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. Obama 2008

    I don't remember George Bush discussing his alcoholism to anyone when he was running for president.

    To Obama 08 I notice I was using the same post name as you were so I have changed mine to Obama 2008. Keep up the good work!! :):)

    October 9, 2008 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  2. Not This Time

    Let everyone that has never used some kind of recreational drug cast their stones. I sure won't be throwing any in the ring. Who cares? It sure didn't hurt that super intelligent brain of his. It's irrelevant as far as I'm concerned. I'm pretty sure even McCain smoked his fair share of pot back in the day. Vietnam? Or sure! Get out of here. Bunch of hypocrits is what they are.

    Obama/Biden '08

    October 9, 2008 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  3. Michelle

    Mccain is really sinking to the lowest level possible. He's drowning in defeat and he's reaching for a life line..which apparently is digging dirt on Obama. DOes he not know that it will not work. He's just making himself look desperate.

    October 9, 2008 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  4. Christine, Michigan

    I don't even have words for this. This white women is disgusted with the GOP. I guess I should say my own race.....that would describe the republicans...an all white group of thugs.

    October 9, 2008 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  5. Get Real!

    You know, really!! He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone. There have been other presidential candidates who have done similar activities yet went on to the White House.

    This is between Obama and his God! Judge not and be ye not judged. For all the Bible reading the right wingers claim to do, they sure do not walk the talk!

    Now is the time for serious prayer for Sen. Obama and Sen. Biden. The devil is busy. Unfortunately the pastor that prayed over Gov. Palin could rebuke the spirit within. So now it's up to the rest of us to band together and rebuke the evil spirits within the Republican campaign.

    The prayer of a righteous man availeth much! Let us pray....

    October 9, 2008 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  6. Sue M

    I' m from OKlahoma and Keating is not highly thought of in this State.......what's that tell you? So what if he did experiment with drugs, a lot of people have but wouldn't admitt it......Obama did admit it so that makes him an honest man in my opinion. With all this trash the republicans are throwing it is all going to come back to them and hit them in the face on Nov.4.........this is not helping McCain get the undecided voters or the women voters, he is turning more away than he is getting to vote for him.

    October 9, 2008 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  7. Doug Hughes

    Is this Keating any relation to Charles Keating, the S&L banker who was a personal friend of Senator McCain? The fraud & mismanagement of Lincoln Savings & Loan was bad. Senator McCain was (surprise) front & center in helping the S & Ls stay deregulated while his pal played fast & loose with uninsured depositors funds.Keating was sent to jail. McCain got off with a reprimand from Senate Ethics for trying to stop the investigation.

    October 9, 2008 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  8. Rob R

    Yeah, and Bill Clinton smoked pot (whether he inhaled or not) and I'll take 8 years of Clinton to 8 years of Bush (who was an alcoholic no less).

    I don't think most people care about what he did when he was a teen or young adult. I mean come on, how many of us did some form of drugs or drink a lot in college?

    I smoked weed, did mushrooms, and drank like a fish in college. Now, I am 33 and a parent and haven't touched any drugs since college and I drink socially. But according to Republican logic, my past makes me a bad person for life. How pathetic.

    Most Americans will realize these are all pathetic smears and highly obvious ones at that. All the more reason to get rid of as many Republicans as possible and replace them with Obama as President and a 60 seat majority in the Senate. That would be such poetic justice to reduce the Republicans to an irrelevant minority in the Senate that wouldn't be able to filibuster!!!!

    October 9, 2008 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  9. CWhite

    About 75% of America is with Barack on this. If you have not tried drugs you are very much in the minority. This did not hurt Bill Clinton AT ALL!

    October 9, 2008 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  10. sabrina01

    Is this the Keating that Mc Cain was on trial with about loans and moeny from the biggest Banks.....boy do they think we are dumb

    October 9, 2008 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  11. tmike

    The McCain campaign is in full desperation mode. The democratic primary already vetted Obama in case they were'nt watching. The McCain campaign has been out manuevered and overmatched from the start. They have run out of any legitimate ideas and frankly it is sad.

