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. Donna

    McCain should try to distance himself from anyone named KEATING...this is another non-issue...is McCain going to discuss his "wild days" too? I'm sure that he is not clean by any means of the imagination...

    October 9, 2008 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  2. Jon

    He did for the last 2 years. I guess when you get old you tend to forget. Remember the NY Times when the REpubs. questioned his use of drugs. They said a year ago the he lied in his book and did not use the amount of drugs stated that he did not use drugs and that he lied in his book. So which is it he did use drugs as a youth or he did not use drugs as a youth. My head is starting to spin everytime a repub talks.

    October 9, 2008 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  3. Clarice Harris


    October 9, 2008 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  4. J.C.

    I really don't care.

    October 9, 2008 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  5. Steve in DC

    Too late...he's already discussed it. Gee golly guys...are ya getting desperate??? lol

    October 9, 2008 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  6. Joe in MN

    Wow, it's just getting dirtier and dirtier Right over there...

    October 9, 2008 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  7. Aric

    McCain is down and god forbid he ain't out...

    October 9, 2008 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  8. Raleigh, NC

    I'm glad that God forgives us for our mistakes when humans don't. I don't judge people for their past, but the present. He without sin.....let him cast the first stone.

    October 9, 2008 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  9. Mike

    It's getting dirty out there....but the truth would prevail. Seems to me like these republicans do not have the a rententive memory.....They are trying to use the kitchen sink, I guess they need a piece from Hillary Clinton.

    Obama Is UNSTOPPABLE....Change is coming

    October 9, 2008 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  10. Jennifer

    That so stupid. I think writing a book that anyone can get their hands on and find out about you for themselves is as candid about the issue as it can be.

    October 9, 2008 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  11. Kristina, Seattle

    Obama has actually already COMPLETELY covered this. The reason we know about it, is because he's been up front.

    Keep fishing, Repugs... there's simply nothing else to find.

    October 9, 2008 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  12. Mike G

    I know this is a different "Keating". But maybe a bad choice for a surrogate, eh McCain? Every time this guy goes to bat for McCain it just reminds us of McCain's involvement in the Keating 5 incident.

    Oh, and good luck distracting us from the economy using facts that have been well known for YEARS!

    October 9, 2008 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  13. Chuck

    Sounds like a normal youth to me! It's alot like my life during that age. I'm glad he's never denied it!

    October 9, 2008 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  14. Nelson

    Wow, the Repugs are really afraid. I thought we were over this MONTHS ago.

    October 9, 2008 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  15. Eric

    More the reason to vote for him. Maybe he'll end this stupid war on (some) drugs. I thought everyone who did drugs never made it anywhere in life? I guess that false propaganda was wrong.

    October 9, 2008 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  16. drew

    A. Far left liberal doesn't make you a junkie. That'd be like saying being a far right republican makes you a blood sucking leech.
    B. Atleast he admits his mistakes, GWB should apologize to the world for his actions or ignorance that have caused global instability in financial sector.

    October 9, 2008 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  17. josh

    What is going on here with the neo-cons,fox news has linked Obama to another terriost from the PLO,now they are trying to call him a drug addict,this is getting out of hand,the media needs to call the Mccain camp out on this before it gets to out of control~~~

    October 9, 2008 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  18. gladys

    Soon enough all of the straws that McCain's crew are trying to grasp will be gone.....................and Obama's crew will WIN!

    October 9, 2008 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  19. Iowa voter

    Seems like a non-issue since he's already addressed it in his books and in public, but what else to they have? I guess that's what desperation looks like.

    October 9, 2008 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  20. Job


    Poof be gone!

    October 9, 2008 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  21. Diane, NY

    I don't understand why CNN won't publish comments by a military wife and soon to be ex-Republican but I will try again.

    This is the kind of stuff that has made me turn my back on the Republican party after 20 years. This is not the party of family values any more. It's the party of low ball tatics. There is not one shred of Christian values left in the Republican campaign.

    Between the now hate rallies and truly IGNORING every issue in favor of negative campaigning is the last straw for me.

    But this is to be expected I guess of the party that treats life as sacred while it is a fetus. Once he or she is born, the holier than thou party doesn't care one once about what happens to the individual. Disgusting!!!

    October 9, 2008 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  22. Jen

    No surprise there! Thank God the Repukes have such a bad candidate. I swear the Rebublicans will try anything to win.

    October 9, 2008 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  23. Guy From LA

    HE ALREADY DID, Mr Keating. And Dennis Miller, you still have a job???

    October 9, 2008 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  24. Maddie, Hartford, Ct.

    This is just unbelievable! Is the McCain campaign begging to have Cindy's past problems dragged into the limelight? I would have never voted for McCain, but at least I THOUGHT he was a man of integrety. Boy, was I wrong!!!!

    October 9, 2008 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  25. Blue State Jeff

    Meh, this is old news. Obama has been candid about this– more so than don't-remember-the-70s Bush, for sure!

    October 9, 2008 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
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