'One of the bravest souls our nation has ever produced’: Tributes paid as McCain lies in state in US Capitol

The senator was remembered by colleagues who praised his service to the country both as a soldier and as a public servant

Clark Mindock
New York
Friday 31 August 2018 21:42 BST
The Vice President and Congressional Leaders Remember Senator John McCain

John McCain has taken his place among the pantheon of American heroes like Abraham Lincoln, John F Kennedy and Rosa Parks by being granted the honour of lying in state inside the US Capitol.

The late Arizonan senator was eulogised by leaders by both Democrats and Republicans being praised as “one of the bravest souls our nation has ever produced” during a ceremony on Friday.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan called upon those assembled — and the broader American public — to follow McCain’s example by embracing fervent patriotism and disciplined political debate.

“We have this beautiful thing, the chance to do for this man, what he did for us,” Mr Ryan said during his remarks just feet from the coffin draped with an American flag that held McCain’s body. “To stand up. To stand up and embrace the cause of his life”.

"This is one of the bravest souls our nation has ever produced", Mr Ryan said.

Mr Ryan was joined by Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Mitch McConnell to deliver remarks remembering McCain’s service to the United States, which included more than 30 years representing Arizona in Washington.

Before that, McCain had served admirably in the US Navy, and was subjected to brutal beatings after being captured in Vietnam even though he resisted bending to his captors’ demands.

“Half a world away, wearing our nation’s uniform, John McCain stood up for every value that this Capitol Building represents,” Mr McConnell said in his remarks. “Then, he brought that same patriotism inside its walls — to advocate for our service members, our veterans, and our moral leadership in the world”.

“So it is only right that today, near the end of his long journey, John lies here,” Mr McConnell continued, describing the man who died on Saturday after a year-long battle with an aggressive form of brain cancer.

In one of McCain’s final acts as a senator, the Republican shocked his colleagues by casting the decisive vote against President Donald Trump’s efforts to repeal Obamacare, a signature healthcare achievement of his predecessor. That vote was among many differences McCain had with the man who would lead his party at the end of the senator’s life — and that sharp dislike of one another led the McCain family to decide against inviting the president to his funeral.

The president did not attend the Capitol ceremony, either.

“The president asked me to be here, on behalf of a grateful nation, to pay a debt of honour and respect,” Mr Pence said in his remarks.

In the week that has followed his death, McCain’s legacy has been remembered by many in the political press, the public, and among the politician colleagues who worked with him day in and day out.

That included both the good — his valiant service as a prisoner of war, and his dedication to country as a public servant — as well as the controversial — like McCain’s 1989 corruption scandal or his decision to choose Sarah Palin as his running mate during his 2008 run for president.

In a sign that McCain later came to regret his running mate choice, Ms Palin was also not invited to the services remembering the late senator.

McCain will be put to rest on Saturday after a memorial service at Washington National Cathedral featuring eulogies from former presidents Barack Obama and George W Bush.

Until then, his body will rest in the Capitol, where McCain built his legacy, with the line of admirers who lined up early on Friday slowly cycling through to show their respect and sorrow at the loss of an outsized figure in American history.

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