just might resurrect his dead campaign.

    To fall so far....

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

    LMAO! Grasping at straws eh? lol

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

    Obama HAS spoken candidly about his drug use as a kid, it is a very well established fact. The Republicans have no moral ground on this since they were all too willing to overlook far worse behavior in George Bush. Now they are just being hypocrites.

    I guess when you've got no platform you have to rely on smearing people. What a pathetic lump the Republican party has become. Grand Old Party indeed.

    October 9, 2008 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  23. joy

    In these times,with the world in such a turmoil,HOW LOW CAN THE McCAIN CAMPAGIN GO. Anything to win!!!!!!!!!. McCains to damm old & not in the best of health& Palin there are no words to even tell you how we fell about her,there low down dirty mud slinging is really no different than the way the gop always relates to the thought of a loss,win no matter what you have to do. America please you could end up with SARAH PALIN as you president,and the first dude as her side kick. If McCain wins I fear what the end results will be.

    October 9, 2008 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |

    The incompetent we have in the White House denied he used cocaine, alcohol and other drugs and the conservative fanatics, including this guy, were fine with it, but not it really matters to them because Obama is a Democrat who is beating the crap out of old McCain.

    October 9, 2008 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  25. sarah

    wah, what else would we hear next?
    1,200 pages of McCain's doctor report? Don't they know the history of their president - Bush?

    October 9, 2008 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
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