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. nelson

    Looks like the MCSAME slim machine is at it again..
    Mcsame can't admit he is lost again on economic issues
    and a lot of other issues. He is just pathetic at this point and
    driving a lot of conservatives far away with his rhetoric and even seems to be alienating a lot of GOP folks also.

    October 9, 2008 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  2. K.C

    Wow. GOP is starting to get just plain pathetic .....Don't worry Good Ole' Party the end is near

    October 9, 2008 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  3. Tony



    October 9, 2008 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  4. Arden

    Someone needs to investigate Sarah Palin and her past. It is my understanding that the only real vetting of Sarah Palin that took place was on a dirt road in Alaska and the only ones envolved were Cindi McCain and her husband John .

    October 9, 2008 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  5. george

    I would think that the McCain campaign would be very unwise to have anyone with the name Keating speak for them.

    This is a specious attack. But the fact that they need someone from OK to attack Obama means they are now so worried about the reliability of their base that they are desperate.

    BTW, CNN, where's the report on the AK Supreme Court decision today okaying the release of the Palin investigation findings?

    October 9, 2008 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  6. SoCal

    Instead than talking about Barack Obama, I would like some of these GOP people tell me something about their beloved George W. Bush, and how he made this country great. Was he good, huh?

    So good that I should trust them again and vote for McCain, huh?

    What a shameless distraction.

    October 9, 2008 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  7. Ron Canada.

    What don't you understand. Obama already confessed in his
    Book. Question for the rest of you poloticians in the
    Whitehouse. How many of you are alcaholics?Or rehabs,


    October 9, 2008 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  8. Mojotokali

    The news broadcasters and pundits have finally helped me make my choice in this most important election probably of my lifetime. Thank you all.

    I will NOT vote in any election again. You have convinced me that we "the people" are a bunch of corrupt citizens spending millions on electing someone all of you newscasters and pundits tell me are horrible people. But let us not forget the candidates themselves. Always showing us the worst part of our country.

    My vote doesn't matter anyway. This country is doomed to fail.

    October 9, 2008 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  9. Palin 2012

    How stupid can you be.. oh wait this is the McCain camp we are talking about...

    He even had his drug abuse in his book, go read it

    October 9, 2008 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  10. Rob

    This is not an issue, he already has spoken "candidly" about it on several occasions, including the Saddleback forum.


    October 9, 2008 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  11. James

    Hahaha...same old republicans. Laughing stock of the world.

    October 9, 2008 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  12. Obama for President

    I guess this is what is meant by "going negative."
    Irrelevant, of course.

    October 9, 2008 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  13. A Woman In California For Obama:

    My personal advice: SPEAK TO THE PEOPLE ONCE AND FOR ALL ABOUT IT. It is good for teenagers to know it is wrong and not to go down that path. It will also clear things up once and for all. It is a non-issue for those of us who support you-but since they want to talk about issues-let's give them this one. The point is-look at how far Sen. Obama has come since those days. Unlike the American Gigolo (J. McCain) and this skeleton who obviously is constipated by the looks of that picture.

    October 9, 2008 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  14. Dan

    Seriously? The economy is tanking and this guy is trying to make something out of teenage drug use that Obama detailed himself in his own book... I'd like to hear more about Cindy McCain's illegal drug use as an adult that almost landed her in jail but for her connections....

    October 9, 2008 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  15. McShame on YOU

    And his last name is Keating.

    ENOUGH said!

    OBAMA/BIDEN 08/12

    October 9, 2008 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  16. mary ca

    wow do you think people are idiot like McShame

    October 9, 2008 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  17. Darrell

    Good one, wait until 27 days before you express concern.This will surely backfire as once again republicans think people are stupid and continue to insult the intellegence of Americans

    October 9, 2008 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  18. Mike / florida

    They just don't get it that american people have no time for all this bull..we want change and OBAMA is change we can believe in.

    October 9, 2008 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  19. Bonnie

    Figures. McCain's big on "Keatings".

    October 9, 2008 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  20. el

    If this is the same Keating who was involved in the S&L scandal of the 80's and went to jail for it, I think his being a co-chair of McCain's campaign proves a much greater link between them then McCain has let on.
    Why would anyone have a convicted felon who almost cost you your political career co-chair your campaign if he wasn't a very close companion?
    McCain must be very happy that the Senate didn't have the right to investigate his actions and involvement with Keating while he was still in the House.
    Criminals all.
    At least Obama has the honor and honesty to admit what he has done.

    October 9, 2008 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  21. cecil

    "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.”

    Where's The Leadership In This Statement!

    The Repubs. Are Riding On A Bridge To No Where!

    October 9, 2008 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  22. Alan Boyer

    It's time for us to start asking what McCain is hiding in his medical and navy records...

    October 9, 2008 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  23. Expat in Canada

    Funny, the same people who take issues with Obama's past seem to be the same people that didn't have a problem with W's coke and alcohol filled past. And didn't McCain's wife take a lot of pills back in the day?

    October 9, 2008 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  24. TheTruthHurts

    Backfiring. The only people who care about this common knowledge are people who aren't voting for him anyway. Does anyone believe McCain, the partying pilot, hasn't been a pothead.

    Nobody cares.

    October 9, 2008 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  25. catmom

    Perhaps McCain, Palin and members of his campaign should read his book. Maybe they will find the answers you are looking for. If it didn't matter with George Bush why should it matter with Obama? How about McCain focusing on how to clean up the mess that Bush and the Republican party has left this country in. How about McCain tell us in DETAIL what he plans to do to help everyday people get through this financial mess we are in. How about McCain tell us what his plans are for Iraq and Afghanistan and the fact these wars are bankrupting our country.

    October 9, 2008 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
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