Graham on McCain: 'We're not talking about funerals'

Sen. Lindsey Graham flew to Arizona this week for a visit with his best friend John McCain that he thought might be h...

Posted: May 11, 2018 12:11 PM
Updated: May 11, 2018 12:11 PM

Sen. Lindsey Graham flew to Arizona this week for a visit with his best friend John McCain that he thought might be his last.

McCain, who is suffering from brain cancer, had been hospitalized two weeks ago for a stomach infection and was in very bad shape when Graham was with him.

"Last time I saw him, he'd just gotten out of surgery and was really worried about him," Graham told CNN in an interview Thursday. "He went through some pretty tough surgery in his weakened condition."

But when Graham returned Monday, he said he was pleasantly surprised by the McCain he found.

"When I got there, [he had] gained weight, [he was] eating good. We watched our favorite western, 'The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence,'" the South Carolina Republican said, adding that McCain provided a running commentary that was "R rated," "but it was fun."

Not talking about retiring, or funerals

Graham returned to Washington on Thursday clearly determined to tamp down any talk of McCain's imminent demise. He said McCain did not talk at all about retiring from his Senate seat.

"It's a tough diagnosis, not going to sugar coat this, but the guy came through the surgery and he's getting stronger," said Graham.

"We talked about what we could do this summer. Maybe doing some events, if he gets a little stronger, at the McCain Institute. We were talking about the future. We're not at 2022 yet, but who knows," Graham mused.

"We're not talking about funerals," Graham said flatly. "I'm going back."

Cindy McCain shielding her husband

Graham said McCain's wife, Cindy, is managing the situation in a way that is allowing the Arizona Republican to regain his strength. Part of that means keeping news away from her husband that would upset him, such as reporting about plans for his funeral.

"Cindy has pretty much shielded him from that. She's pretty upset. We didn't talk about funerals," said Graham.

The New York Times first reported over the weekend that McCain associates have told the White House that President Donald Trump is not welcome at McCain's funeral. NBC News reported that former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush have been asked to give eulogies, which CNN confirmed.

Reflective McCain

Just as other confidants have reported after seeing McCain at his ranch outside Sedona, Arizona, Graham described his friend as reflective and eager to reminisce. The two men have been close for two decades. They're kindred spirits on national security and their belief in strong American leadership around the world. They have traveled the globe together many times over to meet with foreign leaders and US troops.

"We had some great discussions about all the travels, talking about going to Iraq, and I couldn't remember who the general was, and he said, 'Its General Austin,' and I said, 'OK, thanks,'" Graham recalled, careful to say their time together was "reflective and forward looking, too."

"A lot of it was just talking about our relationships," Graham said.

They also talked a lot about McCain's new book, which comes out later this month.

"I think this is maybe his most important book," Graham said. "In the book ... he talks about isolationism. I think the biggest threat to world order is American isolationism and the rise of the strong men. I hope people read this book. I think it should be required reading for anybody who wants to serve in a democracy."

Trump

Some of McCain's longtime aides have been privately irked with Graham for reaching out to Trump and playing golf with him in attempt to forge a working relationship. During the 2016 campaign, Trump doubted McCain's status as a war hero, saying he believes heroes are those who don't get captured. McCain was a prisoner of war for five and a half years in Vietnam, and refused early release because it broke with protocol.

McCain downplayed that slight at the time, but he never saw eye to eye with Trump on foreign policy. In fact, McCain spent much of the first six months of Trump's presidency traveling the world, trying to reassure allies that the US will not abandon them.

When asked if McCain brought up with Graham his courting of Trump, Graham said "no."

"I think he understands that my job is to help the President. I'm going to help the President, and I'm going to say 'no' when I have to," Graham said.

CIA director

Though McCain and Graham are historically mostly in lockstep on matters of national security and personnel, the two split Thursday over Trump's choice to lead the CIA, Gina Haspel, because of her CIA experience during the Bush administration, when "enhanced Interrogation," or torture, was deemed legal for terror suspects.

McCain and Graham publicly fought Bush and his team hard, arguing to outlaw torture. Now, McCain's arguing to colleagues that Haspel should be disqualified, but Graham said he told McCain he's wrong.

"Let just put it this way. Here's what I told John: You won. She said, Ms. Haspel, that the prior program hurt the CIA and the country. She wouldn't want to go back to it, that torture doesn't work and she is going to adhere to the law that Senator McCain and I helped author. She's a 30-year professional, and I think she's done a good job."

"When you put it in the big picture, John McCain won," Graham continued. "The new CIA director-to-be I hope rejects the programs that John McCain fought so hard to change and is going to adhere to the law that John McCain fought too hard to write, and that to me is winning."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 320174

Reported Deaths: 7390
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22294271
Hinds20755424
Harrison18450317
Rankin13923282
Jackson13733249
Madison10273225
Lee10063176
Jones8473167
Forrest7837153
Lauderdale7263242
Lowndes6523150
Lamar636288
Lafayette6314121
Washington5427138
Bolivar4841133
Panola4671110
Oktibbeha466398
Pearl River4606148
Marshall4574105
Warren4440121
Pontotoc425973
Monroe4162136
Union415877
Neshoba4065180
Lincoln4009113
Hancock387687
Leflore3516125
Tate342586
Sunflower339491
Pike3373111
Alcorn327474
Scott320374
Yazoo314571
Adams308486
Itawamba305178
Copiah299966
Coahoma299084
Simpson298689
Tippah292268
Prentiss284261
Leake272374
Marion271280
Covington267283
Wayne264842
Grenada264087
George252451
Newton249064
Tishomingo232369
Winston230282
Jasper222148
Attala215173
Chickasaw210659
Holmes190574
Stone188733
Clay187954
Tallahatchie180041
Clarke178980
Calhoun174232
Yalobusha167940
Smith164134
Walthall135447
Greene131834
Lawrence131224
Montgomery128643
Noxubee128034
Perry127538
Amite126342
Carroll122330
Webster115032
Jefferson Davis108334
Tunica108127
Claiborne103130
Benton102325
Humphreys97533
Kemper96729
Franklin85023
Quitman82316
Choctaw79118
Wilkinson69632
Jefferson66328
Sharkey50917
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 549013

Reported Deaths: 11311
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson810461571
Mobile42145831
Madison35718525
Tuscaloosa26179458
Shelby25626254
Montgomery25089614
Baldwin21901314
Lee16287176
Calhoun14724327
Morgan14639285
Etowah14183364
Marshall12454230
Houston10791287
Elmore10301214
Limestone10188157
St. Clair10161251
Cullman9958201
Lauderdale9612250
DeKalb8977190
Talladega8462184
Walker7341280
Autauga7242113
Jackson6953113
Blount6950139
Colbert6415140
Coffee5638127
Dale4930116
Russell454941
Chilton4478116
Franklin431782
Covington4279122
Tallapoosa4144155
Escambia401880
Chambers3728124
Dallas3610158
Clarke353161
Marion3245107
Pike314578
Lawrence3134100
Winston283572
Bibb268564
Geneva258481
Marengo250665
Pickens237062
Barbour234559
Hale227178
Butler224671
Fayette218962
Henry194443
Randolph187644
Cherokee187345
Monroe180641
Washington170739
Macon163051
Clay160159
Crenshaw156357
Cleburne153644
Lamar146937
Lowndes142254
Wilcox126930
Bullock124542
Conecuh113630
Coosa111629
Perry108626
Sumter105832
Greene93634
Choctaw62125
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