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Obama, Bush Asked To Speak At John McCain’s Funeral; Trump Told To Stay Away

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The late senator will lie in state at the Arizona Capitol and in Capitol Rotunda in Washington D.C.

Former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush have reportedly been asked to deliver eulogies to the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

McCain, who died Saturday at the age of 81, had asked that the former presidents speak at his funeral at Washington’s National Cathedral on Saturday, according to CBS News. Vice President Mike Pence is expected to attend.

President Donald Trump will not be invited to McCain’s funeral, at the request of the late senator. The White House was told of McCain’s wishes by family members before his death. 

Both Obama and Bush defeated McCain in races for the presidency. Bush bested him in the 2000 Republican primary and Obama won the presidency in 2008 against McCain. But both men deeply admired the Arizona senator.

Obama said McCain had the “courage to put the greater good” above his own

Bush called McCain “a man of deep conviction and a patriot of the highest order.” Some lives, he said, “are so vivid, it is difficult to imagine them ended. Some voices are so vibrant, it is hard to think of them stilled.”

McCain will lie in state at the Arizona State Capitol on Wednesday, his birthday. Vice President Biden is expected to speak the following day at a service in the North Phoenix Baptist Church before McCain’s body is transported to Washington to lie in state at the Capitol Rotunda on Friday. Bush, Obama, McCain’s family and others are slated to speak at a full-dress service on Saturday in the National Cathedral.

A private ceremony will be held on Sunday at the U.S. Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis, Maryland, and McCain will be buried at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery next to Naval Academy classmate and long-time friend, Admiral Chuck Larson.

“I want, when I leave [to] just have a couple of people that stand up and say, ‘This guy, he served his country,’” McCain told Leslie Stahl last year on “60 Minutes.” 

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Trump Ditched White House Statement Lauding McCain For Tweet On Senator’s Death: Report

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The Washington Post reported Sunday that the White House prepared a statement for the president, calling McCain a “hero.”

President Donald Trump tweeted a noticeably curt reaction to Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) death after reportedly turning down the release of an official White House statement celebrating his late Republican colleague as a “hero.”

The Washington Post reported Sunday that Trump decided to nix the complimentary official statement that White House aides, including press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, prepared for the president in the days before the late senator’s death. McCain died on Saturday after he was diagnosed about one year ago with an aggressive form of brain cancer. He was 81 years old.

Instead, the president posted a brief tweet that did not praise McCain at all, writing, “My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!”

The president’s tweet differed significantly from the laudatory statements released by current and former government officials and staffers on both sides of the aisle, who all praised McCain as a war hero that devoted his life to public service. 

The Post’s report that Trump deliberately avoided using a statement celebrating McCain’s life comes days after Trump failed to comment on the announcement that the senator would cease treatment for cancer, an indication that he was reaching the end of his life.

The Post previously reported that Trump did not release a statement because he did want to comment on the Arizona Republican until after his death. By contrast, McCain’s colleagues sent messages of public support after the announcement was made on Friday.

McCain and Trump’s relationship has been contentious ever since the now-president insisted on the campaign trail that the senator was “not a war hero” because he was captured. Even in the final weeks of McCain’s life, Trump made his disdain for the senator clear ― failing to mention the war hero during the signing of a defense bill that bore his name

Earlier this year, Trump was reportedly disinvited to McCain’s funeral. Former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush will reportedly deliver eulogies. 

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The Real Story Behind John McCain’s Famous Campaign Rally Moment

He cut off a supporter who had termed Barack Obama an Arab, but there are reasons why he needed to step in.

It was one of Sen. John McCain’s finest political moments.

At a rally for his presidential bid late in 2008 campaign, an audience member backing the Arizona Republican tells him she doesn’t trust his opponent, then-Sen. Barack Obama and insists that the Illinois Democrat is an Arab.

McCain didn’t let her finish. Instead, he shook his head, took the microphone away from her and did something that would have seemed unimaginable during the most recent presidential election: He politely defended his opponent.

“No, ma’am. He’s a decent family man, citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what this campaign issue is all about,” he said, prompting applause from some other audience members at the gathering in Minnesota.

The short exchange was a shining moment for McCain that gained attention at the time. Instead of indulging in his supporter’s falsehood, he corrected her and showed grace toward his political foe. And it wasn’t an isolated moment.

At the same rally, the crowd earlier had booed McCain’s response to another supporter who said that Obama “cohorts with domestic terrorists” and that Americans would have to fear an Obama presidency. McCain said Obama was a “decent person” and that there would be no reason to be scared if he won the White House.

McCain displayed character and civility that day, as he showed similarly throughout much of his military and political career. Clips from that rally had periodically resurfaced even before his death, as he publicly feuded with President Donald Trump ― who in his short political career has become known for mocking and insulting his opponents and encouraging his supporters to do the same.

The moments were guaranteed to be shared again following his death on Saturday.

Still, context is needed about that rally and the vitriol toward Obama that surfaced at it.

McCain’s campaign and his controversial running mate, then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, had disparaged Obama over his acquaintanceship with William Ayers, a domestic terrorist during the Vietnam War era, and exaggerated the link between the two. A campaign ad from a group opposing Obama also played up the link between him and Ayers, who was part of the radical, left-wing group Weather Underground responsible for a series of bombings that happened when Obama was a child.

Palin’s speeches also often inspired rage, with some in her audiences yelling “kill him,” “treason” or “terrorist” at the mention of Obama. Some speakers at McCain-Palin events used his middle name, “Hussein,” in what was clearly intended as a way to question his patriotism ― and which also fueled the birther conspiracy theory.

Writing about the campaign atmosphere at the time, then-New York Times columnist Frank Rich noted that when McCain, during his appearances, “asks the crowd ‘Who is the real Barack Obama?’ it’s no surprise that someone cries out ‘Terrorist.’”

“This sleight of hand at once synchronizes with the poisonous Obama-is-a-Muslim e-mail blasts and shifts the brand of terrorism from [Bill] Ayers’s Vietnam-era variety to the radical Islamic threats of today,” Rich wrote.

And even as McCain’s responses to the barbs directed at Obama during the Minnesota rally 10 years ago garner renewed praise, some noted that he could have made a broader point. When the woman refers to Obama as an Arab and McCain says, “No ... he’s a decent family man, citizen,” without mentioning that that Arabic-speaking people can also be decent citizens.

 

McCain’s campaign later condemned the offensive comments made at the Minnesota event, calling them “inappropriate rhetoric.”

Eventually, in his memoir, McCain revealed that he regretted choosing Palin as his running mate instead of then-Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who labeled himself at that point an “independent Democrat.”

Despite their contentious 2008 campaign, McCain and Obama maintained a mutual respect for each other. While conceding to Obama on the night of the election, McCain stopped his supporters from booing his opponent and said he admired how Obama “inspired the hopes of so many millions of Americans.”

McCain has reportedly asked Obama to give a eulogy at his funeral. In a statement released after McCain’s death, Obama’s regard for the senator was clear.

“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,” Obama wrote. “At John’s best, he showed us what that means.”

McCain, for his part, offered a typically candid assessment when asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper in 2017 how he wanted to be remembered: “He served his country and not always right. Made a lot of mistakes. Made a lot of errors, but served his country. And I hope we could add honorably.”

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