Donald Trump leads tributes to John McCain – but the loathing was mutual

The senator will receive full dress funeral service at Washington National Cathedral

Andrew Buncombe
New York
Sunday 26 August 2018 18:38 BST
John McCain dead: Hearse and police motocade leave the family ranch

Donald Trump has led tributes to long-serving Arizona senator John McCain – despite the two men representing a stark contrast in style and process, and having ultimately mutually loathed each other.

As former presidents, members of congress and citizens paid respect to the late 81-year-old Republican McCain, it was announced his body would lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington DC, and receive a full dress funeral service at Washington National Cathedral. The former naval officer will similarly lie at the Arizona Capitol, before his burial in Annapolis, Maryland.

It was reported former presidents George W Bush and Barack Obama had been asked to deliver eulogies at Mr McCain’s service. The White House will be represented by vice president Mike Pence, rather than Mr Trump, who was told Mr McCain’s family did not want him to attend.

“My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain,” Mr Trump tweeted, after Mr McCain’s death was announced on Saturday evening. “Our hearts and prayers are with you.”

The Associated Press reported that as news of the six-term senator’s death broke, scores of people lined Interstate 17 in Sedona, Arizona, where a black hearse accompanied by a police motorcade, drove away from the ranch where he had spent his final weeks.

The man who spent five years as a prisoner of war after being shot down in Vietnam, died little more than 24 hours after his family announced he was ending the chemotherapy he had been receiving for an aggressive brain tumour.

In a memoir published in May, The Restless Wave: Good Times, Just Causes, Great Fights, and Other Appreciations, he wrote he did not want to die but had few complaints about his life.

“It’s been quite a ride. I’ve known great passions, seen amazing wonders, fought in a war, and helped make peace,” Mr McCain wrote. “I’ve lived very well and I’ve been deprived of all comforts. I’ve been as lonely as a person can be and I’ve enjoyed the company of heroes. I’ve suffered the deepest despair and experienced the highest exultation.”

He added: “I made a small place for myself in the story of America and the history of my times.”

On Sunday, most US media coverage of Mr McCain was gushing and unquestioning, despite the senator being a controversial figure. While he was celebrated for his efforts to secure immigration reform, and for standing up to a supporter who termed his 2008 presidential challenger Barack Obama “an Arab”, the senator was also a vocal hawk, and a supporter of the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

He voted against Mr Obama’s effort to extend health coverage to more poorer Americans, though he also, famously, subsequently scuppered Mr Trump’s attempt to completely destroy the measure.

John McCain stops supporter saying Obama is 'an Arab'

Indeed, since his diagnosis with cancer in the summer of 2017, much of his energy appeared to focus on ensuring his legacy and opposing Mr Trump, at times referring to the controversial president indirectly, at other times naming him.

Fellow Arizona senator Jeff Flake told CBS Mr McCain “was quick to forgive – certainly put the good of the country above himself, and the fact that his former opponents will be there speaking says all we need to know”.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement: “The nation mourns the loss of a great American patriot, a statesman who put his country first and enriched this institution through many years of service.”

The battle to fill Mr McCain’s seat is already under way. Reports stated Arizona governor Doug Ducey does not plan to announce his selection of a senate successor until after Mr McCain’s burial. Under state law, the governor’s appointee to serve until the next general election in 2020, must come from the same party, political journalism website Politico said.

The governor has remained tight lipped about Mr McCain’s successor out of respect for his family, though there is speculation the seat could be filled by his widow, Cindy McCain. A statement from Mr Ducey’s office said “now is a time for remembering and honouring a consequential life”.

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted, in English, Mr McCain “was a true American hero. He devoted his entire life to his country”. Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said Mr McCain’s support for the Jewish state “never wavered. It sprang from his belief in democracy and freedom”.

German chancellor Angela Merkel called Mr McCain “a tireless fighter for a strong transatlantic alliance. His significance went well beyond his own country”.

Former US vice president Joe Biden, who developed a friendship with Mr McCain while they served together in the senate, said his late friend would “cast a long shadow”.

He added: “The spirit that drove him was never extinguished: we are here to commit ourselves to something bigger than ourselves.”

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