Obama Will Be At John McCain's Funeral — And Has A Prominent Role To Play
Tributes have been pouring in from across the political spectrum for Arizona Sen. John McCain, who passed away on Saturday. Among them was a touching statement from former President Barack Obama, who lauded McCain's "courage to put the greater good above our own." But that won't be Obama's only tribute to the late senator; in April, McCain invited Obama to deliver a eulogy at his funeral in Washington, D.C., and Obama quickly accepted, CNN reported.
According to his aides, Obama was surprised by the request, especially because he was not a close friend of McCain's. Theirs was not a decades-long friendship, as McCain's relationship with former Vice President Joe Biden had been. Still, CNN reported, Obama and McCain had a mutual respect for one another, particularly in light of the lack of civility and bipartisan cooperation in the current political atmosphere.
There will be multiple ceremonies honoring McCain, but Obama is expected to speak at a national memorial service on Saturday in Washington, D.C. alongside McCain's children and another former president, George W. Bush. Biden and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will be among the 15 pallbearers for the ceremony, ABC7 reported. Biden also spoke at a separate ceremony for McCain in Arizona.
McCain and Obama famously ran against one another for the presidency back in 2008. In his concession speech, McCain urged his supporters to work with Obama, and he pledged to do so himself. This bipartisanship was something McCain was known for, and he earned the reputation of being a "maverick" in Washington because he often voted against his own party if he thought it was right.
The Arizona senator and the former president did not speak often, according to CNN. But last summer, after McCain cast the deciding vote to stop the Republican-orchestrated Obamacare repeal, Obama called him and thanked him. CNN reported that it was a brief call, but it was a sign that the two still shared an interest in bipartisan politics.
But McCain's invitation for Obama and Bush to deliver eulogies at his funeral may have been about more than just mutual respect. According to the Associated Press, McCain's family had asked that Trump not be present at his funeral services, and The New York Times reported that McCain himself expressed a similar wish. McCain and Trump were frequently at odds before the Arizona senator's death, and even now, Trump appears to be continuing the feud.
According to Vox, the White House broke with tradition and returned its flag back to its normal height on Monday morning, before McCain had been buried. It was only after widespread criticism that the White House restored the flag to its half-staff position. Moreover, Trump's initial statement following McCain's death did not address the senator's legacy, and he ignored reporters' questions about McCain following a phone call with outgoing Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. However, McCain typically never resorted to directly attacking Trump; instead, he criticized the president's policies.
As USA Today pointed out, one of McCain's last speeches on the Senate floor contained a tribute to "true statesmen, giants of American politics." During this speech, McCain talked about how these lawmakers, who "came from both parties, and from various backgrounds," nevertheless understood that they "had an obligation to work collaboratively to ensure the Senate discharged its constitutional responsibilities effectively."
It was in the spirit of this bipartisan collaboration that McCain appears to have invited Obama to speak at his funeral, and it is this same bipartisan spirit that will likely continue to stand out in his legacy.