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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
McCain Motorcade stops at Vietnam Veterans Memorial; Defense Secretary Mattis, Chief of Staff Kelly with Cindy McCain; Ceremonies honoring John McCain to Begin Shortly; Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump at National Cathedral; McCain Motorcade Arriving at National Cathedral. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired September 1, 2018 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: In honor of all who served, that's what it said on the ribbon on that wreath. There you see Cindy McCain, John McCain's widow, together with two retired U.S. military generals, John Kelly, James Mattis, now the Secretary of Defense, escorting her and her family at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, including her two sons who also served in the U.S. military. John McCain, of course, a veteran of the Vietnam War. Served five and half years as a POW in North Vietnam. Hold on one moment.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you just can't help, but notice Cindy McCain's extraordinary grace at this moment. For anyone who visits the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial, it is an extremely powerful and moving place, but just watching her at that moment go up, pray and then you notice she smiled for a moment. There was a sense of some comfort, some peace.
And then to be flanked, it's a personal moment, but we have to also recognize there is a political moment here that Defense Secretary, former retired general James Mattis is there, that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, also a retired general, are there.
[09:05:09] As we've said many times, President Trump was specifically not invited. It says so much that the two of those men were by her side and that John McCain wanted them there.
MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: And this is just such an important moment for John McCain at the end, honoring fellow veterans, but also the whole family tradition. He was the grandson and son of four star admirals and really it was so important to him his sons, Jimmy and jack, carried on that military tradition.
And, of course, you saw there also his other children, Andy, Sidney and Doug, who were -- Doug and Andy who he adopted, his daughter Sidney. It was really important that the whole family honored these veterans and their service and they are so committed, the children, to carrying on that tradition of service to veterans, ensuring that the military has everything that it needs. And that is really what he wanted to leave behind here, along with all of those memories of his fellow POWs who he felt deserved this honor as well.
BLITZER: We're getting closer to the funeral service and the eulogies for Senator McCain by his daughter, Meghan, the former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush. Our special coverage continues in a moment.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: A picture of Former Senator Bob Dole, not only John McCain's colleague in the U.S. Senate for so many years, but his very, very close friend, fellow veteran who, unbeknownst to John McCain, wore McCain's POW bracelet for many years while McCain was prisoner and McCain didn't even find out about that until the two were serving together in the U.S. Senate. And now he's here to pay tribute to his -- to his old friend.
We are back watching as people, as you see there, gather in the National Cathedral and here outside the cathedral, Gloria and I are honored to have two of the men who have been closest to John McCain in his life and in politics, Rick Davis and Mark Salter. So many things to ask you. First is you have been in planning mode, both of you, understandably so, since Senator McCain decided that he wanted to have a very heavy hand in all the logistics and the tributes and so forth. But you're pall bearers today.
RICK DAVIS, POLITICAL CONSULTANT: Yes.
MARK SALTER, AMERICAN SPEECHWRITER: Yes.
BASH: Describe that feeling and also when he asked you both to have this honor.
SALTER: It was just very matter of fact.
DAVIS: Yes. Oh, by the way. And that was nice. I mean he had just a way of making really difficult things easy, right? He didn't like to agonize over things like this and when he started the planning for this week, just almost instantaneously with his diagnosis, it was as if it was somebody else's funeral he was planning and he was really excited about it. I mean and there was no detail left unturned.
SALTER: No, no. He asked us to do these things. He was very matter of fact about it, but it's a -- I speak for both of us, it's a great privilege.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: So one of the most extraordinary things, of course, is that he's got the people who defeated him for the presidency speaking and those were both tough, tough races.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
BORGER: Not easy and how did that -- how did that come about?
SALTER: He wanted to send, I think, the obvious message, which we have more in common than we have in disagreement. We've got common problems and we've common responsibilities to solve those problems. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were you surprised?
SALTER: No. No.
DAVIS: No, no. I mean this is how he's lived his entire life, you know? When you tangle with John McCain, whether it's in a campaign or on a legislative floor, it doesn't mean he doesn't like you. It means he wants to get something done and he's willing to compromise and when a -- when a outcome occurs, he'll put his arms around you and say, wow, wasn't that a great battle? Let's do it again tomorrow.
