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Arizona Honors John McCain. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired August 29, 2018 - 13:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[13:00:00]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN: HOST Members of the Arizona National Guard Casket Team as they're called, they are proceeding with the casket to the capitol rotunda. There you see right behind them the - the widow, Cindy McCain, and her sons by the way Jack and Jimmy McCain escorting her and the family to the rotunda.

Dana, this is a very, very emotional moment for the entire McCain family.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, it's a moment that they knew was coming starting 13 months ago when he was diagnosed with the fatal disease, brain cancer.

But the fact is, and as we heard from S.E., she knows because she's so close with Meghan McCain and we have been reporting on, there were a lot of ups and downs and he is a fighter.

And he has had so many brushes with death throughout his life that, you know, the hope was that somehow he actually wasn't mortal and that he could fight through it. But the reality is that just doesn't happen with this kind of cancer.

BLITZER: Let me bring S.E. into this. S.E., as you're watching this, all of us who of course knew Senator McCain, know his family, it's a time for some emotions expected to arise.

S.E. CUPP, CNN HOST: Yes, what's - what's important about - what's important to know about - about this disease is as you mentioned, I think as Jeff Zeleny mentioned, the deterioration was rapid.

It had been coming for a year, but the nature of this disease was that he had great days, great weeks in fact, and then followed by bad days. And it was such an emotional rollercoaster a psychological roller coaster, dealing with this illness.

[13:05:00]

And as you all know, a guy who will not quit. So this was long coming. That was a gift in some ways because the family had the gift of time to sit down with the senator and reflect on his legacy and his life. And that was - that was incredible.

But - but in the end, how do you prepare for this? I am sure, as much time as they have had, it's still incredibly - incredibly emotional. BASH: And - and, you know, we think of McCain and the family. We

think of service. You see Cindy McCain there, next to her two sons and of course, Meghan.

Two sons in uniform - Jack McCain, who, as Admiral Kirby said, followed his father, grandfather, and great father's lead and went to the Naval Academy, and next to him, Jimmy, who enlisted as a marine during the Iraq war. He enlisted, and - I mean all you need to know and think about when it comes to service is that - and I'm just so sorry for Meghan.

EDWARD A. REESE, FATHER: See our tears for our brother, our father, our husband, our fellow citizen, our senator. Let these tears bring blooms in the desert he loved, in the country he served, and in all our hearts. Amen.

JON KYL, FORMER ARIZONA SENATOR: Please be seated. Governor Ducey, Governor Brewer, Governor Sivington (ph), Governor Napolitano, Representative Kolbe, Senator Schatz, Senator Heller, Senator Flake, Cindy McCain and all members of the McCain family and friends, John McCain believed in America.

He believed in its people, its values, and its institutions. He said he came to this realization during his time as a POW in Vietnam. I fell in love with my country, he said, when I was a prisoner in someone else's. As a result, he dedicated his life to serve his country.

When he saw challenges to its institutions or values, he fought to protect them, thus, his efforts to reign in excess campaign expenditures and congressional earmarks, which he view as corrupting our values and institutions, and his insistence that battlefield detainees be treated in accordance with American law and values.

In International Affairs, his beliefs led Senator McCain to promote American principles of freedom and democracy for others, and in our military campaigns, to support our missions and our troops. John had a keen eye for American interests and could spot dangerous adversaries a mile away.

He was among the first to advocate the surge in Iraq, to regain the initiative in the war there. I've been with Senator McCain all around the world, and I will tell you that he had better instincts about how and when and where to assert American power than any other leader that I've known.

He had been to more countries, knew more foreign leaders, and had a better grasp of history than any other American official, including our secretaries of state. One illustration that we're all familiar with was when others were looking into Vladimir Putin's eyes with an eye of understanding him and reaching accommodation with him.

John, of course said, "I looked into his eyes and I saw KGB." While I believe John's greatest contribution was to American national security, we must comment a bit on Arizona interests as well. In a word, he loved his adopted state. He loved its beauty. He was committed to protecting our environment and our water and our forests. He worked throughout his career with our Native American citizens and with Arizona's veterans.

[13:10:00]

He was a big champion of our many military installations. Some have disagreed with some of Senator McCain's votes on policy positions. But that should not diminish our gratitude for his service. And let's return to where I began, John's love for America and Arizona. He represented our values all over the world as senator from Arizona. And America is stronger for his fierce defense of our values. We can be proud he was our senator. I consider it a great privilege to have served with John and I will miss him as a friend and as a strong force for America in the world.

