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. tom

    The more you guys continue to talk about these issues you are gonna lose. Americans please don't be fooled these supporters who are asking these questions have already done well for themselves, they are not feeling the pressure like me and you McCain needs to start talking about what matters to me, I will bet you that he will lose if he can't tell me what he is going to do for this country.

    October 9, 2008 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  2. We are watching the death of the Republican Party

    Desperation has set in for the Republicans. The fact that Obama wrote openly about his teenage drug experimentation only makes him more of a real human person to whom many can relate. The only people who would profess to care about this as an issue in the election are the tiny-minded minorty of Ultra Right Christian Conservatives - many of whom, as we've seen, are hypocrite.

    October 9, 2008 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  3. Joe

    so disgusting. They don't want to talk about the issues. They admit they don't want to talk about the issues. 100% of their television ads are NEGATIVE ads. 1/3 of Obama's television ad's are negative ads.

    people that support McCain/Palin should be ashamed of themselves. This much negativity is NOT what this country needs. Have you seen the type of people they are attracting at their rally's? People screaming disqusting foul language about Obama and McCain/Palin is saying absolutely nothing about it.


    October 9, 2008 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  4. Chris

    I think Obama did talk to the American people when he wrote about his drug use in his book which is available at almost every bookstore all across the country! The McCain camp is very obviously getting really nervous now that sophomore comments like this are being made. Geez...

    October 9, 2008 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  5. kate

    Is this guy kidding? Is this what these morons resort to when they know it is a lost cause for the republican party? I wonder what this jerk has in his skeleton closet. Actually I really don't want to know, I am sure he is as pathetic as any other jerk with blatant double standards. Why does the press continue to dignify this junk by giving it a voice? Wow, McCain's posse is just exemplary in their vaccuous ineptitudes.

    October 9, 2008 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  6. iowaobamafan

    Uh....I think he has talked about it openly. I don't think you write about your drug and alcohol use in a best selling book and expect it to be a secret. McCain is really getting desperate now. Obama has been fully vetted during the primaries. This has all been covered and re-covered. If it were an issue with the American people, Senator Obama would not be the democratic nominee.

    October 9, 2008 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  7. chris in oregon

    Its about nightfall now for the McCain campaign and the the sewer rats are emerging attempting to nip at our intelligence. I want to say this once: ITS THE ECONOMY STUPID!!!!

    October 9, 2008 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  8. Mike from Michigan

    Good lord! Perhaps he should flagellate himself in the public square. He was stupid and young AND HE HAS ADMITTED IT! I read the books also but apparently I understood them. Someone should explain to Mr. Co-Chair that these books are what honesty looks like. If I had the behavior and academic record of Johnnie-Boy, I would tell anyone speaking of my opponent's youth to shut up! I'd say Mr. McCain fits into the definition of reckless better than maverick.

    October 9, 2008 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |

    old man mcsame is desparate. he will do anything to win. they are telling out and out lies about PRESIDENT OBAMA. mcsame doesnt have any ideas for the economy, health care or anything else. it is so very sad. desperate old man.

    October 9, 2008 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  10. Jeannie Baltimore, MD

    Former Governor Keating, did you request an investigation into Sarah Palin's background? It seems the officials is Alaska are dragging their feet. Of course you didn't. Sarah Palin would never do the things she's been accused of. The way I see it, it's black and white.

    October 9, 2008 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  11. First Time Young Voter

    Wow, they are real desperate now. Seems they're gonna go out fighting. Only 26 days till Mcshame goes away.

    October 9, 2008 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  12. Douglas, Los Angeles

    Non issue... not worth a response.

    October 9, 2008 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  13. Alex

    Obama’s past drug use has really nothing to do with the current campaign. McCain’s campaign should not bring up events during Obama’s teen years. His drug use can be understandable because his father had died and he didn’t know what to do. Another possibility is that McCain has done drugs himself. After all he did serve in Vietnam and no offense to any veterans but there were lots of drugs floating around over there. Even my dad experienced it during his service. All I’m saying is that it wouldn’t be hard to believe that McCain has done some experimenting of his own.

    October 9, 2008 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  14. MM

    It is difficult to watch the news anymore. I'm freaking out about the market and what is happening to my retirement which was already little as it is and these idiots are going off about smears on Obama's characters. All respect that I had for McCain is out of here.

    October 9, 2008 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  15. Suzi

    I wonder if he inhaled?

    October 9, 2008 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  16. Sherry

    This is getting totally ridiculous..............Why is it that the Republicans are always the mudslingers, while the Democrats stay on the subject at hand.......all of this crap McCain is bringing up has nothing to do with the election.......the way a person is today........he is desperate........he knows he's losing the race........what better way to go out........do a little mudslinging......like a spoiled brat child.......throw a tantrum McCain......you and that thing who you have as a sidekick........you both have eyes of an insane person........nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs...........people are tired of your antics.........believe me.

    October 9, 2008 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  17. Jacob

    We have big economic problems. Why is the GOP focusing on 40 years ago and not the last eight years? What hypocrisy from the Mccain camp.

    October 9, 2008 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  18. Noemi in Los Angeles

    He was a friggin teenager, get over it. We all made stup!d mistakes at some point in our youth..... some are old and STILL are!

    October 9, 2008 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  19. Jake

    Keating ??????

    October 9, 2008 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  20. j. day

    McCain is sleaze king. His sidekick is an empty brain that can be programmed with a smile. It's so depressing for a person like me who wants to vote Republican. I'm a conservative, but I have no choice but to vote Obama. He's the conservative, reasonable force of our times–strange but true. j.Day

    October 9, 2008 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  21. kayla


    October 9, 2008 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  22. Arizona Demo

    Why are all of you shocked. This is a non-starter. Lets see, stock market down 678 POINTS!!!!!! People are losing their a–es and the Republicans talk about OLD NEWS WHICH HAS BEEN DISCUSSED. November 4th can't come too quick to put the Republicans in the minority and we can finally address the huge problems we have.

    October 9, 2008 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  23. thomas

    Yeah, I guess he should come clean just like George W. Bush did. Stoooopid hypocrite.

    October 9, 2008 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  24. Chris from Baltimore

    Another non-issue that has absolutely nothing to do with my life or the prosperity of my family, just like the silly "60's radical" nonsense the McCain campaign has been pushing...noticably absent from all McCain's negative campaign rhetoric is any reason why the voters should want to support any of his issues or positions, or why we should believe that he or his perky sidekick should be considered to lead the country.

    "The other guy is a ...(fill in the blank)"...just aint getting it, as the polls clearly show.

    October 9, 2008 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  25. FRANK O.



    October 9, 2008 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
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