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. Char59

    Well now, Senator Obama already revealed that story, so what is the big deal. He was teenager then. Next thing you know, you will say he wet the bed at age 5. Are you going to tell the story about Cindy McCain and her drug use and how she stole them from her own charity? She got a slap on the wrist, the rest of us would have went to jail. Are you going to tell about Senator McCain's infidelity? You are just going to far and are totally trying to destroy Senator Obama. Why don't just dig up everyone's past, after all George W. was abusing alcohol and he is still the President!

    October 9, 2008 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  2. Jeannie Baltimore, MD

    And so the desperate measures continue. We have Cindy McCain go on stage and give her poorly rehearsed performance. Now we have for Governor Keating trying to bring up issues that have already been revealed. You people are so desperate. It's going to happen, no matter what dasterdly deeds you try to come up with. Barack Hussein Obama is going to be the first African American President of the United States.

    October 9, 2008 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  3. VA will go BLUE!!!!!!!!!

    Wow!!, They truly are desperate!!!

    October 9, 2008 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  4. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia in CA

    This guy looks like the walking dead, too.

    Perhaps they should have a club.


    October 9, 2008 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  5. Tanya

    I just lost about 40% of my modest, to begin with, retirement investments.
    But this is of little importance, of course.
    What is really my priority right now is to know what Sen. Obama did when he was 17 years old. Yeah!
    It is an economy, it is an economy, it is an economy, um, Sen. McCain!

    October 9, 2008 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |

    Republicans really have become scumbags.

    October 9, 2008 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  7. Jesse

    As a Rep I am ashamed of our party!

    We have been beat fair and square and have been out hussled by a young person with a message that people want to hear.

    The party should stop ALL spending right now and start the search for 2012... and for the love of god please DO NOT include that half wit woman from Alaska!

    This party has 100 more qualified women (yes older) who could have complimented the ticket and I am not in favour of beauty queens who have absolutely no clue what she is talking about!

    Saving my money for 2012


    October 9, 2008 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  8. Carol Brucker, Fishers, IN

    Seriously.............We are SMARTER than to believe that if Barack Obama believed his"prior drug use" was an issue to be reckoned with he would not have written about it in HIS own book. I even more than before admire the man for "owning up". Who was it said "Jesus loves a sinner"? Hate the sin, but love the sinner. I LOVE BARACK OBAMA. As a long time voter, I can attest; all of this sillyness is ridiculous, Please John McCain, throw in the towel while you still have a shred of decency left.

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

    who cares what he did as a child? im concerned about what he will do for the economy, healthcare, iraq, taxes.....and what mccain won't do.

    October 9, 2008 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  10. Curtis - Marietta, GA

    Wow, they're really digging deep for something aren't they.

    So let me get this straight, they are saying "Hey, everybody, pay attention to something that you've already known about for a long time! Now you shouldn't be okay with it anymore because we're losing".

    So what's next, McCain is going to ask Obama to quit campaigning and leave the presidency up to a rock, paper, scissors match? Wow, so desperate. Especially on a day when the dow lost 600 points. Yeah McCain, that's what I care about, past drug use.

    October 9, 2008 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  11. James

    Oh hahahahaha...McAin't's "surrogate" is giving Barack Obama advice on what to talk about to voters? Am I going crazy here???

    October 9, 2008 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  12. JohnLee

    Maybe these republicans that support McCain need to learn how to read and read about it in Obama's book! Obviously they aren't smart enough to read if they are making these wild accusations. Come on McCain – we have serious problems in our country. We don't need petty politics. Where did your straight talk express go?

    October 9, 2008 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  13. M.H.

    Give me a break! Stop harping on these petty things from Obama's childhood. We've all done some dumb stuff as kids, but turned out as fairly reputable citizens ... didn't we? If you want to get snippy, slam Miss Beer Heiress for her addiction to pain killers (and doing community service for getting them) as an ADULT. She should have known better as a so-called grown up. What a wonderful image for a first lady.

    October 9, 2008 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  14. Sick to my stomach

    Did it matter to any voters that Bush had a MAJOR cocaine problem...? Or had 2 starter businesses go bankrupt before his dad pushed him in to politics...? Obviously no one was digging so deep in that election, or people just chose to vote blind.
    Obviously the McCain party is trying to use EVERY desperate move they can think of. The MAJOR difference is that Obama is putting his past out there for everyone to know, and is talking about it as an example of learning from mistakes...while "others" fib and fabricate their true past. Says a lot about some people...

    October 9, 2008 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  15. Kelly Smith

    Whatever. He was a teenager. Your children have probably done worse. It was decades ago. Should they now be shut off from public service? Are you telling me that neither you nor any of our politicians have done nothing 'suspect' when it comes to drugs?? The finger pointing should stop. I'm tired of this.

    October 9, 2008 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  16. Willy Brown

    Obama a doper? How shocking-NOT!

    October 9, 2008 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  17. mitch

    i guess this wouldn't be a good time to bring up the decriminalization of marijuana? just asking.....

    October 9, 2008 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  18. BT

    Millions of Americans have tried pot – so what? Add that to the millions of alcoholics in this country (oh, don't forget Palin's pals the Joe 6-packs) and the millions hooked on prescriptions drugs and let's face it – most of America has some kind of problem.

    October 9, 2008 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  19. No McPain

    OMG! They just keep getting more and more desperate. It's laughable. You just know they're going to start in on the racial insinuations soon. What a bunch of sickos.

    October 9, 2008 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  20. Matthew

    Yeah... so? It's not like this is new information. The guy read Obama's book and noticed that no one has brought it up in the past month. This is sooooo sleezy! Talk about the issues GOP!

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

    I know you want a horse race CNN, but to stoop to this horse doo doo is a bit much. Between the Ayers stuff and this, I wonder when the McCain check cleared.

    October 9, 2008 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  22. Rob, AK

    So, I guess this is the latest attack on Barack's character...

    October 9, 2008 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  23. ChangeIsGood

    These kinds of attacks are exactly why I will not vote for McCain. Every day McCain's campaign gets uglier and more desperate while the American people watch their future grow dimmer and dimmer. We're tired of empty slogans, the politics of division, and lies from Bush/McCain. McCain never proposes any fresh solutions for the future of America. He should retire quietly in Sedona and start writing his memoirs.

    October 9, 2008 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  24. georgia

    McCain's campaign is really showing it's desperation rather than a platform to move the country forward,not a good thing for one seeking the presidency.

    October 9, 2008 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  25. MEP

    Is this the best they've got? This is very sad to watch.

    October 9, 2008 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
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