Obama had 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.