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. Carol

    As a Republican from Oklahoma, I am changing my vote to Obama...Frank Keating was no prize governor for this state and as the weeks have gone by I have witnessed the most appalling ads by McCain and his cronies....I have had enough....I am ashamed to be called a Republican...and I will not be voting for McCain...

    October 9, 2008 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  2. Jams

    He should be candid and admit it? Keating, you only know about it because he told you about it, and America, in one of his books (not that you read them!).

    October 9, 2008 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  3. Dealt

    Obama has spoken about it. Why don't you Republicans let go of old issues and talk about what matters most to the voters? The economy should be the issue. Are you afraid?

    October 9, 2008 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  4. Dylan from MN

    A lot of us have been there(myself included), I think it makes him more human.

    October 9, 2008 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  5. Jeffrey

    I'm confused. Are we supposed to look to the future like Palin said in the debate or look to the past? Didn't Obama already cover this in his book? Can't America read? Or is reading a Democratic virtue.

    You can smell the desperation in the McCain camp. And it stinks.

    October 9, 2008 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  6. Tim

    He has admitted it. Over ten years ago. Where was this guy when W was running in 2000 and refused to talk about his past drug use?

    October 9, 2008 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  7. I guess...

    For some reason, because he's a Democrat, writing about it frankly doesn't count as being open anymore. What's he supposed to do? Compose an opera about his drug using days?

    Aside from Clinton's "I smoked, but I didn't inhale" I can't remember any other candidate being anywhere near this open about the topic.

    October 9, 2008 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  8. Buffalo, NY

    He has been forthright about his past drug use.... He's not trying to hide anything so quit trying to make it seem like he is. He disclosed his past drug use in his books and address the issue during the primary. Besides, I know I for-one don't care weather or not he's experimented with drugs. . . I wanna know how I'm gonna heat my house this winter, or how I'm gonna make my car payment once I get laid-off. This econom,ic crisis has my employer talking about poss. lay-offs in the next month or two!

    October 9, 2008 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  9. Voting Democrat 1st Time

    This is absurd!! The McCain camp is grasping for straws as they try to win by not focusing on the issues that America cares about most!! Well, I want to inform them it is over!!!! America will not fall for 4 more years of dangerous policies. I am a lifelong republican ashamed of my party and proud to vote Obama/Biden this November 4th. I talk to many Republicans who feel the same way. I sense a landslide victory for Barack Obama and the nation this year!!!!!

    Obama/Biden 08' and 12'

    October 9, 2008 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  10. Mark, Detroit Michigan

    Obama doesn't owe anybody an explanation. He has written and talked about it previously, which is good enough. You never improve as a person without making some mistakes.

    October 9, 2008 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  11. Gillian

    These folks cannot run an honest election! They are trying every trick in the book to trash Obama. Shame on you!!!

    October 9, 2008 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  12. AnuRa

    I don't know that one can be a Christian and a politician in America anymore.

    October 9, 2008 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  13. NetteNAZ

    This is really getting old. Obama spoke about this very openly with Diane Sawyer, approximately 2 Fridays ago. Not too mention, in book and during other interviews. Who hasn't made mistakes??!! Perhaps the supporters of Obama should discuss McCain's extramarital affairs on both his wives. His stupid acts as a teenager and early adulthood, let's see his crashing plans, etc. I forgot those records are sealed.

    October 9, 2008 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  14. Alicia

    How is this even relevant? They are just trying to distract the American people. The Mccain campaign is so stupid. No one is going to care about this when our economy is going down.

    October 9, 2008 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  15. dawn diva

    Why should he go into details if hes already himself mentioned it. I reall hope this isnt the same Keating who stole 200,000 people life savings..if so, Mr.Keating you have no ground to talk about morals. even clinton and bush jr experimented with druges during their adolescent times. most kids have experimented with drugs or binge drinking during their h.s or college times...and majority stop before becoming of adult age.....I swear rupublicans act as if they are saints...after all the corrpution and not answering to supeanos, buah and his party Believe they can get away with murder and all they have to say is a democrat did it

    October 9, 2008 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  16. Wrinkly and Winky

    Sleaze...Sleaze...More Sleaze.

    This is all the GOP has.

    Maybe we should talk about Cindy's pill popping HABIT...you know the one where she STOLE drugs from a childrens charity?

    October 9, 2008 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  17. Stupid!!!!

    Wow, these idiots come in bunches!!!!!!

    October 9, 2008 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  18. annie - never again a dem.

    obama's 30 min blocks of time is that from campaign funds from foreign countries?

    October 9, 2008 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  19. Joe

    You don't think Dennis Miller did or still does drugs???

    October 9, 2008 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  20. Mike

    Hay nobodies perfect he has to purchase air time….. Spend more money…… he is addicted to the political system at are expense now that’s freedom!!!!

    October 9, 2008 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  21. Ven

    Great job, republicans...Keep up that good work of helping Obama..

    Everytime you talk of Obama, you miss talking about vital national issues...That is good for Obama..

    October 9, 2008 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  22. Joe Dallas/Fort Worth

    I thought he already has spoken about it. I don't think it's really an issue anymore kind of like the whole Ayers thing.

    October 9, 2008 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  23. James Wilson

    Come clean Obama. Tell us the truth about Bill Ayres and Tony Rezko. We need to know the truth.

    October 9, 2008 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  24. S for Obama

    So he used drug before...so did Bush...and we elected him twice. YOu point it RNC?

    October 9, 2008 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  25. JT

    What does this has to do with with the price of gas and the economy? Please tell McBush/(Pain)lin Campaign to please stick tot he issues. Stop reaching from the bottom of the barrell because that where you will be stuck down there with the rest of the nonsense garbage.

    October 9, 2008 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
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