Barack Obama, asked about drug history, admits he inhaled
PHOENIX, Arizona: Senator Barack Obama, the Illinois Democrat who said Sunday that he was considering running for president in 2008, has created a little sunlight between himself and both Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
For one thing, he said, "When I was a kid, I inhaled."
"That was the point," Obama told an audience of magazine editors.
The direct admission was in contrast to Bill Clinton's denial in his 1992 campaign for president that he had smoked marijuana.
"I didn't inhale," Clinton said, cementing the idea that he liked to have things both ways.
Obamahad written in his first book, "Dreams From My Father" (1995), before entering politics, that he had used marijuana and cocaine ("maybe a little blow"). He said he had not tried heroin because he did not like the pusher who was trying to sell it to him.
In an interview here at a meeting of the American Society of Magazine Editors, Obama said he was not making light of the subject.
"It was reflective of the struggles and confusion of a teenage boy," he said. "Teenage boys are frequently confused."
The question of drug use has become a standard one for politicians, sometimes as a test of their ability to be straightforward. If the politician has used drugs, conventional wisdom says it is best to try to get the question out of the way early.
Obama was also asked for his views about Hillary Rodham Clinton, the New York Democrat who has been a dominant figure in discussions about potential presidential candidates. Obama praised her but made clear that he did not agree with her vote for the Iraq war.
"I think very highly of Hillary," he said. "The more I get to know her, the more I admire her. I think she's one of the most disciplined people I know. She's one of the toughest. She's got an extraordinary intelligence, and she's somebody who's in this stuff for the right reasons. She's passionate about moving the country forward on issues like health care and children."
But, he said, they clearly had "different assessments" about the wisdom of going to war in Iraq. Perhaps mindful that he could end up as her vice presidential running mate, he added that he had it easier because he was not in the Senate at the time, while she had to vote.
Asked how he might campaign against her in a primary, he said he had not thought about that.
But he did sound like a candidate in criticizing the Bush administration in somewhat stronger terms than he had previously.
"This administration has done great damage to this country," he said, citing the Iraq war as the chief reason.