Tearful Joe Biden honours John McCain: 'He could not stand the abuse of power'

Former vice-president and political rival calls late senator a brother - although admits they had 'a hell of a lot of family fights'

Clark Mindock
New York
Friday 31 August 2018 10:47 BST
Joe Biden pays tribute to John McCain in emotional eulogy

John McCain has been honoured by a tearful Joe Biden who said the late Arizona senator “could not stand the abuse of power wherever he saw it, in whatever form, in whatever country”.

In a hugely personal eulogy, the former Democrat vice-president called Republican McCain a “true American hero” and “a brother”. Although, he added, “we had a hell of a lot of family fights”.

He said the one-time presidential candidate, who died on Saturday after discontinuing treatment for brain cancer, was a person who prioritised fairness, honesty and respect above all else.

No speakers mentioned Donald Trump during Thursday's ceremony, at North Phoenix Baptist church, but many felt Mr Biden’s speech was a veiled rebuke to the current president. In particular he spoke about McCain’s opposition to those who “lacked the basic values of decency and respect, knowing this project is bigger than yourself”.

The remarks were part of a five-day long process that will bring the six-term senator, former representative and Vietnam War hero in front of mourners in Phoenix and Washington, where a funeral service will be held at the National Cathedral on Saturday. Former presidents Barack Obama and George Bush will be among those who pay tribute in the capital.

The program has been choreographed to send a wider message: that McCain's sheer stature was down to an old-fashioned ability to work with political rivals - even while engaging in heated debates. As if to emphasise the point, Mr Biden declared at one point: "I'm a Democrat, and I loved John McCain."

In his remarks he also drew on his own experience with the grief that can be brought from the death of a family member to the type of brain cancer that had killed McCain.

“The disease that took John's life – that took our friend Ted Kennedy's life – that took my son Beau's life – is brutal, relentless, unforgiving,” Mr Biden said. “It takes so much from those we love – and from the families who love them – that in order to survive we have to remember how they lived – not how they died”.

“The image I carry with me of Beau is of him starting a boat, staring and waving,” he continued. “Not the last days.”

Turning to the family of McCain who were present, he offered reassurance: “You will all find your own images”.

Other speaks included Tony Espinoza, a prominent Arizonan Latino leader who recalled McCain’s love of “Mexican culture”, and Larry Fitzgerald, a friend and wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals NFL team.

Neither McCain’s 2008 running mate, Sarah Palin, nor President Trump have been invited to any part of the ceremony.

At the end of Thursday’s service, Frank Sinatra's 'My Way' was played as the casket was carried from the church to the airport.

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