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. SAGG

    Oh, Lord, McCain and his people are coming apart at the seams! Folks, we have GOT to put them down by voting for Obama, and I mean in droves! A serious, butt-tootying, talked-about landslide victory for the ages is needed here, and NOW!!

    October 9, 2008 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  2. Julie in NC

    This is a big nothing. He admitted it. Time to move on.

    October 9, 2008 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  3. Old Guy

    Wow, and this coming from "BumbleFrank" the level headed man who thinks he is above the Supreme Court. "BumbleFrank" also has quite a shady background with almost $250,000 in "gifts" from Jack Dreyfus, founder of Dreyfus Mutual Funds over the course of the past 10 years.

    "BumbleFrank" also believes that creationism should be taught in schools and when told that the Supreme Court already ruled against that he indicated that he would "dissent".

    Now we are to believe that this man has any credibility on the national stage when his own party ignored him for a post in Bush's administration, that's a great resume!

    October 9, 2008 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  4. Kevin,FL

    Well this fair.. since the senator from MO Claire McCaskill said McCain's age is fair game.

    October 9, 2008 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  5. stacy

    wonder how he afforded drugs? did grandmother give him the money
    or mother who was on food stamps?

    October 9, 2008 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  6. Tony



    October 9, 2008 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  7. X-Republican in Texas for Obama

    What is McCain's campaign going to come up with next? That Obama didn't do he's homework when he was eight grade. Maybe if McCain experiment with drugs when he was a teenager he would be so dam uptight now.

    October 9, 2008 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  8. Larry

    Does anybody really care about this?

    October 9, 2008 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  9. So Cal Gal

    Wow, that reek’s of desperation!

    October 9, 2008 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  10. lance

    America, expect John McCain and his surrogates to stoop lower than Whale poo and we know that is on the bottom of the Ocean. A desperate campaign is floundering.

    October 9, 2008 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  11. Wendy in NC

    How is this news? Obama wrote about it openly in his books. Big Deal. Bush also used cocaine, Palin admits smoking/growing marijuana. The republican campaign is SERIOUSLY out of ideas, aren't they?

    October 9, 2008 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  12. Former Republican

    What else is the McCain campaign going to talk about? They have no decent ideas, and they cannot discuss the fitness of McCain and Palin.

    The Republicans think that going 100% negative is going to save them in November. They are wrong. Americans remember how George W Bush got elected.

    Voters are not going to make the same mistake again. McCain and Palin are not fit for office, especially at this critical juncture in history.

    October 9, 2008 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  13. grasping for straws

    uhhh, the man wrote a book. how much more open and candid does Keating thinks Obama needs to get.

    October 9, 2008 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  14. flagwavin1

    Considering what other politicians have admitted to in the past and not admitted to, this really shouldn't be an issue. Our current president Bush had a DUI record and there are rumors about drug use by him as well. Other Presidents have had their weakenesses while IN office. At least Mr. Obama has come to terms with himself and it shows by his wife and family and admirable campaign, that he is more than capable of running the country.

    October 9, 2008 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  15. independentman

    These people are so desperate that it is increasingly uterly pathetic. Is this all the McCain camp can come up with. Make things so bad, they think that the American people are igmorant enough to fall for this non-sense. It's over McCain and company, go home.

    Obama/Biden 08

    October 9, 2008 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  16. Cheri

    Uhhhh...ummmm...Obama has talked about it. I remember it being brought up during the race for the Democratic nomination. And he also discusses it in his book. Repugs: you are just looking more and more desperate with each low-ball, dirty thing you can come up with. Most Americans are fed up with this nonsense (at least the ones that are not hard-core to the right conservatives). I'll be so glad when November 4th is here!

    October 9, 2008 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  17. CastEvil

    Why do the republicans think that we are so interested in someone's personal history.... Especially from over two decades ago.... Really, we have an economy tanking, someone who used drugs during their teen-age years will have just as much competence in dealing with the crisis as much as someone who did not. If he were a current user, I would be concerned, but its completely obvious that he reversed his lifestyle.

    October 9, 2008 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  18. BGIV in NC

    Old news – he wrote about it in his book two years ago. DESPERATION!!!

    October 9, 2008 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  19. mms

    obama has been honest about his use of drugs from the onset.this is old and tired news.where has this man been,under a rock?

    October 9, 2008 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  20. Trysh, Los Angeles

    Clearly past drug usage is of no issue to anyone in the Republican party. They voted in GWB TWICE and Cindy McCain is a recovering addict who commited crimes to get her drugs. She was never penalized, but the doctor who helped her lost his license to practice medicine.

    October 9, 2008 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  21. marie

    so? obama has already talked about this! c'mon this is NOT news and it wont change the outcome of this election: electing Barack obama)

    October 9, 2008 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  22. TKW-New Mexico

    What in the heck does this have to do with my bank account shrinking, or me not being able to feed my family, or me not being able to pay my mortgage, or anything that the American people care about! I AM SICK OF THESE DISTRACTIONS FROM THE REAL ISSUESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS! WHAT ABOUT PUTTING COUNTRY FIRST?

    October 9, 2008 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  23. john

    What about W. didn't he use cocaine and the Rebubs said no big deal as did the American people. What did Mr. Keating say about W.? If he said nothing then he is a hypocrite. But now that it is a Dem who used drugs suddenly he's grown a conscience and wants Obama to bare his soul. Wasn't it W. who said I ain't talking about that.

    October 9, 2008 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  24. New York

    These people are out of their minds. I wish someone would look into this fools closet and bring out the skeletons!

    October 9, 2008 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  25. Obama a REAL Change

    I am so PROUD of Obama. McCain and camp are so PATHETIC.

    I love it this is WHO?????? Part of the KEATING of millions of STOLEN dollars from the elderly with McCain POCKETS.

    Former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating let's not forget you were committing crimes when Cindy McCain let a doctor lose his job while she was stealing and getting HIGH with stolen pain pills for her addiction.

    News CNN, would be if you can list some of the things by McCain camp and supporters about their GUILT of SERIOUS CRIMES THEMSELVES.....I want him to tell me how and what he did to become a criminal years ago.........

    October 9, 2008 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
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