It's just the way he was and that's the way Washington has been for many, many, many decades and it's only till recently that we actually hold a grudge and that we don't see that the country's interests should be put ahead of our own.
BASH: I know he would probably say, oh, buck up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
BASH: Don't get personal, don't get sad, but you both spent a lot of time with him before obviously (ph), but really intense quality time.
SALTER: Yes. I don't know about quality, but ...
BASH: Well, Mark, you've finished this final book that you did with him.
SALTER: I did, yes.
BASH: "The Restless Wave". So you spent that time, you, Rick, in obviously checking on his health, but really doing this planning. Can you take us to that porch on his, he called a cabin?
BASH: A little more than a cabin on that creek.
SALTER: It was a beautiful Arizona day. He was on the deck of his porch. It had been kind of cloudy and the clouds kind of opened up and, you know, he was just facing his creek that he loved so much and that was it.
BASH: That was his final moment and you were both there?
BORGER: You know, Mark, I wanted to ask you, because -- and Dana held up the book. You have been John McCain's public voice for so long, decades.
SALTER: Yes. BORGER: And now you're not.
BORGER: He's gone and how do you -- how do you get your voice -- or is your voice now John McCain's voice?
[09:15:04] SALTER: Well, I've joked for years when people ask me how I've captured his voice, I've always said I can't get it out of my head. That's the problem and I hope I never do.
BASH: I want to ask you about Mrs. Roberta McCain.
BASH: One-hundred and six years old.
DAVIS: One-hundred and six years young
BASH: One-hundred and six years young. Thank you. How was she holding up? Because we are both mothers of sons.
BASH: And no matter how old a mother is, no matter how old their child is, she has to bury her son. How was she doing?
DAVIS: You know, the McCain family is a stoic family. They're used to serving our country for many, many generations. She grew up in that culture many, many years ago and she's preserved it. She believes that's the way the McCain family should serve. And so what you saw is a dignified woman who's given everything she's ever done in her life to this country, whether it's raising her children while her husband was at war or now sitting in the rotunda while her son is put to rest. And it's just wonderful to see that we still have people like Roberta McCain.
BASH: It sure is. Thank you both. Thank you for everything and helping us help to honor Senator McCain. And Mark, thank you for making John McCain's essence poetry always (ph).
SALTER: Thank you very much.
DAVIS: Thank you.
BORGER: And we hope you don't lose his voice either.
BASH: We think you won't (ph).
SALTER: Good bet.
BASH: Washington National Cathedral, as you see there, is filling up. As we await the start of the funeral for Senator McCain, his daughter Meghan delivers the first eulogy, followed by the former presidents, as we've been talking about, Obama and Bush. Stay with us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, ladies.
BLITZER: Moments ago, the President's daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, they arrived at the National Cathedral here in Washington for this memorial service, this funeral of Senator John McCain. we know the President's National Security Adviser John Bolton is there as well.
Only about a moment or so away from the motorcade arriving at the National Cathedral with the family and casket of Senator McCain. We're going to be hearing from the children of Senator McCain during course of this memorial service and they've -- Jimmy, the Senator's son, he's going to be reading the requiem.
RESTON: Yes. This is the Robert Louis Stevenson poem that John McCain loved so much because to him it was about man's free will and John McCain's father taught it to him. He read it at his father's funeral. He taught it to Jimmy and toward the end of his life he said to his son, buddy, you just got to -- you got to do this for me at this service. And it was so perfectly John McCain.
You'll notice, of course, today that a lot of the readings are very short and that's in part because as he was planning, he wanted to keep them tight so that people could get through them, wouldn't break down and stumble over their words. And we'll hear, of course, from Meghan McCain this morning. Also I believe Cindy McCain is doing the reading from Corinthians. And of course, Senator Lindsey Graham, his very best friend, will be reading about laying one's life down for one's friends, which is just such a poignant tribute.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And Senator Joe Lieberman, former Senator Joe Lieberman is also giving a tribute at the beginning and I think it's important to note that as well. This is something again scripted by Senator McCain, but Joe Lieberman also a very good friend in the Senate. If he had to do it over again in 2008, that is who Senator McCain wanted to be his running mate. All of his aides blocked him from doing that.
