Just days after former US vice president Joe Biden broke down in tears while paying a moving tribute to the late John McCain at a memorial service, former US presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush both took to the stage to pay their respects.
Both Obama and Bush had crushed McCain’s dreams of being US president in the past, although they were personally asked by him to deliver eulogies. Obama said it was “a precious and singular honour” to speak about McCain’s life.
“It showed his irreverence, his sense of humour, a little bit of a mischievous streak,” Obama said. “After all, what better way to get a last laugh than to make George and I say nice things about him to a national audience?”
Obama appeared to take swipes at current US president Donald Trump during his speech – who was asked not to attend the memorial services.
“So much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse can seem small and mean and petty, tracking in bombast and insult and phoney controversies and manufactured outrage,” Obama told the audience. “It’s a politics that pretends to be brave and tough but in fact is born in fear. John called on us to be bigger than that. He called on us to be better than that.”
He said that McCain believed in more than party, ambition, money and power and that he wanted to preserve the dignity of America. Obama also said that despite their differences, they often found common ground.
“And, in fact, on the surface, John and I could not have been more different,” he said. “We were of different generations. I came from a broken home and never knew my father. John was the son of one of America’s most distinguished military families. I had a reputation for keeping cool. John, not so much.”
Meanwhile, Bush described McCain as his friend, despite the pair being political rivals.
“Back in the day, he could frustrate me. And I know he’d say the same thing about me. But he also made me better,” Bush said. “The thing about John’s life was the amazing sweep of it. From a tiny prison cell in Vietnam to the floor of the United States Senate. From troublemaking plebe to presidential candidate.
“Wherever John passed throughout the world, people immediately knew there was a leader in their midst. In one epic life was written the courage and greatness of our country.”
Bush said that the pair would talk about their political careers like football players would remember a big game. He also said McCain was always honest – even if it caused people to become offended.
“He was honest. No matter whom it offended. Presidents were not spared. [And] he respected the dignity inherent in every life. A dignity that does not stop at borders and cannot be erased by dictators,” George W. Bush said of John McCain. https://t.co/IaAu83TFKQ pic.twitter.com/Bi5OOGIMTx
— POLITICO (@politico) September 1, 2018
While both speeches made the audience laugh, other memorials haven’t been as happy. Biden burst into tears when he gave his eulogy, made sadder by the fact he lost his own son to the same type of brain cancer that claimed McCain’s life in the end.
McCain’s heartbroken daughter also broke down in tears as she bid her late father farewell alongside his grieving wife at a memorial service on Wednesday. Meghan was pictured sobbing as she knelt over her father’s casket at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix, while his wife of 38 years Cindy tenderly touched her cheek against the flag draping her husband’s coffin, before kissing it.
McCain’s death came just one day after his family released a statement announcing he would be ceasing treatment for his aggressive brain cancer. The former presidential nominee first announced news of his cancer in July last year. The tumour was discovered through tissue analysis after the senator had a blood clot removed from his eye.