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 11:43 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."

Huntsville
Cloudy
62° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 62°
Florence
Cloudy
62° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 62°
Fayetteville
Cloudy
61° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 61°
Decatur
Cloudy
62° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 62°
Scottsboro
Cloudy
60° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 60°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 530744

Reported Deaths: 10978
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson764931522
Mobile40959804
Madison34735503
Tuscaloosa25749452
Montgomery24327589
Shelby23425249
Baldwin21123308
Lee15873171
Calhoun14496314
Morgan14288279
Etowah13826353
Marshall12213223
Houston10561281
Elmore10052205
Limestone9958151
Cullman9659193
St. Clair9652243
Lauderdale9420241
DeKalb8828186
Talladega8220176
Walker7231277
Autauga6918108
Jackson6809112
Blount6656137
Colbert6296134
Coffee5509119
Dale4830111
Russell440738
Chilton4284112
Franklin425682
Covington4118118
Tallapoosa4026152
Escambia393376
Chambers3560123
Dallas3547151
Clarke351061
Marion3116101
Pike310877
Lawrence300298
Winston274272
Bibb260564
Marengo249664
Geneva249477
Pickens234361
Barbour230757
Hale222877
Butler215969
Fayette212262
Henry188744
Cherokee184645
Randolph180141
Monroe177340
Washington167239
Macon158950
Clay156156
Crenshaw152257
Cleburne148941
Lamar142535
Lowndes138753
Wilcox127030
Bullock123041
Conecuh110329
Perry107526
Coosa107228
Sumter104432
Greene92334
Choctaw60624
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 852841

Reported Deaths: 12255
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby956561619
Davidson89355933
Knox50675635
Hamilton44280494
Rutherford43046434
Williamson28015217
Sumner24012349
Montgomery20255225
Wilson18804234
Out of TN1840797
Unassigned16998134
Sullivan16794294
Blount15490193
Bradley15032150
Washington14597245
Maury13499172
Sevier13391175
Putnam11396175
Madison11168242
Robertson9756131
Anderson8760172
Hamblen8610173
Greene7877155
Tipton7359103
Coffee6905121
Dickson6840110
Cumberland6734132
Carter6634158
Gibson6526146
McMinn650898
Bedford6506128
Roane6282105
Jefferson6211124
Loudon613069
Hawkins6077107
Lawrence593887
Monroe584095
Warren554881
Dyer5425106
Franklin515090
Fayette506877
Cheatham455355
Obion454196
Cocke450099
Lincoln435763
Rhea434875
Marshall419058
Campbell415463
Weakley412865
Giles3996100
Henderson378976
White364170
Macon361978
Carroll361683
Hardin357167
Hardeman352664
Lauderdale318944
Henry318576
Claiborne318273
Marion312347
Scott312345
Overton301161
Wayne296334
Hickman284046
McNairy282054
DeKalb279654
Smith277839
Haywood271162
Grainger262850
Morgan250139
Trousdale250122
Fentress241547
Johnson240739
Chester214351
Bledsoe214211
Polk207824
Unicoi203549
Crockett203248
Cannon192031
Union190734
Humphreys179927
Grundy179334
Lake170326
Sequatchie169829
Benton166540
Decatur158639
Lewis158126
Meigs139125
Stewart132528
Jackson132036
Clay110131
Houston109333
Perry106628
Moore101117
Van Buren84723
Pickett76024
Hancock58912

Community Events