Senator John McCain passed away on Saturday 25 August and will be honoured with a state funeral.

By Daniel Herborn

Posted on August 27, 2018

McCain, a towering figure in US politics, had been battling an aggressive form of brain cancer and died at the age of 81 in his Arizona home. He will lie in state, a rare honour, in both Washington D.C and Arizona.

Per his request, former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush will both deliver eulogies at his funeral, to be held this week. Former Vice President Joe Biden will also speak at a service in the McCain’s home state.

Jeff Flake, a Republican Senator from Arizona, said the fact that McCain had wanted the two men who had been his main opponents in his presidential campaigns to deliver eulogies spoke volumes. “To ask them to speak at your funeral, and for them to be honoured at the opportunity, that tells you all you need to know.”

President Donald Trump, who had a bitter public row with McCain, is not expected to attend either service.

Republicans and Democrats alike mourn McCain’s passing

Tributes have flowed from both his Republican party colleagues and Democratic party opponents. Trump tweeted “My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!”

Hillary Clinton wrote McCain “lived a life of service to his country, from his heroism in the Navy to 35 years in Congress. He was a tough politician, a trusted colleague, and there will simply never be another like him. My thoughts and prayers are with Cindy and his entire family.”

“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,” said Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell in a statement.

“Some lives are so vivid, it is difficult to imagine them ended. It is hard to think of them stilled, ” wrote George W. Bush in a statement.

“John McCain was a man of deep conviction and a patriot of the highest order. He was a public servant in the finest traditions of our country. And to me, he was a friend whom I’ll deeply miss.”

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted: “John McCain was an American hero, a man of decency and honor and a friend of mine. He will be missed not just in the U.S. Senate but by all Americans who respect integrity and independence.”

A widely respected political maverick

Then Republican Party recently named a defence spending bill worth US$716 billion in the ailing McCain’s honour. But Trump refused to even acknowledge McCain by name in a 28-minute speech introducing the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019.

Recently, McCain said the Senate should reject Gina Haspel’s appointment as CIA director because she had approved of torture of detainees. It was reported a White House official said McCain’s opinion “doesn’t matter” because “he’s dying anyway.”

McCain knew a thing or two about torture, having experienced it during six gruelling and horrific years as a prisoner of war in the Vietnam war. He eventually returned to the United States and played a key role, alongside Democrat John Kerry, in normalising US relations with Vietnam.

McCain achieved a string of honours in the Navy, including the Purple Heart, Silver Star, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit and the Distinguished Flying Cross. Trump disputed that he was a war hero, saying “He’s not a war hero – he’s a war hero because he was captured, I like people who weren’t captured.”

Trump and McCain had been at odds over the policy of separating undocumented migrant children from their parents, which McCain called “an affront to the decency of the American people”. He also said of Trump’s meeting with Putin: “No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant.”

Obama took a different view, writing “Few of us have been tested the way John once was, or required to show the kind of courage that he did. But all of us can aspire to the courage to put the greater good above our own.”

He had also been a champion of campaign finance reform and went against the Republican Party establishment to vote against the repeal of Obamacare.