But I do think it's important, as we remember the life of Senator John McCain here and his heroism, to also point out that he is not eager to have the 2008 campaign, particularly the selection of Sarah Palin, part of this memory here. So he's having Joe Lieberman speak because he wanted to choose him. His aides said, no, no, the party will never go for that.
So by crafting who's in the audience, who's speaking, the Senator is having a final word on that. But history will show that the 2008 campaign really was the beginning of this awakening inside the Republican party that Senator McCain didn't like and he, in fact, is turning against it here. So I'm very intrigued by Senator Lieberman speaking here today and giving tribute. BLITZER: You see all the satellite TV vehicles there. The motorcade now arriving at the National Cathedral with the hearse and the family of Senator John McCain. Jamie, you've been doing some reporting on what else we can anticipate.
GANGEL: Well, I've actually been hearing from some of the people who are already inside the cathedral, former staffers, friends, people who worked on the campaign who've come all the way from California and Texas.
But I just want to note, and we saw this with the pictures earlier, there were a lot of young people that we saw walk into the cathedral today. And John McCain really paid attention to young people in the Senate. He reached out to young staffers. He listened to them. He would -- if they had a good suggestion, he would say, go with it. And I think that's part of the tribute today, just the number of young people in the audience.
[09:25:00] RESTON: And they are all here -- all of his younger aides took this whole pilgrimage with him. On the way back, there were many from the 2008 campaign who were in Phoenix who have come all way to Washington, just cracking jokes and telling his old stories and also serving in this role as advance for the final time. I mean this is the smoothest couple of days that we have ever seen. You'll remember in 2008, you know, that campaign never ran on time. Let me just go to ...
BLITZER: So far this is running on time. Go ahead, David.
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I just I wanted to make point about an older person who was there and the image of Bob Dole being wheeled into the cathedral. In my conversation with Senator McCain, he lamented the lost spirit of comedy and service and sacrifice that came with the fading of the World War II and the Vietnam generation. And he expressed hope that the new generation of the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are coming into leadership would provide a renewed sense of cooperation, of compromise of putting country above party. Go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he had a band of brothers in the senate that served in Vietnam. John Kerry from Massachusetts, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Chuck Rob of Virginia, Max Cleland of Georgia, and there were others that had served in Vietnam and used that as their political platform. And so the fact that they were able do that, he's looking for people from Iraq and Afghanistan to continue that tradition.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just wanted to touch on one thing, also, that Jeff was saying. I mean it was also important to him in this service for that sense of fun and that gregariousness that was so uniquely John McCain to not get lost. And that's why, in part, you'll have Joe Lieberman today, one of the three amigos, up there telling some of John McCain's favorite stories. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Henry Kissinger of the Vietnam War fame, who did win a Nobel for the Paris Accord, but also is complicit in the Cambodian incursion and Laos and all, and John McCain chose him to be one of his eulogists.
BLITZER: You see the U.S. military body bearers. They're getting ready to take that casket from the hearse into the cathedral and there will be this service that is about to begin. Jan Brewer is with us as well, the former Arizona Governor, close friend of Senator McCain. As you see these images, Governor, what do you think?
JAN BREWER, FORMER ARIZ. GOVERNOR: Just amazing. It just is almost overwhelming to know that the world is watching this hero from Arizona, this man that adopted our state and came to the capitol and made such an impact on the -- on the world and the way and what we do in America, showed his courage and patriotism and always held his integrity at the utmost. It's his ...
BLITZER: It will be a very, very emotional service and it is about to begin. The casket will be brought inside the cathedral. David Axelrod, one of the moments that everyone is going to be waiting for will be the eulogies delivered by these two former presidents.
AXELROD: Yes. Without question. And I can tell you that in my conversations with President Obama, he was moved and honored to be included in this ceremony for just the reason that Senator McCain intended, because he thought it was so important to send the signal that you can have deep differences and still a sense of mutual regard. And that is something that's missing from our politics so often today.
