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. lil

    Is this keating related to the keating of the keating 5 that mccain was involved in or with. The ones who lost all that tax payer money when
    those savings and loans went under and mccain got sensored?

    October 9, 2008 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  2. SB in NoVa

    What TRASH!!! At least Obama was honest about it ... and I have to add that I bet he didn't STEAL it!

    The question I have is why the heck is Sarah Palin's stooges who resisted a valid subpoena not in contempt of court??? I heard a law professor (from Gtown, I think) interviewed saying that this was the first time in the history of the Republic, that a person running for P/VP has resisted a subpoena. WHY is this ok???????

    I'm voting for the SMART one!
    Obama/Biden 08 and Beyond!!
    Turn VA Blue!!!

    October 9, 2008 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  3. francisco

    Hey Keating, this is not going to work this time, people of good will are so many , your scare tactics got no match with the crumbling Economy which may be you and your few friends think is not an issue no wonder Mccain/Palin foreign policy is nothing but surge is working and General Petraues MY FRIENDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    October 9, 2008 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  4. Patricia

    Where has this guy been? He must not read much. Obama talked about this in his book. He explained that he was going to be up front about it in his campaign. He talked about it on tv early on in his campaign and answered host show questions about it i.e. on Larry King Live. And I don't see why that would matter now. There are MANY younger voters who have been a part of that scene and would understand where he is coming from. Those of you who have children who are now around 35 know what I am talking about. I know the pressures my kids went through in high school and college. I wish they hadn't felt a need to fall into peer pressure, but they did. However, they are very productive lovely adults now. And it is very obvious none of it affected his brain – he is sharper than most. I appreciate his natural gifts for leadership. He definitely is a natural. I agree with Michelle Obama when she said he can see a complex situation and understand it – and explain it in terms most people can't.
    People ask the wrong questions. How could he have taken drugs?The question should be, did he get past it? Cindy McCain seems to have overcome her drug problem. Are you going to dig that back up too?

    October 9, 2008 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  5. Mandi Locke

    Obama has never tried to hide his past mistakes. That is what sets him apart from many other great politicians and not so great politicians. What a relief to finally have a politician who is not only imperfect, but admits that he is not perfect.

    The McCain/Palin ticket obviously needs to tie a rope and hold on. The ship is sinking and the camp's efforts to bail out are inevitably useless.

    October 9, 2008 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  6. John

    Who cares about Obama's past drug use, and who cares what Keating has to say about anything>

    October 9, 2008 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  7. Jesus Praising, Freedom Loving American Patriot

    Keep Diggin' John

    October 9, 2008 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  8. undecided independent

    Honestly who cares about this petty crap??? What about our economy, our gas prices, the wars we are involved in and the weird actions of Russia, Iran and now North Korea?? Are these guys running for a highschool popularity contest or the presidency ??
    Bring Hillary back, please, and get rid of these 2 stupid, childish men .
    Kathryn, Springfield MA

    October 9, 2008 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  9. ACORN -- Obama, fess up!

    I'ld be more concerned about Obama's past legal services helping the ACORN organization. His involvement in that as an adult in something that Americans should be concerned about. All the voter fraud is terrible. What a great American right we have and to see it abused is pathetic.

    October 9, 2008 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  10. Andrew

    Sure, it's in a book.

    What he's really saying is that McCain supporters are illiterate.

    October 9, 2008 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  11. Pepou

    I would LAUGH if the stock market had not eaten up all my stocks, if I did not have trouble paying my mortgage, filling my gas tank and just managing my everyday life. These people are so insane I could cry indeed.

    October 9, 2008 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  12. Concerned Voter

    More off issue wind from a struggling campaign Look, Obama came as clean as one can without providing film footage. There are precious few Boomers and post-Boomers who can say they have never tried a single illegal substance. I appreciate his candor just as I appreciated our current President- a former cokehead boozer himself - for not giving us ye olde "I didn't inhale".

    October 9, 2008 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  13. Quick2822

    Throwing the kitchen sink. This info has been available for years, and now it comes up?

