STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Meghan McCain: A few resented my father's fire

Meghan McCain, one of the late Sen. John McCain's daughters, remembers her father during a memorial service at Washington's National Cathedral.

Posted: Sep 3, 2018 11:56 AM
Updated: Sep 3, 2018 11:56 AM

John McCain has drawn tributes from presidents and prime ministers, senators and secretaries of state in the emotion-laden days since his death.

But it took a daughter to capture the measure of the man -- to remember him as the "fierce conscience of the nation's best self" and to thrust the rhetorical dagger that was the culmination of a uniquely political week of mourning.

"We gather here to mourn the passing of American greatness. The real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice he gave so willingly," the senator's daughter Meghan McCain said in a stunning eulogy laced with grief, anger, pride and love.

"The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again, because America was always great," she said, before being interrupted by an outburst of spontaneous applause at McCain's memorial service at Washington's National Cathedral on Saturday.

It was the most cutting moment of a funeral that operated on two levels. First, it was a farewell to a warrior, a senator, a friend and a father. But the service was also a prolonged allegory that served to highlight McCain's character, and by comparison, to condemn the politics of personality of Donald Trump.

The funeral marked the largest gathering of the bipartisan political establishment since the President's stark inaugural address in January 2017. Though he was unwelcome and was not mentioned by name, the event stood as an indictment of Trump's rule and the ideals his opponents believe he has crushed.

McCain's death, as the Arizona senator planned, has evolved into an extraordinary political moment that has elevated a national debate over the consequences of the Trump presidency, which critics see as a challenge to constitutional norms and the values on which the United States was founded.

Eulogizers, citing McCain's honor, courage, patriotic service, obstinacy, humor, reverence for freedom and contempt for bullies, presented the Arizona Republican as the personification of America itself. His loss, and the code by which he lived became a metaphor for something now gone from the nation's civic arena.

"So much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse can seem small and mean and petty, trafficking in bombast and insult and phony controversies and manufactured outrage," former President Barack Obama said in a remembrance of a man whom he beat to the presidency in 2008, and who he wryly remembered hounded him for his performance almost every day he was in office.

"It's a politics that pretends to be brave and tough, but in fact is born of fear. John called on us to be bigger than that. He called on us to be better than that," Obama said in a clear denunciation of Trump.

Obama's predecessor George W. Bush, another vanquisher of McCain's presidential ambitions who was asked to eulogize him, said the senator, who lay in a casket covered in the American flag, lived by a set of "public virtues that brought strength and purpose to his life and to his country."

"Perhaps above all, John detested the abuse of power. He could not abide bigots and swaggering despots," Bush said, in another apparent reference to Trump's conduct and affinity for strongmen like Russian President Vladimir Putin.

By asking the two men who thwarted his White House dreams to lead mourners, McCain made a powerful point about lost decency in Washington, the imperative in a democratic system for political enemies to bury their differences, and the importance of national unity.

Obama, who revealed that McCain would come to talk to him privately in the Oval Office -- a fact neither man advertised -- put it this way: "We never doubted the other man's sincerity or the other man's patriotism. Or that when all was said and done, we were on the same team."

One glaring absence

It is a mark of the tortured political times, and the sheer unorthodoxy of the Trump presidency, that the current commander-in-chief was not called upon to lead America in mourning one of its most iconic sons and statesmen.

But a feud that boiled even after McCain's death a week ago of brain cancer prevented that, along with McCain's belief that the behavior and views of the current President represent an affront to American ideals -- a point he deliberately put at the center of his funeral rites.

Trump spent the morning at the White House, attacking a US ally -- Canada -- hitting out at Obama, whose name he misspelled in a Twitter post, and assailing the FBI and the Justice Department over the Russia investigation before heading to his golf club in Virginia.

During his campaign, the President said McCain was not a war hero because he was captured in Vietnam and he declined to release a statement marking his death.

It was that kind of behavior that Meghan McCain decried as she spoke from her heart about her father and hero.

"He was a great man. ... he was a great fire who burned bright," she said.

"A few have resented that fire for that light it cast upon them, for the truth it revealed about their character, but my father never cared what they thought," the senator's daughter said in staggeringly direct and unrestrained address that would have made her father glow with pride.

She remembered how her father bore his suffering from injuries received as a Vietnam prisoner of war with the "stoic silence that was once the mark of an American man," in another apparent jab at the President.

Fighting against her grief, and sobbing, McCain's daughter said she had asked her ailing father how she should approach his eulogy before a vast national audience.

"'Show them how tough you are,'" she said, quoting the six-term senator and formal naval aviator.

