Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Politicians pay a final tribute to McCain
Lawmakers praise ‘a generational leader’
WASHINGTON – An astounding array of the nation’s political, military, diplomatic and cultural leaders paid tribute Friday to the late Sen. John McCain – “a drum major for courage, truth and justice,” said Rear Admiral Barry Black, the Senate chaplain, in his benediction – as he lay in state at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.
The somber assemblage kicked off three days of ceremonies honoring McCain, a former Navy aviator and prisoner of war in Vietnam who went on to win six terms in the Senate. Before it’s over, McCain will be remembered at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington National Cathedral and the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
In a fitting testimonial, the skies erupted in a downpour as McCain’s flag-draped casket was carried up the marble steps of the Capitol by members of the U.S. armed forces. Inside, tears welled up among mourners as it was placed on the simple pine catafalque hastily constructed in 1865 to hold the body of Abraham Lincoln.
At that moment, the 81-yearold senator became only the 31st person to lie in state over 166 years. Senators who served with him for decades stood at attention, hands on hearts; Sen. Jeff Flake, his Arizona colleague, fought back tears.
Vice President Mike Pence – standing in for the president with whom McCain feuded, Donald Trump – hailed the senator as a man of iron will who never backed down from a fight.
“The president asked me to be here, on behalf of a grateful nation, to pay a debt of honor and respect to a man who served his country throughout his life,” Pence said.
He mentioned Trump twice, but the president said nothing as he left the White House in the early afternoon for events in Charlotte, North Carolina.
A former member of Congress, Pence recalled traveling the world with McCain, who later became chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I never traveled with a colleague who was better to our enlisted or harder on our generals,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recalled the “cocky, handsome naval aviator” who went on to became “a generational leader in the United States Senate, where our nation airs our great debates.”
“He would fight tooth and nail for his vision of the common good,” McConnell said.
House Speaker Paul Ryan recalled McCain’s “distinct brand of candor,” when he discovered the former Navy pilot “really does talk like a sailor.”
But if he were to bring his own children or grandchildren to visit McCain’s final resting place at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, where he will be buried Sunday, Ryan said he would tell them: “This is one of the bravest souls our nation has ever produced.”