Obama and Bush pay tribute to ‘patriot, warrior and statesman’ John McCain


Cindy McCain, wife of late US Senator John McCain, kisses his casket in a poignant farewell. Picture: AP
Cindy McCain, wife of late US Senator John McCain, kisses his casket in a poignant farewell. Picture: AP
John McCain’s mother Roberta comforts granddaughter Meghan at the funeral service yesterday. Picture: Getty
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, former Vice President Dick Cheney and Lynne Cheney. Picture: Reuters
Among the mourners were George W Bush, Al Gore, Barack and Michelle Obama, former US President Bill and Hillary Clinton. Picture: AFP/Getty

Former presidents Barack Obama and George W Bush headed an elite gathering of political heavyweights at the memorial service for Senator John McCain at Washington’s National Cathedral.

The Vietnam War hero, who became one of America’s most high-profile politicians, died a week ago from brain cancer at the age of 81.

His daughter Meghan spoke ahead of the former presidents, saying her father’s death was “the passing of American greatness”, as she directed a message squarely at President Donald Trump while encouraging others to live up to her father’s example.

In her tearful, impassioned tribute, she said they “gather here to mourn the passing of American greatness – the real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice he gave so willingly, nor the opportunistic appropriation of those who lived lives of comfort and privilege while he suffered and served.”

She said to applause: “The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great.”

Mr Obama told the congregation: “We come to celebrate an extraordinary man, a warrior, a statesman, a patriot who embodied so much that is best in America.”

He noted Mr McCain was a conservative politician, but said “he did understand that some principles transcend politics, that some values transcend party”.

Mr Obama praised Mr McCain for opposing “bending the truth to suit political expediency or party orthodoxy” and as a proponent of a “free and independent press”.

Mr Obama spoke after former president George W Bush, another McCain opponent.

George W Bush hailed Mr McCain’s “combination of courage and decency” in a eulogy that touched on the state of the nation’s politics under Donald Trump. Mr Bush, who defeated Mr McCain in the 2000 Republican primary, said Mr McCain “detested the abuse of power”.

He added: “To the face of those in authority, John McCain would insist that we are better than this, America is better than this.”

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Mr Bush said his absence was tangible, “like the silence after a mighty roar”.

Noting Mr McCain’s time as a prisoner of war, Mr Bush said Mr McCain “loved freedom with the passion of a man who knew its absence”.

Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner were among the highest-ranking White House officials attending after Mr McCain’s family made it clear that Mr Trump was not invited.

Mr McCain had been routinely criticised over his military record by the US president, who spent some time ahead of the service tweeting out a series of long-standing grievances about the news media, Canada and the Justice Department.

The Arizona senator had asked Mr Obama and Mr Bush to speak at the service to highlight the bridge-building that he espoused. Both men had defeated Mr McCain’s own bids for the nation’s highest office.

Mr McCain will be buried at his alma mater, the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

Sunday Independent

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