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. JKT

    Keating found out about the drug use from where? Obama's book. What part of writing a book doesn't Keating understand to be "talking about it"?? Wow, the right is getting even more desperate than I thought.

    October 9, 2008 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  2. Denise Colorado

    Keating this is old news. He has already written the book and this has been hashed out during the primaries. You have gotta stay informed. No wonder our economy is in such turmoil. You are outta touch. And do you honestly think McCain's therapy for post traumatic stress disorder was a hope and a prayer and no drugs were involved. And what he didn't administer his wife sure did. Please. This is no time for your confessions. Now lets discuss substance. What are you going to do about my rising heating costs, gasoline, cost of living increases, etc.?

    October 9, 2008 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |

    mr keating what a jerk you are. are you sure your not from alaska as you sound like a PALIN. Obama is a good person and he cares about the american people. ask mccain about his gambling problem and about his being involved with the iran contro

    October 9, 2008 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  4. Fonz

    oh noes...he did drugs...so did Bush.

    hell he even had a DWI / DUI when he ran...oh the hypocrisy of the repubs

    October 9, 2008 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  5. values


    October 9, 2008 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  6. Martin

    Headline on article about charges against John McCain: "Obama personally attacks McCain."

    Headline on article about charges against Obama: "Obama's Past Drug Use Raised."

    Love the blatant bias, CNN.

    How badly does CNN want this race to remain close?

    October 9, 2008 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  7. Tony in NM

    Obama is so much closer to God ....and it's obvious.

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

    This is getting beyond ridiculous. Have these idiots noticed what happened with the markets today?? Are they aware that there was a loss of over 150,000 jobs last month, or that several states are poised to run out of money to fund unemployment insurance in the next few months? I could care less what people did when they were in their teens or 20's. What I do however, care about is if my world is going to fall out from under me. I am pretty sure that plenty of others share my sentiments. What is it going to take for people to realize that there are much bigger issues of importance? America WAKE UP!!!!!

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

    Dear God.....what will they come up with next......Sen Obama has said he experimented with drugs as a younger man to a bunch of High School Students!!!
    Will these relentless pieces of crap never end......if that sad old man McCain has nothing better to do than add this nonsensical rubbish....he needs to get out of the race!!!
    Where is his concern for the economy and the American people.....I'll tell you where.....at the VERY BOTTOM of his list right now.....lets get Sen Obama at all costs...to hell with country!!!!
    SHAMELESS.....SHAMELESS....well I am beyond words as to what I really feel for McCain and the rest of the guttersnipes in his campaign.
    I just hope America have seen enough of the LESS THAN HONORABLE......COUNTRY LAST.....McCAIN......this country does need to be anymore divided and they are sure as hell trying their best to keep it that way.

    October 9, 2008 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  10. Frank St.Onge

    Wow I tried smoking dope when I was younger to. I think that's nothing compared to our republican candidate. He's on kick that puts him on a pedastle. John McCain is a natural looser and has no business running for president. The only attractive thing about his ticket is Sarah Palin in a skin tight set of leather undies. That would funnier than all heck. Better yet let's see him do it. Will Farrel could play McCain and Palin could play herself on SNL..

    October 9, 2008 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  11. sandee in Portland

    You have to be kidding! This is important? Not! First of all it happened years ago when he was a teenager. Even McCain admits he was a hellraiser during his teenage years. What does this even have to do with running for President. He already admitted it in his book. I wouldn't call it extreme for someone to experiment with drugs. Whether right or wrong, the majority of kids do experiment. This guy is out to lunch. The McCain campaign and his supporters are so looking for anything at all to try to discredit Obama. Ain't going to work folks. First, it's whay Ayers did when Obama was 8 yrs old and now this. Will they never stop!

    October 9, 2008 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  12. My State Is Blue! Yours Can Be Too!

    Sorry for the typo.........
    I'm just sick of the character attacks.
    Please grow up.

    October 9, 2008 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  13. Rodger

    Can't talk about the economy, so bring up something Obama has already written about...so what!

    October 9, 2008 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  14. Will

    Disgusting! How low can the McCain campaign possibly sink? Obama has discussed this openly and honestly. What more needs to be said?

    Given McCain's ridiculously inept and negative campaign, and the current state of the nation after 28 years of conservative economic and foreign policy, it astounds me that anyone could even consider voting for this sad and bitter old man.

    Obama/Biden '08

    October 9, 2008 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  15. CMJ

    Republicans will only smear because they have nothing to offer the country...have you heard one good idea coming from them in the past week? No.

    October 9, 2008 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  16. Carl29

    What else could we expect from the Republicans?

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

    If Senator Obama talks about past drug use as a teenager then McCain should have to talk about womanizing, adultery and anger issues.

    October 9, 2008 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  18. Ethel in GA

    Who cares? What does it matter? It's common knowledge. Look closely, Republicans, and you might even detect that Obama is not white.

    October 9, 2008 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  19. Doug in Renton, WA

    What a tool! Obama has already come clean about past drug use. Is there really anything more to say?

    October 9, 2008 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  20. ted d

    I sure wish the John McCain who promised a dignified campaign focused on this issues would return. It is so sad to see a good man sell his soul in his floundering attempt to gain the White House. Each dumb personal character attack just moves more undecideds to Obama-Biden.

    October 9, 2008 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  21. tigerakabj

    What is it with McCain and his attraction to people with the last name Keating?

    Whatever. This guy needs to sit down and be quiet. Everybody knows about Obama's drug use when he was 18. So? My professor admitted she smoked weed back in the late 60's. Do I care? No. She's still a great professor. And Obama is a great candidate with great solutions.

    They really are pulling out anything they can launch. Drugs, Ayers, Rev. Wright, Rezko, bitter-gate, flag-pin, white toilet paper (instead of black toilet paper), etc. I guess when you're losing....

    October 9, 2008 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  22. Karen

    How much more public can Mr. Obama be about his past use of substances then to write about them. Sounds like he learned from his experience and may actually gain the respect of youth who wander down the same path...heres an idea Mr McCain, how about discussing your ideas instead of slinging mud?

    October 9, 2008 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  23. Winnie in Montana

    Last time I checked, our current Commander in Chief used cocaine and is a recovering drunk. Try again conservatives.

    While I'm on the subject, and CNN, please post this, Kelsey Grammer was on Glenn Beck tonight and I find he's an excellent example of why conservatives have no right to cast stones. A drug user, married to a stripper, then married to a Playboy "model" and he wants to set an example for political thought. Hmmm.

    October 9, 2008 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  24. Spare Me

    I knew that was going to come up!! I was just waiting for it to happen! Give me a break!! McCain can't win on pure issues of what we are going through right now so they have resorted to this. I don't care if Obama did drugs in his past. Just as long as he is not doing them now. For those of us who have lived long enough, most have something in our past that was stupid, so find something else to talk about!! I wonder what skeletons Keating has that have not been dug up yet. He sure is old enough to have plenty!

    October 9, 2008 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  25. Rob Duncan

    Frank Keating was the governor of my state for several years, and he ran the state into the ground. His opinions, obviously, carry very little weight with me. The McCain campaign is grasping at any straw they can at this point, because they are desperately losing. Maybe they need to come up with some concrete plans for the US instead of just their sad and increasingly hysterical negative campaigning.

    October 9, 2008 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
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