    The fact that he admitted to drug use actually makes me respect him more vs. someone who tries to hide it.

    October 9, 2008 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |

    Every wine barrel has dregs at the bottom. They don't go down very well, and neither do the pathetic attempts by the McCain folks to dredge up scum. The Arizona patriarch never fails to cash in on his POW days. He tries to distance himself from his record of helping the Vietcong in its propaganda against our country, and no one doubts that he did it unwillingly, but while there's no disgrace in breaking under torture there's no heroism in it either. He, like any of us veterans,is deserving of the gratitude of his fellow citizens but it doesn't entitle him to a seat in the Oval Office. History books last longer than sleazy sound bytes. He should remember this, and try to preserve what little respect he still has left.

    October 9, 2008 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  15. Larry - Hazleton, pa

    I wonder if there are things in McCain and Palins past that they would not want to keep responding to – In McCains case what about the problems around his first marriage – maybe we the voters would like to have a full and public debate about that – this stuff is so nuts on so many levels – it just goes to show us how desparte the repubs are to having there guy win at any cost – shameful. How does McCain sleep at niight – on a corkscrew I think.

    October 9, 2008 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  16. EqualBranchesofGovernment

    Down in the polls.......the "swift-boating" has begun by the McCain camp!!

    October 9, 2008 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  17. Brian

    OMG you idiots... this has all been covered before!!! Obama even discussed this in his autobiography!


    America is speaking through the polling data we're seeing... this is not the kind of politics we want or leader we need. If McCain keeps this up, it's going to be an Obama landslide, and that's FINE BY ME!

    I hope McCain loses and then loses his senate seat next election after showing the people of Arizona what an tool he is!

    Obama/Biden '08 by a landslide!!!

    October 9, 2008 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  18. 58 old white ladies for OBAMA




    October 9, 2008 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  19. Melanie

    I get it! Ayers (who, by the way was Citizen of the Year in Chicago in 1997), "ohmygod Barack took some drugs when he was an adolescent"–It's becoming clear now, with the increasingly desperate and ridiculous tone of McCain's campaign: McCain is still living in the 60's! The Weathermen, anti-Viet Nam protests, etc. etc.–McCain is still THERE. Get over it, John. We know you came from an Admiral's family, we know you were among those who volunteered for service, we know you were shot down and tortured, but Viet Nam is OVER. The Weathermen are FINISHED. Viet Nam was an ILLEGAL WAR. People TAKE DRUGS AS ADOLESCENTS AND ARE STILL OK AS ADULTS.
    Time to move on. Obama, who lives in the present and beyond, the future's yours.

    October 9, 2008 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  20. Teddy California

    It will have no effect. This does not worth news. As long as Wall Street is in trouble, people will not pay attention to any thing else.

    October 9, 2008 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  21. Jennifer

    Has John McCain lost his mind???? Here was a man, who by all reasonable accounts, came into this election as the front-runner. He has the experience, he is a distinguished veteran with a record of bipartisan cooperation, he was not the same kind of Republican as George W.... How has it come to this? John McCain and Sarah Palin have brought shame to themselves in this campaign. How can they solicit votes from people who are silly enough to get caught up in smear campaigns when our country is in a serious crisis? I guess John McCain really is as out of touch as everyone says.

    October 9, 2008 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  22. Sick of it

    It's sad to see the Republicans disgrace America because they are so desperate to maintain their grip on power. If their myriad failings of the past 28 years don't convince voters it's time to truly change the direction of America, then certainly the disgraceful, despicable and disgusting rhetoric spewed by the Republican Party in recent days certainly should.

    October 9, 2008 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    why even bring this up?

    October 9, 2008 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  24. Johann Wagener

    I'm waiting for Six-Pak Palin to claim that Obama is possessed by witches and needs a cleansing like the one she had from her personal Witch Doctor.

    October 9, 2008 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  25. Donna

    Come on...who hasn't experimented with drugs in some form at some time in their lives? This is just another Republican ploy.

    October 9, 2008 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
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