Meghan McCain said her father revered an America that was "generous, welcoming and bold. She is resourceful and confident and secure. America does not boast, because she has no need to," she said.

When she appropriated Trump's slogan, "Make America Great Again," there was silence for a few seconds, then quietly at first, but building in a wave, came a round of applause.

In the third row, behind three ex-presidents, their wives and their Secret Service details, sat Trump's chief of staff John Kelly. Trump's daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner were also in the congregation.

Across the aisle from the past presidents sat McCain's wife, Cindy, who lost her composure only once -- when opera singer Renee Fleming sang "Danny Boy," an elegy of loss and love that consoled the senator in the final days of his life. A tear dropped from her right eye and she rested her head on the shoulder of her son Jack, who wore a white dress Navy uniform.

The funeral is unlikely to change political realities on its own. Trump's supporters may even see validation in the fact that the President is so decried by the political establishment he won power promising to eviscerate. But it seems destined to become a signature moment in the national assessment of Trump's presidency that will shape the mid-term elections in November and will culminate in the 2020 White House race.

One of McCain's closest political friends, former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, remarked that his old colleague's passing had caused Americans to reconsider the country's founding values of freedom, human rights, opportunity, democracy and equal justice.

"Remarkably, his death seems to have reminded the American people that these values are what makes us a great nation, not the tribal partisanship and personal attack politics that have recently characterized our life," Lieberman said.

"This week's celebration of the life and values of patriotism of this hero, I think have taken our country above all that."

"It's the last great gift that John McCain gave America."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 482902

Reported Deaths: 9425
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison33063488
Hinds31021589
DeSoto30610358
Jackson23687348
Rankin21340370
Lee14909220
Madison14166271
Jones13404227
Forrest13160240
Lauderdale11601305
Lowndes10443176
Lamar10214130
Pearl River9098221
Lafayette8241137
Hancock7514112
Washington7102150
Oktibbeha6964124
Monroe6514164
Neshoba6475201
Warren6464164
Pontotoc630393
Panola6250126
Marshall6126123
Bolivar6115144
Union574186
Pike5613136
Alcorn537290
Lincoln5303131
George471472
Scott459196
Leflore4476140
Prentiss446779
Tippah446480
Itawamba4444100
Adams4416116
Tate4394101
Simpson4335112
Wayne433066
Copiah431787
Yazoo423386
Covington415792
Sunflower4148104
Marion4099104
Leake397586
Coahoma3957100
Newton370875
Grenada3556104
Stone350860
Tishomingo336289
Attala325387
Jasper314162
Winston304691
Clay296473
Chickasaw287065
Clarke282190
Calhoun266141
Holmes262187
Smith250649
Yalobusha221047
Tallahatchie220450
Walthall211058
Greene209045
Lawrence206833
Perry199953
Amite198452
Webster196542
Noxubee178939
Montgomery172454
Jefferson Davis168342
Carroll162137
Tunica153334
Benton142535
Kemper138640
Choctaw127026
Claiborne126834
Humphreys126637
Franklin116728
Quitman103926
Wilkinson101936
Jefferson91333
Sharkey63020
Issaquena1926
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 789054

Reported Deaths: 14022
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1115991765
Mobile708511234
Madison49865633
Shelby36274315
Baldwin36242495
Tuscaloosa33931548
Montgomery33190678
Lee22680220
Calhoun21211410
Morgan19816335
Etowah19300462
Marshall17680274
Houston16823386
St. Clair15442305
Cullman14602258
Limestone14581188
Elmore14480264
Lauderdale13520281
Talladega12958236
DeKalb12199237
Walker10588330
Blount9720157
Autauga9667137
Jackson9385158
Coffee8882175
Dale8609173
Colbert8534184
Tallapoosa6673181
Escambia6591121
Covington6452167
Chilton6385144
Russell607255
Franklin5795101
Chambers5416134
Marion4800120
Dallas4705189
Clarke463279
Pike462397
Geneva4413117
Winston425895
Lawrence4117108
Bibb409381
Barbour347270
Marengo326285
Monroe320053
Butler318290
Randolph305956
Pickens305274
Henry301858
Hale292685
Cherokee289855
Fayette279673
Washington245448
Crenshaw238470
Cleburne235851
Clay228565
Macon220158
Lamar197743
Conecuh182046
Lowndes170758
Coosa170235
Wilcox159736
Bullock149243
Perry136537
Sumter124536
Greene121443
Choctaw73427
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 64°
Columbus
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 61°
Oxford
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 66°
Starkville
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 64°
While some cool mornings are again in store for the weekend, afternoons start to warm up a bit, so plan on dressing in layers if you're heading to the MSU or Bama games, because you'll need to utilize them in different ways.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather