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The Funeral of Senator John McCain. Aired 1:00-1:30p ET
Aired August 30, 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 ANCHOR: And, Becky, we see the vice -- the former vice president is there. We also see Larry Fitzgerald, the great NFL star there. They will be paying their tribute, among others, including family members.
BECKY TALLENT, FORMER MCCAIN CHIEF OF STAFF: Yes, what I'm seeing, as the camera has been showing the crowd and as you're seeing the pallbearers he selected, is that there are so many touches and things that are quintessentially Arizona in this service. Obviously they're going to have the service in -- at the National Cathedral on Saturday, but it's clear to me that this service was really paying a tribute to this state that he loved.
And I know we've all said that a lot over the last few days, but I think that that can't be overstated. And there are obviously representatives of the Native American community there. You saw people, you know, wearing their hunting gear. And it's -- and obviously Larry Fitzgerald being there. Senator McCain was a huge fan of the Arizona sports teams. And it's just -- it's very touching to see all of these really important pieces of the state represented in this service that is taking place in his home state.
BLITZER: The welcome and invocation will be delivered by the senior pastor, Dr. Garcia. The casket is now being brought into this church.
Charlie Dent, you're watching this and you see everyone stand.
Let's pause for a moment.
REV. NOE GARCIA, SENIOR PASTOR, NORTH PHOENIX BAPTIST CHURCH: You may be seated.
On behalf of the McCain family, thank you all so much for being here this morning as we remember and celebrate the life of Senator John McCain, a true American hero, a man loved by this church, a man loved by this nation and this city, a man of courage, a man of faith, and a man who dearly loved his family.
As we celebrate and get into the service, I want to offer you a word of scripture from the word of God that will bring us comfort. It comes from the book of 1 Thessalonians, chapter 4, versus 13 and 14. The word of God says this, brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again. And so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.
What a word of promise, hope and comfort from the word of God.
Let's pray together.
Father in heaven, the creator and maker of all things, there is nothing new under the sun for you, Father, you know all things before they happen. And this morning, Lord, we pray for the friends and family of Senator McCain. And we will grieve, we will mourn, Father, but we will do so with a different hope because of the faith he has placed in Jesus Christ, that we can, with confidence, grieve with the hope to know that this very moment he is spending eternity with Jesus Christ, his Lord and Savior. What a comfort. That's in Jesus' name we pray, amen.
[13:05:33] (CHOIR SINGING "AMAZING GRACE")
BRIDGET MCCAIN, JOHN MCCAIN'S DAUGHTER: Ecclesiastes, chapter 3, versus 1 through 2. To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven, a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to pluck up which is planted.
GRANT WOODS, FORMER MCCAIN CHIEF OF STAFF: I was 28 years old and I had only been a public defender as a few years out of law school. And for some reason John McCain asked me to be his chief of staff when he got elected.
So on my first day at 7:00 a.m., John McCain picked me up at my house. I went to the car and I said, well, do you want me to drive? He goes, no, no, I'm going to drive. So I said, well, maybe I can sit in the back seat.
[13:10:05] I'm no expert on this, but I thought the staff drove. He goes, no, get in the car, boy, get in the car. And for the next half hour we just talked about the football games the day before and whatever was in the news and politics and told a few jokes. And it was at the same time just really a lot of fun and also quite terrifying because of his ridiculously bad driving. Because when he'd get excited he would kind of -- you know, he drove like this anyway and then he would get excited and just start drifting off. And I'm like, hello over there.
So we finally got where we were going and I say, oh, hey, by the way, what are we doing? And he goes, oh, you know, I hired the whole staff and I want you to meet them. I said, oh, OK, that's good.
So we met the staff and then we went back to the car. We got in the car and all the staff came out and they were all waving and things. And I said, well, they seem to be very nice. He goes, oh, you're going to have to fire half of them.
I said, what? What are you talking about? And he just sped off. And the staff was waving. And about one minute later, we went right back by because he'd gone the wrong way, of course, and waved again. And I just say that two hours kind of epitomized the next 35 years for me with John McCain. It was at once a little bit harrowing, a little wild, a little crazy, but a lot of fun and the greatest honor of my life.
I have people ask me all the time, did you ever know in those early years, did you have a feeling you had someone so special there? Well -- and my answer is, yes, absolutely. No question about it.
And I'll tell you one -- the first time. It was a December and it was over in my hometown of Mesa, Arizona. We were at a rotary club. And I think it was all men at that time. And, you know, these are tough guys and kind of cynical about things. And here's this new guy in town.
And one of them asked him, since it was December, he asked him, what about Christmas in prison? And he told them a couple of stories. He told them about one night when he was being interrogated for quite a long time and it didn't go too well for his captors. They were upset with him. And so they tied him up and they tied the ropes tight. And it was very painful and they left him there for the night.
