The death last Saturday of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) came as little surprise given his very public, yearlong battle with brain cancer and his family’s statement issued just one day before he took his final breath, which indicated he was terminating his cancer treatments.
Still, many Americans, regardless of party affiliation, as well as leaders from around the world, continue to send their condolences to McCain’s family while further expressing their admiration for a man known for rarely holding his tongue no matter what the personal or political cost and for his unwavering love for both his country and its citizens whom he represented for more than 35 years.
McCain, 81, died just days before his 82nd birthday and will lie in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, Friday, Aug. 31 — becoming only the 13th former senator to be so honored. A memorial has been scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 1 at Washington National Cathedral with his burial taking place on Sun., Sept. 2 at the U.S. Naval Academy cemetery in Annapolis.
The military veteran (Navy aviator) and former prisoner of war (POW) in Vietnam has been a fixture in Congress for the past three decades, said to be, according to some who knew him best, a “rebel,” “patriot” “hero” and “survivor.”
Younger Americans may remember him most because of his two unsuccessful bids for president, most notably his ill-conceived decision to name a clearly unqualified Sarah Palin as his running mate in the 2008 election — one which the two lost by a significant margin to Barack Obama and Joe Biden.
Undoubtedly, he’ll also be remembered as the senator who cast the deciding vote against the Trump-GOP plan to repeal Obama’s signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act, that would have stripped health care from tens of millions of Americans. Voting in opposition to party lines, McCain would go on to criticize the U.S. Senate for “losing its way.” As for Trump, he would thereafter mock McCain at every opportunity, with his “thumbs-down” imitation.
But Trump had taken an earlier swipe at McCain in 2015 during the initial days of his presidential campaign when he said McCain’s more than five years as a POW did not qualify him as a “hero.”
In the days following McCain’s death, flags at the White House have been lowered to half-staff, raised, then lowered again — an action that even some of Trump’s fellow GOP colleagues have criticized.
Trump will not be present at services for McCain, honoring a decision made by McCain prior to his death indicating that he did not want the president to attend.
Trump did issue a tweet, 21 words in length.
Remembrances from Colleagues, Friends
Many members of Congress, as well as other political leaders at city, county and state levels in close proximity to the Greater Washington Area, have released words of praise or remembrances about McCain — some even lamenting his death in the further demise of a Republican party formerly known for its collective view that immigration served an integral role in America’s efforts to continue its growth as a nation, its stance in support of the advancement of freedom in countries worldwide and an unequivocal belief that American businesses could compete with anyone — tenets similarly supported by other iconic members of the old vanguard of Republicans including Ronald Reagan, Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower — but now thoroughly dismissed by Trump and those who support him.
Here are selected portions of comments received:
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.): “His courageous struggle against cancer exemplified a lifetime spent as a fighter. Senator McCain was well known for a set of core conservative beliefs that were at odds with those of many of us in Congress; at the same time he was unafraid to rise above partisanship. His decisive vote against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act will always be remembered as a seminal demonstration of courage in the face of public pressure too seldom seen in our times. [D.C.] still struggles for representation in the Senate but appreciated Senator McCain’s service there, where our city particularly benefits from bipartisanship.”
Former President Barack Obama: “[We] were members of different generations, came from completely different backgrounds and competed at the highest level of politics. But we shared, for all our differences, a fidelity to something higher — the ideals for which generations of Americans and immigrants alike have fought, marched and sacrificed. We 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. We saw this country as a place where anything is possible — and citizenship as our patriotic obligation to ensure it forever remains that way.”
“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. At John’s best, he showed us what that means. And for that, we are all in his debt. Michelle and I send our heartfelt condolences to Cindy and their family.”
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III: “Prince George’s County joins the nation and world in mourning the passing of Senator John McCain — a truly unique American hero who showed us time and time again how to live our lives with purpose, tenacity and character. Throughout his career in public service, he chose to do the right thing — as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam era to campaign finance reform to taking a stand in support of the Affordable Care Act essentially saving health insurance for millions of Americans. [He] was always optimistic and proud about America and was dedicated to public service, diversity and our nation’s principles of equality, justice and democracy for all. His legacy will forever be a significant part of our nation’s history.”
Ben Jealous, former national president/CEO, NAACP: “I am incredibly saddened to hear that Senator John McCain has passed. He embodied true patriotism and will be missed. Thank you for your service, senator.”
Editor’s Note: Jealous is currently the Democratic candidate for Maryland’s governor’s race.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan: “Senator John McCain will forever remain one of most valiant heroes our country has ever known. He has long stood as a shining example of doing the right thing and standing up for his principles even — and especially — when the going gets tough. I am lucky to count myself among those privileged enough to have known him. All of us join his family and colleagues in taking pride in his legacy of selfless service, grit, and determination. A grateful nation will be forever in his debt.”
Rep. Anthony G. Brown (D-Md.): “Even when he faced unfathomable horrors and hardships, his faith in our country’s common purpose and his commitment to advancing and preserving our nation’s highest ideals never wavered. John McCain was a man of conviction and was never afraid of doing the right thing.”