    October 9, 2008 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  12. Deborah

    Let me see if I understand this. Obama admits to experimenting with drugs, not an UNHEARD of event for teenagers, and others, in this country. Yet, because he discusses it in his book, and obviously did NOT become a "junkie" or "pot head" but instead went on to Columbia University and got a LAW degree, this is a knock against him???

    Now he's being slammed by McCain/Palin and surrogates for being HONEST?? For being and EXAMPLE of what a person can achieve when they resist/overcome the temptation of drugs??

    Yeah, sheesh...wouldn't want to set a GOOD EXAMPLE, now would we, McCain/Palin??? Much prefer to sling mud in your desperation.

    October 9, 2008 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  13. eddie

    ok why is that so important about what he did as a kid ,instead what he is doing now as a man

    October 9, 2008 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  14. Kate Fergus

    McCain is a man who has become totally devoid of any integrity. He continues to lie, lie, lie. And why bring up these issues from the past. Everyone has some things they are not proud of in their past. What matters is how someone overcome these and lives a positive and honorable life now.

    McCain has no honor. He is so anxious to get into power as president, he has lost all sense of reason and decency. He is shameful and has soiled his military honor as well by doing this. Remember this is the man who said in an interview with the DesMoines Register:

    “I’m not saying this is the perfect answer. If I were dictator, which I always aspire to be, I would write it … a little bit differently.”

    Dictator right!! I am sure that was an honest slip of the tongue. This is exactly what he would be.

    No McCain No Palin unless we want the country to become a banana republic.

    October 9, 2008 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  15. VETS4Obama

    Once again we have these hypocrite Republicans throwing stones....real Christians!!!! They are a joke!! Against abortion but for war and capital punishment....hello morons! It is ALL killing!

    October 9, 2008 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  16. Former Republican for OBAMA





    October 9, 2008 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  17. Bonnie

    This is so ridiculous, if McCain, Palin and their desperate, pathetic followers were not so pathetic, it would be funny.

    October 9, 2008 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |

    So what?
    Our current president is a recovering alcoholic, Palin admitted to smoking pot, etc. . .
    Does Senator McCain and his surrogates not have anything tangible to say to us? Why is their topic and subject Senator Obama?
    GM shares tanked, the DOW keeps falling. . .Sigh.
    Anyone voting for the McCain/Palin ticket must be a low-information voter.
    I just don't have any other explanation.

    October 9, 2008 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  19. Dan in CHI

    you'd think they'd want to distance themselves a bit from guys named "Keating".

    October 9, 2008 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  20. Cindy-St. Louis


    I agree with all of the above comments. There was a time I believed McCain had some integrity. That time is long gone.


    October 9, 2008 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  21. Aaron in Atlanta

    Oh come on! We've all done stupid things when we were young. Republicans and Democrats alike are equally guilty of making naive mistakes in their younger years. Hey, I'll even admit that I've gone through a "pothead" phase in my own life. But the point is that I got out of it once I came to the realization that it was a detriment to my future success. I'm clean now, and have a graduate degree in engineering. None of the people I know, even my own family, hold that against me. I refuse to hold adolescent indiscretions against either candidate. Neither should any of you! Especially any of you out there who have ever "experimented" at any point in your life.

    October 9, 2008 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  22. Steve/Houston,TX

    All these issues have been addressed in a publication already. This means that people that are willing and able to read can know this knowledge for themselves. And why is something you did in high school important at this stage in his lfe? Oh yeah, because the opponent is like way behind in the polls! Bury them Barack!

    OBAMA '08

    October 9, 2008 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  23. THAT ONE


    October 9, 2008 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  24. Ruby Red

    Wow, people are deeeeesssssspppperate!

    October 9, 2008 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  25. james

    Um, Dal CA, when you call people "IDIOTS," you're the one spewing hate. It undercuts your credibility, at least to intelligent people.

    October 9, 2008 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
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