And some guard came in, who he did not know and had never spoken to. And at 10:00 p.m. the guard walked in and unloosened the ropes. And at about 4:00 a.m., the guard came back and tightened them up again so that he wouldn't get in trouble. And John didn't know why that happened, but he found out a little clue a couple of weeks later, right before Christmas, when he was standing in the dirt yard and that guard just walked up next to him. And the guard didn't say a word, but with his sandal he drew a cross in the dirt. And they looked at it for a minute, and then the guard rubbed it out and went on his way.
And it was quiet in that room when John told that. And then he said, you know, on Christmas Eve we celebrated. And we got together under this bare light bulb and we sang Christmas carols and we quoted Bible verses that we could remember and we told the Gospel story to each other.
And I guess just that image of this band of brothers together in this Godforsaken place, singing to each other, and there at the front, our guy, John McCain, beaten up, but not down, singing his favorite Christmas carol, silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright, round yon virgin mother and child, holy infant so tender and mild. The words seem so far away from that place, but they leaned on the faith of their fathers and their faith in each other and their faith in their country and their faith in God.
I looked out into that audience there in my hometown and those were some of my peers and the peers of my parents. Those were tough, independent guys. They're ranchers and farmers. There's some cowboys, businessmen, entrepreneurs. And they were crying. Because they saw in John McCain a little bit of what they hoped to see in themselves. They saw in John McCain the embodiment of values that they hoped to see for their country.
[13:15:33] Over the next few months and years, John got to know this place, and he fell in love with Arizona. He loved the people, our diversity, our Native American community, our Hispanic culture, and he loved the place, in particular the Grand Canyon, the Colorado River. We floated down that twice together, and then he kept going back and back. He loved it. He hiked the canyon with Jack not that long ago, rim to rim. He loved
Sedona. He loved this place. And if John McCain fell in love with Arizona, Arizona fell in love with John McCain.
We ran a lot of races here, a lot of elections. He never lost. Never really very close. Arizona loved him.
We had one little blip one time when he ran for the Senate the first time. He called me on the phone. He goes, well, boy, I think I might have screwed up. I go, what? He said, well, you know, I was talking to these students at U of A and they said how come you're the only politician that comes down here? They only go to the retirement places. He said, well, it's because you guys don't vote, OK? Those other dudes vote like 100 percent, you know. So you want people to come down here, you need to vote like they vote out at seizure world. And I said, you didn't say that, did you? Because there's this big retirement community called Leisure World in the East Valley. And they weren't real happy with their new nickname out there.
So John said, like he always does, he said, OK, I screwed up, let's go, we've got to go out there. We. And so we went out. And I remember we drove in and there was about a 90-year-old guy in a golf cart right there and he was giving us the finger. And little did he know we both said, that's great. We loved it. And John was like, hey, good to see you. Good to see you, pal. Thank you. Thank you.
So we went in. He said, oh, I'm sorry about that. And went to work. And, guess what, I think he won that about 85-15 in that election in that precinct.
So we're going to miss so many things about him here in our state. His leadership here on these important issues. We're going to miss his sense of humor. We're going to miss his love of sports. He loved the teams, all of our teams. I mean by love them, I mean love them like nonstop, OK. And he loved you guys, Bits (ph) and Gonzo (ph) and Shane (ph). He really did. Not a coincidence. He didn't become friends just with the best players, but with the best people. And he loved you guys.
But I think we also worry here in Arizona about a bigger picture. And I hope that what he stood for will maybe get a renewed look in our country. That's what he would want. He would want us to -- yes, OK, we recognize him now, but now let's get to work. And I'm sure the vice president will talk about John and bipartisanship, but he believed so much that this -- in the end, when it's all said and done, this Republican and Democrat thing is not that important, is it? We're all Americans. And you've got to get to the point where we can -- we can work together as Americans.
His support of the military, I hope you members of Congress will keep that strong. It was so important that he had their backs.
And one other thing. John McCain believed in our Constitution and he stood up for it. He fought for it every step of the way. So he would not stand by as people tried to trample the Constitution or the Bill of Rights, including the First Amendment. And you know what, he believed in the Declaration of Independence. When we proclaimed to the world that every single human being is important, every single human being is precious, every single person in this world has the right to live free, not because the government says so, but because God gave us that right.
[13:20:15] So John McCain, his entire life, stood by the freedom fighters across the world. He was there. He was there figuratively and literally by their side, wherever they were, acknowledging their right to live free.
It's a long and winding road that took him from that dirt yard in Hanoi to the dirt backroads of Hidden Valley. But through it all, he was resolute. He was courageous every step of the way. And in Arizona, he was our hero. I think you can see from this outpouring of support and love for John McCain that he was America's hero. Senator John McCain from Arizona. He served his country with honor. He fought the good fight. He finished the race. He kept the faith.