GOVERNOR DOUG DUCEY: We've all seen the grainy video, a young man in his 30's emerges from behind the folding doors of a bus. Plows forward with strength. His feet land on the ground, and he limps forward towards freedom. It's John McCain, and he's just spent five years as a prisoner of war, shot down, ejected from his plane. His right leg and both arms broken. He managed miraculously to save himself from drowning in the lake in which he landed only to be captured by the North Vietnamese.

No one expected John McCain to make it through the night, but as one of his fellow POWs put it, dying was not in his plan. Confined to solitude, tortured, this son and grandson of Navy admirals repeatedly refused release until every other American brother was released with him. Of all the speeches, interviews and town hall meetings that have been played and replayed these days since John McCain has left us, it's this moment, more than any other, that can't help but stir a spirit of patriotism deep inside every American. Bringing goose bumps to your arms and leaving the hair standing on the back of your neck. Because as you watch his release and learn his story, the senator's life, lessons and wisdom take on a much more meaningful context.

When john McCain called on us to serve a purpose greater than one's own self interest, it wasn't a talking point designed to win the next election. It was how he had actually lived his life and continued to live his life. It's how he wanted us to live ours. His talk of country first wasn't simply a slogan on a yard sign, it was what John McCain had done and demonstrated over and over and over again in the Navy, through Vietnam, and all the way to his favorite battles on the floor of the United States Senate.

In 2008, he electrified an arena in Minneapolis proclaiming, "We're Americans, and we never give up. We never quit. We never hide from history, we make history." Those weren't the empty words of some politician grabbing the microphone and the spotlight for a few fleeting moments.

Men had followed John McCain into battle, and we knew we could do the same. This man was trusted, and he was tested. Qualities in increasingly short supply. We sometimes think that politics is life and death, but John McCain knew better because he had actually seen death and dying and tragedy. Make no mistake, he fought like hell for the causes he believed in.

He plowed through election after election with the energy and focus of a warrior. But along the way, he did it with humor and humanity. And without compromising the principles he held so dear.

[13:15:00]

"I'd rather lose an election than lose a war," and we knew he was telling us the truth. In that way, John McCain was about more than politics. He brought us above politics. John is probably the only politician who could get us to set aside politics and come together as a state and a nation as we have.15

Like many of us here in Arizona, John McCain was from somewhere, but his spirit, service, and fierce independence ultimately helped shape the state with which he became synonymous.

Almost exactly 20 years ago, John McCain delivered the eulogy at Barry Goldwater's funeral, that other great legendary Arizonan who America holds dear in its heart. Where Barry Goldwater was born in Arizona, John McCain was Arizona's favorite adopted son.

Nearly 45-years-old when he moved to Arizona. This is the first place, he said, where he truly found a connection. "Arizona has enchanted and claimed me," he wrote. "I love it so much and I am so grateful for the privilege of representing the state and its people."

But in reality, we were the ones who were privileged, privileged to have John McCain fighting for us, privileged to learn from him, privileged that when he was back home to run into him at the movies or at ballgame or at Starbucks, just like he was any one of us, privilege to proudly call him a fellow Arizonan.

To the rest of the world, John McCain was Arizona. When all of us here travelled and told people we were from Arizona, people knew two big things about it - John McCain and the Grand Canyon. Imagining Arizona without John McCain is like picturing an Arizona without the Grand Canyon. It's just not natural.

To the woman who brought John McCain to Arizona, Cindy, thank you. The hearts and prayers of not only Angela and I, but our entire state and nation are with you and your family at this moment. Always knowing for your elegance, grace, and compassion, and those qualities have been on full display this past year. You are a model for us and an inspiration. Arizona loves you, Cindy McCain.

To the woman that brought John McCain into this world, Mrs. McCain, Roberta, 106-years-young, you raised a remarkable son, and we are truly blessed that you are among us still. When we look to you, there is no doubt where John McCain inherited his determination, resilience, and tenacity. It was built into his DNA.

