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. sophia nyc

    Republicans are disgusting. Seriously. Get a life.

    October 9, 2008 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  2. Jeremy-Columbus, OH

    Give it a rest republicans this is starting to get on my nerves. You people know absolutely nothing about real issues facing Americans, otherwise we wouldn't be in the mess we are in. Keating, you and McCain need to share the same room at the old folks home.

    October 9, 2008 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  3. Terri

    Please! Enough of this nonsense. John McCain is not snow white! Read the article in Rolling Stone. Compared to Senator McCain's youth, Senator Obama's was mild!

    October 9, 2008 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  4. Chelsea

    This is SILLY. Stop it!

    October 9, 2008 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  5. Voice of Reason = Obama/Biden

    Barack's admission of past drug use and his subsequent recovery inspire me more than Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" War on Drugs ever did. Barack has street cred. Good for him for turning the corner.

    October 9, 2008 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  6. CM

    Our sitting president has a history of alcohol abuse and cocaine use and you're a member of his party.

    Its getting increasingly desperate on the GOP side of the fence.

    October 9, 2008 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  7. Annie, Atlanta

    They're all just crawling out of the woodwork now, aren't they. What about the issues McCain and Palin? We're sinking and all you care about, Senator McCain, is winning at all costs. Pathetic.

    October 9, 2008 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  8. KYle

    Uh, he already has. He wrote in in a book. Now, back to the issues- like another triple digit loss in market.

    October 9, 2008 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  9. Amber

    Obama has an hour long program that runs concurrently 24 hours a day on my dish sarelite service where he clearly states that he drank and used drugs when he was a teen. What else more can he say about it. Goodness! The republicans needs to get a grip.

    October 9, 2008 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  10. Clara, Martha's Vineyard

    . . . Then he went on to Columbia, Harvard law School, became a
    Constitutional Scholar, A law professor, and a US Senator, and
    President of the United States.

    (I would compare those credentials to McCain and Palin's anyday).

    October 9, 2008 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  11. Chris K

    Obama has already commented on using drugs in his youth. This is old news. More desperation from the Republicans! Nothing new to see here.

    October 9, 2008 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  12. Is McPalin Pentecostal

    Ask Cindy...

    Why should Mr. Obama tell us again, what we already know..??

    Even Mr. Keating5 knows it; as he stated it so well. Barack has returned to the center.

    Mrs. Mc Cain has done drugs and committed comingling and embezzlement of trust funds.. But She stayed to the right.

    Should she tell us all as well?

    October 9, 2008 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  13. joey from nc

    who cares? Bush jr did cocaine, didn't stop us from electing him!

    October 9, 2008 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  14. mihaly

    This is laughable. I was a stronger McCain supporter until last week. I am truly ashamed of my party...

    October 9, 2008 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  15. Jack

    Dennis Miller is the worst of the worst when it comes to the media. He should have stayed on the comedy circuit. In one word he can best be described as an idiot and this report on the ticker says one simple thing – McCain is so desparate, he is pulling at straws.

    October 9, 2008 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  16. James

    Obama wrote about his experimenting with drugs. He is clear, forthright about it. There is nothing further to talk about, trying to turn it to McCain's advantage by asking him to repeat what he already said isn't going be any help.

    October 9, 2008 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  17. Brian

    You mean you want Barack Obama to tell the truth? Again? I knew you republicans don't understand the concept of speaking the truth. He has already addressed this issue. He wrote about it. He does not deny it. If he didn't mention it, we may not even know anything about it. The truth, it's obvious you guys can't even recognize when it's staring you in the face.

    October 9, 2008 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  18. Darnell

    I could actually hear his studdering and stammering as I read that last paragraph.

    October 9, 2008 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  19. Audree

    This is going way too far. Has these surrogates not examine John Mccains past? If you want to bring these things up from the past then dont have that clueless VP Palin lecture Biden about always going to the past. If Im suppose to believe that a persons past defines there future then I wouldnt have faith in any of these folks. Im a first time voter and now I know why Ive ignored politics all this time. Obama is inspiring and if nothing else, these people should be grateful to him for opening up young folks mind. Remember, The young people are the future.

    October 9, 2008 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  20. Barbara

    Please tell us this is not THE Charles Keating, who was indicted, served time in Federal Prison for over 4 years as a result of the S&L banking scandals of the late 80's early 90's!. Please tell us that this is not the same man working as a consultant on a presidential campaign that continues to spew negative barbs in the direction of the Obama campaign. If it is the same, sad that a convicted felon has been given the opportunity to make comments. What he should be doing is apologizing to the American public for the loss of billions of dollars years ago. Does that ring a bell today? Shame on the McCain campaign

    October 9, 2008 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  21. AzVoter

    As a native of Arizona, I am quite ashamed of the McCain campain. I witnessed Cindy McCain's drug addiction. As an adult, she stole from a charity in the name of her addiction. She was never prosecuted due to the special treatment afforded the wife of a POW. It is unbelievable that the RNC would even speak upon teenage experimentation while hiding Cindy McCain's adult addiction under the rug.

    Shame on you John McCain.

    October 9, 2008 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  22. Bonnie, GA

    This smear tactict didn't work for Hillary, and it won't work for John.

    First of all, Barack was in his twenties. Secondly, John McCain left his wife and kids in his forties–his FORTIES. Do you really want to go down this path? I don't think so.

    I'll see your drugs and raise you one abondoned wife and three kids.
    –John McShame

    I mean, really.

    October 9, 2008 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  23. Letsgetreal

    Predictably as things get worse and worse for McCain, he abandons his pretenses at an honorable campaign and he and his surrogates go for the groin. I am offended that he wants to pander to the lowest common denominator. In doing so, he, his supporters, and the not-delightful Governor Palin are only validating the prejudices and low road values of the extreme right. I am appalled that attendees of your and Governor Palins rallies are shouting hate slogans and racist words.Too bad, Mr. McCain, that Barack Obama appeals to us to find the best in our selves and believe that together, the change we need is possible. Your only appeal is to the lowest of the low who are already prejudiced and divisive and your only hope to win seems to be your encouragement of that. We need your ilk like we need the plague.

    October 9, 2008 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  24. kendall

    So if he read the books, heard the comments, know it was talked about, why beat a dead horse?
    -Oh I know McCains the horse and he's still kicking.
    -Really though it was talked about, and decisions were made after the fact.

    – Now if he was a D average student, with a drinking problem, a coke head and found ways to avoid the military using he's dad position then Id be afraid, Id be very afraid.

    October 9, 2008 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  25. Heather

    D E S P E R A T E !

    McC and company are starting to look very pathetic.

    October 9, 2008 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
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