Now, my friend, we can finish the song, sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace. Amen.
TOMMY ESPINOZA, FRIEND OF JOHN MCCAIN: Well, I had the great opportunity of meeting Congressman John McCain in Washington. C.A. Hallett (ph) was back there and I was visiting and he said, you need to meet this congressman, this young maverick, full of energy. And I said, oh, yeah? And he says, besides that, he's going to become president of the United States one of these days, so you need to meet him. And I said, OK.
So we met in Virginia at -- my apologies. It was rough getting up here. Alexandria. Cindy and C.A. and myself, and we had dinner at this nice little restaurant. And we chatted for a while and then all of a sudden with John McCain you just bond. I mean there's something about his energy level that goes up, he starts talking, he starts asking me about my background. Of course I, not knowing him that well, asked him about his. And before I knew it, we felt very comfortable with each other going back and forth.
So then I got enough nerve to ask him, I said, congressman, what -- what was it that allowed you to be in a prisoner of war camp? I mean what kept you together? And he said, well, he goes, you know, most people ask me how they treated me, and obviously they treated me pretty bad. He goes, but, he said, one is my faith in God, my love for my family, and my faith in my country. He said those things kept me -- kept me together.
So we kept talking that evening. And as I thought about that -- that discussion, and for this -- this talk, I wanted to reflect with you a reading from Corinthians 13, which I think captures Senator John McCain. Corinthians 13. Though I should give away to the poor all that I possess and even give up my body to be burned, if I am without love, it will do me no good whatever.
When you think about an individual like Senator McCain, who suffered, who was in prison, was injured, and yet with all that was able to keep his faith together, his focus on his country, focus on his family. I believe that that period of time, those five years, is where God molded this fantastic hero, where God took an opportunity to humble this young man who came from a military family.
[13:25:33] God used those minutes, those hours, those days, those years, to put together a human being that we'll be talking about the senator for generations. John McCain was a person who loved with his energy, who loved all of us, who loved his country.
That evening, while we were having dinner, he said, when we get back to Phoenix, we need to get together and have dinner. And of course back then I was pretty cocky. So I said, well, congressman, I know a number of congressmen and I know a couple of senators and, you know, we always hear that. He says, well, no, when you get back, you give me a date and I'll be there. I said, well, I'm going to invite you to my house. Us Mexican-Americans love to cook and we love to have folks at our homes, if you're really going to be a friend. And he chuckled.
So a couple of months later, when I got back home, we called, set up a dinner at the house. And, of course, I was preparing (INAUDIBLE) and all the stuff that you all know about and my homemade salsa. And I get a call from his office. They say he's running late. So I ask, what's the problem? They said, well, it's his birthday, he wanted to spend a little bit of time with his family.
And, of course, I panic and say, you know, if he wants to cancel, I understand, please. They said, no, he made it very clear to us, he's going to your house tonight to have dinner.
So I scrambled and got a mariachi group. I figured I've got to do something really good. Mexican food is not going to get me there. And, luckily, they got there about ten minutes before he arrived. So when Cindy and the congressman then walk into my house, the kitchen, the mariachi started playing, they're singing a (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE), which is a traditional Mexican birthday song for -- in our culture. And, of course, John and Cindy lit up and it was a great evening. And we -- we enjoyed the night.
That's Senator John McCain. He keeps his word. That's the senator that we've had all these years that sometimes we beat up on. That's the senator that I hope people can embrace what he stood for, for our country.
And, yes, he was a maverick. In his first senatorial campaign, I get a call and it's him on the phone. I'm with Father Tony, a dear friend of mine, and he -- they say he's -- you got the congressman on the phone. I don't know how he tracked me down, but we're in a restaurant. So I get the phone and he says, Tommy, I'm running for the U.S. Senate, I'm going to launch blah, blah, blah. You know, John, he was going 100 miles an hour. So I'm going like, OK. And then he says, I want you to co-chair my campaign. I said, well, John, you know I'm a Democrat? I'm not sure that's going to help you with your Republican campaign. He said, I don't care, you're my friend, I want you to co-chair it.
I said, well, let me sleep on it. No. No, no. You give me an answer right now, yes or no. Of course I said yes. Once again, Senator John McCain, goes over to the other side. And don't forget, I was like an activist back then. I was (INAUDIBLE). I mean we were not the most liberal organization -- or the most conservative organization in the country. And we go back and forth. With John, you either were a friend or not -- at the end of the day, we could go a couple of years without seeing each other, but when we did, it was like old home week. I mean he was warm, he was energy. I mean he was going 100 miles an hour, but yet he made time to be with you.
[13:30:06] And then the second time we get a call, (INAUDIBLE) and I, to come to Las Vegas. And this is, of course, when he's in his presidential campaign.