'He was a great man' | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 02, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:48 AM, September 02, 2018

'He was a great man'

Former presidents, rivals, family pay tribute to senator McCain

Senator John McCain's daughter paid tribute to her father on Saturday with a broadside at President Donald Trump, lambasting the US leader without naming him for using "cheap rhetoric" against a man celebrated as a war hero and statesman.

Meghan McCain, who has made no secret of her unhappiness with Trump's criticism of her father, kicked off a memorial service that was attended by a who's who crowd of Democratic and Republican leaders who gathered to celebrate the former war prisoner's life.

"He was a great man," Meghan McCain said at the Washington National Cathedral. "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, nor the opportunistic appropriation of those who live lives of comfort and privilege while he suffered and served."

Former First Lady Michelle Obama, former US President Barack Obama, former Vice President Al Gore, and former US President George W Bush arrive for the Memorial Service for McCain. Photo: Reuters, AFP

Former US presidents Barack Obama and George W Bush, who both defeated John McCain in their White House contests, said at the late senator's funeral that he made them "better."

Hailing his friend as "an extraordinary man," warrior and patriot who embodied what is best in America, Democrat Obama said McCain "made us better presidents -- just as he made the Senate better, just as he made the country better."

He was echoing similar sentiments expressed minutes earlier by Republican Bush, who defeated McCain in a "hard fought" Republican primary battle in 2000, only to see that bitter rivalry melt away into a lasting friendship.

"He also made me better," Bush said.

Trump, who has feuded publicly with McCain and mocked his military service, received five deferments that got him out of serving in the military. The president did not attend yesterday's service and spent the morning sending tweets on other subjects.

Top members of Trump's administration including his daughter Ivanka, son-in-law Jared Kushner, chief of staff John Kelly and national security adviser John Bolton were present at the solemn cathedral service.

Other guests included former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, comedian Jay Leno, and former Senator Bob Dole.

Meghan McCain, daughter of US Senator John McCain, speaks during the memorial service. Photo: Reuters, AFP

McCain's daughter delivered a tearful but forceful tribute to her father, who she said told her to "show them how tough you are" with her eulogy. Taking aim at Trump's campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again," she said McCain's America was always great.

The statesman and former prisoner of war died Aug. 25 of brain cancer, days shy of his 82nd birthday.

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