Tributes for John McCain, US war hero and political maverick, dead at 81

Outpouring grew on social media and in Washington after McCain died at his Arizona home on Saturday following a long battle with brain cancer

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 August, 2018, 5:07pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 August, 2018, 9:19pm

Senator John McCain’s allies and political foes have rallied in a rare show of unity in offering condolences on the death of the Vietnam war hero.

US President Donald Trump, who clashed bitterly with McCain and in recent weeks had refused to mention him by name, tweeted a brief statement on Saturday. He did not praise the man.

“My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain,” the president wrote.

“Our hearts and prayers are with you!”

McCain, 81, died at his ranch in Arizona after a year-long battle with brain cancer. On Saturday night, a black hearse accompanied by a police motorcade could be seen driving away from the ranch near Sedona where the Republican senator spent his final weeks.

First lady Melania Trump thanked McCain for his service to the nation, which included more than five years as a prisoner of war and six terms in the Senate.

Trump and McCain were at odds until the end.

The president, who mocked McCain’s capture in Vietnam during the 2016 campaign, jabbed at the senator even after his illness for voting against Republican efforts to roll back President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Earlier this summer, McCain issued a blistering statement criticising Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Former presidents, including those who blocked McCain’s own White House ambitions, offered emotional tributes.

Obama, who triumphed over McCain in the 2008 election, said that despite their differences, McCain and he shared a “fidelity to something higher – the ideals for which generations of Americans and immigrants alike have fought, marched, and sacrificed”.

Obama said the two political opponents “saw our political battles, even, as a privilege, something noble, an opportunity to serve as stewards of those high ideals at home, and to advance them around the world.”

Former president George W. Bush, who defeated McCain for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination, called his one-time political rival “man of deep conviction and a patriot of the highest order” and a “friend whom I’ll deeply miss”.

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Bush was among those expected to speak at McCain’s funeral.

McCain was the son and grandson of admirals and followed them to the US Naval Academy. A pilot, he was shot down over Vietnam and held as a prisoner of war for more than five years. He went on to win a seat in the House and in 1986, the Senate, where he served for the rest of his life.

Former vice-president Joe Biden, who developed a friendship with McCain while they served together in the Senate, said the Arizona lawmaker will “cast a long shadow”.

McCain’s presidential running mate, Sarah Palin: “Today we lost an American original. Senator John McCain was a maverick and a fighter, never afraid to stand for his beliefs.”

McCain had been away from the Senate floor since last December, remaining at his Arizona home for treatment of glioblastoma – the same form of brain cancer that took the life of another Senate giant, Democrat Ted Kennedy, in 2009.

McCain spent his final months with his second wife, Cindy, at their ranch in Sedona, Arizona. He continued to issue statements and tweets, published a valedictory book and took part in an HBO documentary that some likened to starring in his own obituary.

“I’ve been tested on a number of occasions,” he told the filmmakers.

“I haven’t always done the right thing. The important thing is not to look back and figure out all the things I should have done, and there’s lots of those, but to look back with gratitude.”

McCain stopped receiving cancer treatment last week, his family saying “the progress of disease and the inexorable advance of age render their verdict”.

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McCain will lie in state in both Phoenix, Arizona, and in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C., and will receive a full dress funeral service at the Washington National Cathedral before being buried in Annapolis, Maryland, his family said.

McCain’s widow, Cindy, on Twitter: “I am so lucky to have lived the adventure of loving this incredible man for 38 years. He passed the way he lived, on his own terms, surrounded by the people he loved, in the place he loved best.”

Associated Press, The Guardian, Bloomberg