Washington prepares to say goodbye to late Sen. John McCain
Updated: 5:48 a.m. on August 31, 2018
WASHINGTON (AP) — It's Washington's turn to say goodbye to the late Sen. John McCain. And McCain is saying farewell — his way.
The six-term Republican senator, who lived and worked in nation's capital over four decades, will lie in state under the U.S. Capitol rotunda Friday for a ceremony and public visitation. On Saturday, McCain's procession pauses by the Vietnam Memorial and heads for Washington National Cathedral for a formal funeral service. At McCain's request, two former presidents — Democrat Barack Obama and Republican George W. Bush — are expected to speak there.
People close to the White House and McCain's family said President Donald Trump, who has mocked McCain for getting captured during the Vietnam War, has been asked to stay away from all events.
McCain's funeral puts him back in the spotlight a few miles from Trump's doorstep, in the city where the senator, who died Saturday at 81, worked and collected friends and enemies — and some people were both at different times. The procession is expected to continue highlighting what McCain found important, some of which contrasts with Trump's style and priorities.
Vice President Mike Pence will speak at the Capitol ceremony Friday, and other officials will represent the administration in Trump's hard-to-miss absence. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis greeted the McCain family Thursday night when the late senator's casket was flown into Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.
McCain chose a Russian dissident as a pallbearer after Trump professed repeatedly his affinity and admiration for Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin — praise that came amid special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
The procession's pause at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, where McCain's widow, Cindy, is expected to lay a wreath, will highlight McCain's military service and his more than five years as a prisoner of war.
Trump obtained deferments during the Vietnam War for his college education and for bone spurs in his heels.
The McCain farewell began Wednesday and Thursday in Arizona, where he and Cindy McCain raised their family. Former Vice President Joe Biden and others provided a preview of the tributes to come.
None of the speakers at the North Phoenix Baptist Church on Thursday uttered Trump's name. But Biden, who is considering challenging Trump in 2020, made what some saw as a veiled reference to the president. He talked about McCain's character and how he parted company with those who "lacked the basic values of decency and respect, knowing this project is bigger than yourself."
Biden said McCain "could not stand the abuse of power wherever he saw it, in whatever form, in whatever country."
Longtime McCain friend Tommy Espinoza told the 3,500 mourners that "We all make America great," a strikingly similar phrase to Trump's campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again."
The church's senior pastor, Noe Garcia, pronounced McCain "a true American hero."
Much of the proceedings were lighthearted, noting McCain's penchant for battle.
Biden advised McCain's friends and family to remember snapshots of him, such as a glance or a touch. "Or when you saw the pure joy the moment he was about to take the stage on the Senate floor and start a fight. God, he loved it."
McCain's longtime chief of staff, Grant Woods, a former Arizona attorney general, drew laughs with a eulogy in which he talked about McCain's "terribly bad driving" and his sense of humor, which included calling the Leisure World retirement community "Seizure World." When McCain and Woods arrived at the community to apologize, Woods said, they saw a resident near the entrance making an obscene gesture at them.
The service brought to a close two days of mourning for the U.S. senator and 2008 GOP presidential nominee in his home state.
At the end of the nearly 90-minute ceremony, McCain's casket was wheeled out of the church to "My Way," in tribute to a politician known for following his own path.
Posted: 5:41 on August 30, 2018
PHOENIX (AP) — The celebration of Sen. John McCain's life as a former prisoner of war and maverick politician enters a second day with a church service and a military salute before his casket departs his adopted state of Arizona for the U.S. Capitol.
A motorcade with McCain's remains leaves Thursday morning from the Arizona Capitol, where McCain has been lying in state so thousands of people could say goodbye.
Visibly bereft family and friends gathered there Wednesday for an emotional private service, where Cindy McCain pressed her face against her husband's coffin and daughter Meghan McCain erupted in audible sobs.
Arizona residents have been invited to honor McCain on Thursday by lining the route from the Capitol to the North Phoenix Baptist Church, where an honor guard will greet the hearse when it arrives. Along with invited family and friends, around 1,000 seats were being made available to members of the public who signed up.
Former Vice President Joe Biden was delivering remarks at Thursday's service, where a number of friends and family members of McCain will also speak. A choir from the Jesuit-run Brophy College Preparatory school that McCain's sons Jack and Jimmy attended will sing "Amazing Grace" and "Arizona." The recessional music will be Frank Sinatra's signature song, "My Way," paying tribute to a man who became known for following his own path based on his personal principles.
The much smaller service on Wednesday was solemn and subdued. But it was nevertheless filled with affecting moments and demonstrations of deep respect for the statesman and Navy pilot war hero who was held by the North Vietnamese for 5½ years after being shot down over Hanoi.
Gov. Doug Ducey remembered McCain as "Arizona's favorite adopted son" on what would have been his 82nd birthday at the brief ceremony attended by his wife and children, friends and fellow politicians. McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone while his father, who went on to become an admiral, served in the military.
The Capitol was then opened to the public Wednesday afternoon, allowing visitors to walk by the flag-draped closed casket after waiting in line outside in the temperatures that reached a high of 104 degrees (40 Celsius). Mariachi singer Jesus Rojas strummed a guitar and sang "Cielito Lindo" in the senator's honor.
Inside, former military members in shorts and T-shirts stopped and saluted. Others placed their hand over their heart or bowed, including Vietnamese-born residents who traveled from Southern California.
Ray Riordan, an 87-year-old Navy veteran who fought in the Korean War, came from Payson, Arizona.
"I grew up where a handshake was a contract and your word was your bond," Riordan said. "He represented the last of that as far as I'm concerned."
By the time government offices closed for the day, as many as 6,000 people had filed by, and that number grew to about 7,500 Wednesday night, Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Bart Graves said.
Late Wednesday night, the McCain family issued a statement saying that about 15,000 people came to pay their respects to the late senator at the Capitol.
After Thursday's church service, a motorcade will take McCain's casket to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport for a final salute from members of the Arizona Air and Army National Guard.
From there, a C-32 military aircraft will take McCain to the East Coast for another public viewing at the U.S. Capitol on Friday.
There will be a service at the Washington National Cathedral on Saturday, followed by burial at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.