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. Rick

    What on earth are you people reporting on? McCain specifically stated during the last debate that the $300b he would use to purchase those bad home loans, those homes would be purchased at the homes current value not the homes purchased value? Why don't you people get all your facts straight?

    October 9, 2008 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |


    October 9, 2008 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  3. Amy

    If McCain and Palin want ANY chance of winning this election they should focus on policies – why they think they are the right choice and Obama is wrong.

    I think the American public will forgive teenage indiscretions that have already been admitted. It seems the McCain campaign is scraping the bottom of the barrel. Do they have anything recent to expose?

    October 9, 2008 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  4. Joan

    We are sick and tired of McCain kitchen sink strategies. The voters are not going to reward these senseless attacks by electing a dishonorable and incompetent president like McCain.

    Shame on the media for reporting these desperate attacks instead of focusing on the issues that matter to the voters!

    October 9, 2008 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  5. Obama

    Why is it that McCain has to get OTHERS to do his down in the gutter politicing and then ACTS as if he has nothing to do with the remarks that are flowing out of some of these people mouths.......and then he thinks we are dumb enough NOT to know he sent them out to say these PAST and dumb thing and then pretends he knew nothing about them making these remarks and them LIE and say they are UNEXCEPTABLE?????

    Is this the type of President McCain will be. When a Country don't do as he say, he will USE his family and friends to talk about the Countries Leaders PAST?????? This is what is UNEXCEPTABLE…….Sorry McCain, but WE are LOOK forward to the future......judging from the last couple of weeks of actions by you and Sarah, neither one of you are PART of American future…….

    October 9, 2008 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  6. Missouri voter

    Why is this an issue? That was 30 years ago. Jeez. The Mccain campaign is cornered and has nothing to bring to the table besides irrelevant minutia from long long ago. I bet if Obama's campaign looked into Mccain's past they would find a lot of objectionable things he may have done, but again, Obama is not about negative campaigning. Lets get back to the issues that really matter!

    October 9, 2008 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  7. Neicey in Ohio


    October 9, 2008 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  8. Haitian Red, 23, FL

    OMG....can they get any lower?!?!?!? NEGATIVE ADS DON'T WORK!!!

    OBAMA '08

    October 9, 2008 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  9. Joan Fl Voter

    Sen Obama already wrote about this in his book! Very weak of the Repubs. to try and use a small chapter of his book to attack instead of reading the whole book and understanding the person and their life so you can have a clearer picture of who Sen Obama is. Everyone has had their ups and downs and he has learned from his mistakes and admitted so! Takes someone with Integrity and Courage to do that!!
    Its Old, Stale News and thats NOT going to fix our economy! Interesting how the Repubs. forgot to mention Sarah Palin's affair with her husband's business partner- Now moving forward..
    All this personal attacks on Obama and the tumbling dow has only driven Sen Obama up in the polls why... ITS THE ECONOMY- STUPID!
    And if the rest of you weren't stuck on color you'd see the best candidate for this job after the last 8 yrs is Sen Obama!

    October 9, 2008 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  10. Andrew

    I don't believe that G.W. Bush ever told us much at all about his drunken and drug using past. I've known people in Houston that grew up right next door to him, and they could tell you pretty interesting stories about his affinity for blow.

    The fact is that a majority of us experimented with drugs of one sort or another when we were young. We all made mistakes, but what's important and relevant is what we made of ourselves and who we are today.

    October 9, 2008 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  11. karanja

    wow! i cant believe the kind of garbage the republicans are trying to bring up. This clearly shows desperation. Get ready mcsame and take it like a man.

    Obama '08

    October 9, 2008 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  12. Claudia

    This is sad. Obama spoke about his drug use in his book and even used it as an example when he spoke with high school students to help inspire them. This is what Obama is about, inspiring hope which will bring about change.

    Go Obama/Biden 08

    October 9, 2008 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  13. Mook

    I think that the message here is,honesty ,transparency and a willingness to admit to mistakes.Hmmm... does this sound likw the exact opposite of the current administation? If so I'd say,this has got to be a CHANGE, instead of MORE OF THE SAME!!! Canadian for Obama/Biden

    Obama 2008-12
    Biden 2012-20

    October 9, 2008 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  14. Wendy

    Just seen Bae B. on Campbell Brown spinning it even further, she had the nerve to question if Obama may have actually "sold" drugs!! OMG! When will the Republicans get back to the issues & stop the lies? Unbelievable, I don't know how these people sleep at night.

    October 9, 2008 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  15. Biff


    the closer Obama gets, the more desperate Mccain will become.

    (funny, i don't remember drug questions coming from the right when it was "W"... do you?)

    October 9, 2008 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  16. park more

    Democrats are totally responsible for economy crisis inorder to elect obama. Sham on you....... This will not work...............
    I am a sham to say that I am democrat............... McCain this time and Hillary next time

    October 9, 2008 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  17. Fred from San Jose

    Let's see.. doing drugs to hurt oneself or stealing millions from average folks. If not mistaken, he once compared some church leaders to the Mafia. Perhaps, saint Keating thinks that he is infallable, or, is he? Let's not forget 1990 through 1997 Keating had accepted gifts of nearly $250,000 from mutual fund pioneer Jack Dreyfus. I guess it is not crime to be greedy.

    October 9, 2008 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  18. Obama Nanny State

    Congrats Obamamaniacs!

    You just got conned by the biggest con man in American political history...Dear Leader Obama!

    Learn Your Obama Songs!

    October 9, 2008 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  19. Pat

    How about the Republicans discuss the economy, or something that just may be important. I was a republican, but guess this year I vote Democrat.

    October 9, 2008 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  20. Allen in Hartwell, GA

    Why isn't anyone the media talking about the mob atmosphere at McCain/Palin campaign rallys? After being incited by McCain and Palin, the mobs surrounding them appear ready to get a rope and lynch Obama!

    This has to be the nastiest, most unAmerican campaign I've ever seen. Aren't there laws against inciting riots? These two and their supporters are threatening to destroy this country, and the media seems happy to urge them on.

    October 9, 2008 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  21. Louise in Arizona

    I live in Arizona and they sent me forms to mail in my vote and I told them no because I don't trust the republicans, and they may throw my vote in the trash, I am 65 with bad knees I rather take a chance on losing my legs by standing in long lines to cast my vote for Obama.
    My grand-children lives are at stake here and as the great Martin Luther King said a person that sit down and take anything will stand up for nothing. Well I will stand to make sure my grand-children has a chance to live a productive life.

    October 9, 2008 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  22. White-African(born there) American Military BRAT

    McCain can READ???????

    October 9, 2008 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  23. Roger

    Barack Obama has been very open and candid. The problem is that McCain and party have been deaf to what Barack Obama's openness, just as they have been deaf to the mainstream American people.

    October 9, 2008 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  24. Kathy

    As a Registered Independant, I'm starting to think there is no way I can vote for McCain...He has sold his sole to the devil, and is consoling with him in the disguise of Sarah Palin....She's mean (and I know this from living in wasilla) and he is unbeleivably inconsistant in his plans.

    From what I'm watching on T V at the McCAIN RALLIES those people are acting worse that I have ever seen people behave in my many years of experiencing elections. Maybe thats what desperation does to people.

    It's like theres a black evil cloud over those rallies....and Obamas rallies are light, seem very positive and stick to the issues.

    October 9, 2008 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  25. park more

    Sham on you cnn for cutting my comments...... wash brain...... your game will not work............... I am democrat but we will vote McCain

    October 9, 2008 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
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