You see it in John's children who carry on his spirit of service. Doug, Andy, Meghan, Sidney, Jack, Jimmy, and Bridget, may God bless you and keep all of you. You father was very proud and so is the sate of Arizona. In May, Angela and I had the great honor of visiting with John and Cindy at their cabin. Before lunch, the senator broke the ice by sharing what we weighing on his mind, most of all breaking into a signature grin he said, "my biggest challenge is deciding whether or not to run for reelection in 2022."

Dying, as has been observed 50 years earlier, was not in his plan. John McCain was a fighter and he called on us to fight with him for American values, for the ideals and character of a free people, for justice and opportunity for all, for each other, and for this blessed and bountiful country.

[13:20:00]

None of us were ready for this, we never would have been ready for this. But John McCain often said of Americans we never surrender. So while we grieve today as a state an as a nation, John McCain's fight for America isn't over.

It's a fight all Americans are obligated to continue on his behalf. And as we march forward with the courage and resolve he would have demanded, may we take comfort in knowing in that fight.

John McCain will always have our back.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), AZ: Our heavenly father, we are grateful to have been gathered here today in the Arizona state capital to honor the life and memory of thy servant, John Sidney McCain. We are grateful for his life and for his sacrifice.

Gathered in this spot, we are especially grateful that John made Arizona his home. More than 7 million of thy children have done likewise, and all of them - all of us, are grateful for John's able representation over these many years.

We ask for thy spirit to abide with us as we mourn his passing. We ask for an added measure of thy spirit to be with John's sweet family, who have sacrificed so much for so long in sharing their loving husband and father with us for these many years.

Send the comforter that they might be reminded that joy cometh in the morning. Now as we go forward, let us remember thy humble servant with gladness and cheerfulness to answer his call to summon the better angels of our nature, to see and appreciate the humanity in our opponents, to more freely forgive so that we might be forgiven.

Of this we pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please stand. We have thanked god for the blessing that John McCain is, continues to be for us. Let us go now from this place in peace and comforting one another in the sure knowledge that one day we will join John in his home in heaven with his god.

[13:25:00] BLITZER: Family and friends paying respect to a truly great American, a great American patriot. Someone who will be severely missed here in Washington, D.C. and Arizona, around the country, indeed, Dana, around the world. We saw an emotional experience, especially for the family, which we (ph) totally understand, at a sensitive moment like this.

BASH: I mean, completely understandable. You know, you saw his two sons in uniform. His daughter, Meghan, his daughter Bridget. He has three other kids. He has seven kids altogether, Doug, Andy and Sidney as well were the first after of course, Cindy McCain to come up and pay their respects and say good-bye to their father.

And this is -- it's difficult, but this is the first. This is the first of what we will see day in and day out until Sunday when John McCain is laid to rest, as he says, in his latest book, where it all began by the Severn, which of course is river that goes through Annapolis where the naval academy is.

BLITZER: For the next several hours, people in Arizona will be able to come to that casket and pay their special respect to this great American. S.E., I know this is a sad moment for you, and we saw an emotional family, a truly emotional family reacting to this moment. I know you're very close with Meghan who was seen, understandably, crying the whole time.

CUPP: Yeah. Yeah, my heart is broken for her. She is, as anyone who knows her will tell you, the strongest person I know. And she has been such a pillar of strength through this very, very difficult year. She has spent countless hours alone with her father. She's had to cancel adventures with us and vacations with us because she wanted to be home because she was told he was better when she was there.

And so I am -- I am heartbroken for her. My heart is with her right now. I know she will -- she will get through this. And I know that even as much time as she had to prepare for this, she is -- she is grieving -- grieving today. They were incredibly close. No father and daughter were closer, in my opinion. He relied on her, called her multiple times a day. She was his touchstone, and he was her rock.

BLITZER: Our heart goes out to her, her brothers and sisters and her mother, grandmother. The whole family is suffering, clearly suffering right now. But they certainly can appreciate the unbelievably important role that John McCain played in our history over these many recent years.

Jan Brewer, we just see the former governor of Arizona also just walking by. Many members of his staff, his family, important Arizona leaders, others are paying their respects to John McCain right now. Maria Polletta is the state government of politics reporter for the Arizona Republic and, Maria, you've covered Senator McCain for a long time. What are you thinking?

MARIA POLLETTA, ARIZONA REPUBLIC: Well, that was a series of very emotional remarks. I had talked to Governor Doug Ducey, that's the office I mainly cover these days. He has been reminiscing over this last week and even before then about how he admired McCain, how he looked up to him.