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. dejah

    This is old news. When are the GOP talking heads going to start talking about what matters to Americans?

    Also, if they want to bring up Obama's admitted drug use as a TEENAGER, then perhaps Mr McCain's gambling addiction and his temper and his treatment of his wife AND HER drug addiction should also be on the table. Fair's fair.

    When the GOP demonize Obama, they demonize a LOT of people who have gotten past their teenage problems and are getting on with useful, productive lives.

    October 9, 2008 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  2. Atlian

    Now he already knows about the drug use because Obama wrote about it in his book and he has talked about it in his speeches. So what is it more that he wants him to say about it? Just like Ayers. He admitted he worked with him, lives in his neighborhoo, even "friendly" to him. So what more is there to admit? What am I missing?

    October 9, 2008 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  3. Dan, TX

    Old news, who cares.

    Is he using cocaine now? Last 10 years? No? Then who cares?
    NOT ME.
    The question is, what is McCain using now? What are his prescriptions? Could any of them affect his mood, judgment?

    October 9, 2008 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    Bush drank, McCain gambles, Cindy stole pills, Palin just lies...So what!? You will never find anyone without skeletons in the closet!

    October 9, 2008 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  5. William, Atl, GA

    I'd rather have a president that was once high on cocaine than one that was once sleeping through discussions on the war in Iraq. And they asked who would be awake to answer that 3 A.M. phone call.

    A man admitting he did cocaine or voting for McCain

    Which is more dangerous?

    You decide.

    October 9, 2008 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  6. paul

    Obama copped to this long, long ago. He discussed it in his book and needs to go no further than that with it. Gov Keating is reverting to the same low tactics that Cindy McCain and Sarah Palin have stopped to in the past week – That is bringing up "dead horse issues."

    How sad that McCain's campaign workers and supporters think this is the way to get their candidate elected on Nov 4.

    October 9, 2008 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  7. Ron was a REP now a DEM

    More useless MUD

    October 9, 2008 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  8. Haris Siddiqui

    Another reason why i get more and more convinced that i wont let these Dirty & demonizing Republicans my Vote. Senator McCain had all my respect but as this process plays out my anger for him has only increased and now i'm happy that last week i switched my status from being a Republican to a Democrat. The Democratic party is not perfect but Obama to me seems above the average Politician.

    These outrageous accusations about Obama's "friendship" with Ayers who bombed Pentagon 40 years ago (and never actually killed any one) while our current president Bombed the life out of Iraq and killed a Million Iraqi's just goes to show how astray the once Great Republican party has gone.

    Mark my words, Obama will not only unite this country. He will also unite us with our allies and bring about change on a global scale. God Bless America & the whole of Mankind!

    October 9, 2008 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  9. Beas

    I've always liked that Keating!

    October 9, 2008 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  10. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

    ...and how many of our leaders drink alcohol? Would you care to examine the health effects of marijuana vs. alcohol? I'd be happy to walk you through the statistics.

    October 9, 2008 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  11. dejah

    P.S. They are bringing this up in order to deflect attention away from the troopergate findings, which will come out on Friday... and to keep people from seeing how desperately they are losing to Obama on all the issues that Americans care about.

    October 9, 2008 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  12. wyoming dem

    And what is it exactly they want him to say about this that he hasn't said a long time ago? Gimme a break. What's next? He's addicted to sports and trail mix? We know that too.
    Desperate tactics. Pathetic.

    October 9, 2008 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  13. el

    Is this the same Keating that stole around two billion dollars, was instrumental in the S&L scandal, and went to jail?

    October 9, 2008 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  14. Brunswick

    Senator McCain and his surrogates are clearly bankrupt of ideas, vision, energy, and now obviously, morals. The levels to which they are sinking suggests profound desperation at the growing tide of change that this country is hungry for and that Senator Obama represents. The McCain/Palin campaign is a disgrace to democracy and decency. They cannot possibly run on the failed policies, incompetence, croynism, and criminality that 8 years of Bush, Cheney, and Republican rubber-stamp majority have wrought on this great country, that McCain willingly went along with and Palin didn't have a clue about until 5 weeks ago. They can't run on their record, so they denigrate a sitting United States Senator, accusing him of all manner of vile and untrue things. McCain is no man of honor. He is no "maverick." And he is no one I want as president. Stop this madness, Senator McCain and Governor Palin– your vile rhetoric is inciting a very dangerous sort of ugliness and panic in some of your rabid-dog followers– you have no idea what you might unleash in some unhinged supporters of yours. Pull BACK from this abyss. Preserve what little dignity you have left. If you have any.

    October 9, 2008 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  15. Bradford

    He used cocaine. Then graduated from Harvard Law. A guy of the street?

    Obama 08

    October 9, 2008 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  16. Tom

    McSame and Palin = say anything @ hate rallies

    October 9, 2008 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  17. Anita in Portland

    What the McCain camp is bringing up now are all things the public is/has been aware of and he has never tried to deny his experimentation or how he was on the wrong path at a young age.

    Despite this, he is still ahead in nearly every poll and the Republicans can't stand that honesty is prevailing. How upsetting it must be for the them that they have been lying all this time and they could have just told the truth and still win an election.

    Can't wait to see "That Guy" in the White House.

    October 9, 2008 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  18. ines

    Look at the people at the McCain rallies. Look at the incredible hate.

    McCain and the Republicans now have NO MORAL GROUND WHATSOEVER to stand on. There is no honor left in the Republican party.

    October 9, 2008 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  19. Obama's Momma

    Barry got into trouble from time to time, but always seemed to talk his way out of it!!

    October 9, 2008 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  20. Obama 08

    Keep grasping at straws Republicans. Lets not forget that the President had a run in with the white lady as well. Is there any chance that the economy and McCains "newest" plan can become the focus?

    October 9, 2008 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  21. Benjeem C. Sampson

    Yep... Bill Clinton smoked pot (but didn't inhale.yeah...right.... He probably choked!) in college. Let's not forget about George Bush's frequent rides on the White Horse. You can come up with something better than that Mr. Keating. This is the 21st century.

    October 9, 2008 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  22. cecil

    Yesterday Obama was an elitist, today he's a guy from the street.

    The Repubs Are Evil. These Ugly Americans Gov. Pailin Included Will Start A Race War, If This Keeps Up!

    Saying A Sitting United States Senator Is Palling Around With Terrorist Was Very Hateful. Now He's A Thug Elitist,

    Relax GOP, Lets Not Set The Country Back 60 years!

    October 9, 2008 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  23. Sophia33


    I am still voting for "That One".

    October 9, 2008 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  24. Donna

    And McCain's wife has admitted she was addicted and, in fact, stole drugs from a charity. She was an adult at the time. Do we really want to go there?

    October 9, 2008 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  25. X-democrat for McCain

    Were all so sick of Obama we could Puke!!!! Obama is a bad person face it Folks!!! Obama will run this Nation into the trash can!!! Were voting for McCain and Palin !!!

    Go McCain and Palin !!!!!! 2008

    October 9, 2008 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
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