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. jan

    How do you spell desperate? Ok, this is fun...I'll tell you???

    -- A-N--D–

    On November 5th all the social conservative, republican loving, right wing electorate should prepare for a new adminstration. Its our time. Obama will win and he will be an excellent president. Get ready for 8 years of Democrats y'all. It's coming.

    Obama/Biden 08/12

    October 9, 2008 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  2. kirsten

    are you kidding me? who cares. i think cheating on your disfigured wife and kids with cindy is WAY worse. and then we have her stealing drugs from her charity.... looks like obama at least paid for his!!!

    October 9, 2008 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  3. Jay

    And they are Christen folk making these ads. SAD!

    Republicans doing the Devils work!

    October 9, 2008 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  4. Sharon Nielsen

    Oh my goodness, I respected your network for so long as being a respected, news network. What I have been watching lately is worse than any trash magazine I have come across in the grocery lineup. I think that you have to realize that you had so many comitted viewers who looked to CNN for a fair view of the debates for the next president. It is obvious who the network (CNN) is voting for and it may not be who many of your loyal viewers agree with. Unfortunately, no longer a viewer and so sadly disappointed!!

    October 9, 2008 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  5. TT

    That's normal because it's part of college life 🙂

    Vermont= Obama/Biden

    October 9, 2008 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  6. George

    Another Stunt from the desperate McCain.

    October 9, 2008 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  7. NC Voter

    How does the McCain know what the American public want to know?

    Let talk about your economics, foreign policies and so on. Give us an indication on you are gover this nation as opposed to telling us that you know Reagan, Leiberman, Gen Patreus. Stop telling that you know how to fix things and tell us how you are going to do it.

    We do not care what Obama did when he was 8 or 16. Get It.
    What with this washed old men and their old ideas?

    October 9, 2008 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  8. Jazzi

    Oh Please save us the drama.... Tell McCain's surrogates to tell us all about McCain's PTSD ( Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ). " Hello my fellow prisoners..." – John McCain!

    Obama/ Biden 08' and 12"

    October 9, 2008 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  9. blogger

    Why, Bush has kept his use secret. Obama experimented with coke, Palin with Marijuana. To most voters under 60 these are not big issues. They are especially small, given the country current problems. Both Obama who is on the left, this is not a secret. and McCain who has a very right wing voting record, have moved to the center. If you can;t believe one, why should we believe the other.
    Obama knows a 60 radical, Palin;s husband belonged and Palin herself is sympathetic towards a political party whose founding father was buried in Canada because he hated the United States.

    None of these are important issues in this election. Everyone has blemishes in their record.

    October 9, 2008 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  10. Dal CA

    CAn we look at McCain's rebel ways while he was a Naval Aviator. That would real be something to look at as well if you IDIOTS go forth spewing HATE and being so unstable like your leader McCain.

    October 9, 2008 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  11. jim

    At least Obama is honest enough to admit a weakness that he had as a youth. Unlike the rest of these crooked people who have ruined our country with lies!! I find that very refreshing and I forgive him!!

    America needs an honest leader, unlike Bush and his party who continue to lie and mislead the American people into the dark times we face right now.

    Honesty is what America needs right now, more than ever. Obama was able to rise out of his dark time to achieve an outstanding success. If he can do that for himself, and be honest about it, think about what he might do for our country!!

    No more lies from Republicans who have run the average American into the ground for the benefit of the rich!! It's time we face our dark times, like Obama did, and rise to success! As neither a Republican or a Democrat, but just an average man – I stand with pride knowing an honest man will lead our country!

    Again, I forgive him and I bet America does to.

    Obama landslide and lets all forget about the miserable people who have lied to us for so long!!!!!

    October 9, 2008 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  12. A.D. Vasquez

    This question should be raised with all of our Republican brothers & sisters...

    If John McCain is so great, why didn't you choose him in 2000? (Resoundingly so I must add.)

    Also, if W. was a better choice then, then why on earth would you vote for him now?...

    October 9, 2008 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  13. Raul Dominguez

    This is so ridiculous!!! They will bring up every negative issue that Senator Obama clearly discussed either in his books or on the campaign to try to make Americans avoid the issues! How sad for the McCain campaign and the Republican party as a whole for lowering themselves so much. They continue to set the tone for a major collapse in November. Americans will decide to vote for a serious candidate who wants to deal with their problems, rather than a politician who sold out his "maverick" values and lost his way.

    October 9, 2008 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  14. Max (Miami)

    Big deal, i have lost total respect for McCain after the last debate...
    I will never forget how he referred to Obama as "THAT ONE"....
    That was a low blow and will be remember by many independents.

    Obama 2008

    October 9, 2008 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  15. Gen

    This goes to show you how long it took for the McCain/ McSame campaign to read Obama's book and actually have it register in their feeble old minds. 😉 LOL


    October 9, 2008 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  16. Anthony


    I cant imagine them getting any lower... but then again... i said that 4 weeks ago, as well.

    October 9, 2008 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  17. Rick

    Who cares about the drugs in high school. Lets talk about his ties to Ayers, Odingo, and ACORN. CNN is way behind on Fox reporting on these stories. Why?

    October 9, 2008 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  18. John In Charlotte, NC


    Major American companies are going down the tubes, people can't pay their mortgages and what do we here from the McCain campaign? Personal attacks that have been reheated from the primaries. It didn't work then and it won't work now.

    Barack offers calm confident leadership in difficult times and has laid out thoughtful well crafted policies while McCain has been all over the map.

    We'll see where McCain thinks the wind is blowing tomorrow and adjust his policy views from there.

    Obama 08

    October 9, 2008 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  19. someguy

    so you attack the guy for admitting it.....saying, yes i did experiment and inhaled and snorted and repented because of it.......well, mccain has not repented for his advisor charlie black and his being on the payroll untill last month from fannie and freddie.......mccain is another bush....he does not admit mistakes he just keeps trying to tell people he is right.....we need accountable leaders, thats obama

    October 9, 2008 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  20. Vote4Obama

    I don't care about Obama dabling in drugs during his teens! I care about the man he has become, a leader and a leader I have confidence in supporting.

    October 9, 2008 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  21. joan

    Are you all Repubs illiterate? Get his book and read it and you can find all the answers about him in the book !

    October 9, 2008 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  22. Tarrie

    Man-o-man...the mccain is now on empty and they're are beyond desperate.

    October 9, 2008 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  23. Charles

    Anybody remember the lovely little sitting Obama and McCain had at the church in California? As I recall, Obama didn't need a question to bring it up and describe it as his darkest hour. Asked what he most regrets, he said blatantly and to the people, my youthful transgressions and experimentation with drugs. This really is getting shameful but I fear Americans might just be afraid enough to fall for it.

    October 9, 2008 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  24. Jane

    I hope that people will pay attention to the non talking McCain without a plan. McCain will not talk about issues when asked a guestion but will be quick to say that Obama is this and that. Now how can a grown man play childlish games. Get a plan McCain. Get a Plan

    October 9, 2008 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  25. Jena

    It is so obvious that the McCain campaign is running out of ideas, so they are sinking to this low road political strategy. It's sickening. But it is very telling of what type a man McCain is and it calls into question his 'honor.'

    McCain is desperate and so are his supporters and it shows!

    October 9, 2008 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
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