And so I'm sure that both presidents, not just through their presence, but through their words, are going to address that, along with their experiences with Senator McCain as an opponent and as a friend.
BREWER: And John would want that.
AXELROD: Well, he clearly wanted it. He orchestrated it. Now, Jeff Zeleny, we were talking in a break about the fact that it wasn't always sweetness and light between ...
IDENTIFIED MALE: No question.
AXELROD: Bush and McCain and Obama and mccain. So and he wouldn't want us to gloss over that either.
ZELENY: We shouldn't be. And there's generational difference. John McCain thought he should be president not once, but twice, but that 2000 primary so bitterly personal with George W. Bush. That took him many years to get over, but they, of course, shared the same party and shared the same view initially on the Iraq War. But it was the generational differences between John McCain and Barack Obama that really got under McCain's skin. And when Barack Obama was tying McCain to Bush, that got under his skin even more.
So I think it's extraordinary. I was actually wondering this week, had Senator McCain and President Obama become close? Had they developed a friendship?
[09:30:01] And the reality is, they haven't. They've talked only a couple times since leaving office. President Obama called Senator McCain and thanked him for his vote essentially saving the Affordable Care Act. And then the last time President Obama heard from him was in April when he asked him to give that eulogy, so I think it's that much more extraordinary here that the message Senator McCain is sending by his two rivals that he is frankly not that close to.
RESTON: And it also was, you know, to Jeff's point it was a relationship that really developed over time. I remember you know being on the bus with John McCain in 2008 and he really thought when Obama came into the Senate, President Obama then senator, that he was kind of a callow youth and they had this grasp over, you know, campaign finance and wrote these really incredible letters to one another.
RESTON: It seemed so clean, but over time developed this admiration for him and of course culminating in his concession speech in 2008 when he spoke of President Obama as becoming his president.
WOLF: And he wanted to send a message, John McCain, simply by the presence, the eulogies of these two former presidents, a Republican and a Democrat, even though maybe they weren't, you know, the greatest of personal friends. The message David Axelrod that they wanted to send that Senator McCain wanted to send will be palpable.
AXELROD: Yes. And he felt a kinship with anyone who was in the arena, who was -- who felt strongly enough about the country to fight for what they believed in. And therefore even in those exchanges that Maeve have mentioned, days later, they were mugging for the cameras and joking about the sharp edge and that was part of McCain's gift (INAUDIBLE) said (ph), that he could have these titanic battles and move on and move on.
And that spirit of forgiveness of shared service and so on, I think is something that's been communicated throughout the week. I think is going to in large doses communicated today.
WOLF: And, Doug, he was always ready to work. He was a conservative Republican with the most liberal Democrat, like Russ Feingold or Ted Kennedy on specific issues close to his heart.
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: There is no question, he's a poster person for bipartisanship. And there is a national longing for it right now.
And who has been left out of this is Donald Trump and Bill Clinton. Because they may not have been a handshake agreement types. I think with Barack Obama the integrity factor --
WOLF: We'll point out that Jaime reported this the other day. Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, will be guests.
WOLF: They will be there at the National Cathedral --
BRINKLEY: -- chosen for a eulogy, I think it makes sense that he picked Bush and Obama to do it because both of their reputations are so sky high with integrity factor.
AXELROD: You know, we should loosen this talk of bipartisanship the fact that Senator McCain was a very, very committed conservative and but what he believed was that even if you disagree on many, many things, there are also things that you might agree on and you ought to be able to work on those things together even if you disagree on many other things. And that is an important lesson that again has been lost in recent times and I think he's trying to rekindle through the --
RESTON: You think about all those many miles that he traveled with Hillary Clinton, all those trips that they took together. You know, working on issues like climate change, there was one of his favorite stories was having a shot contest with her, drinking vodka in Estonia -- Lindsay Graham, you know, he really loved to have these people as friends and adversaries at the same time.
WOLF: We're going to take a quick brake. Our special coverage will continue right after this.
WOLF: Welcome back.
There you see the hearse with the casket, that's Senator John McCain. Momentarily that casket will be brought into the National Cathedral here in Washington. And this memorial service, this funeral service is about to begin.
We are told the two former presidents, Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama are already inside the cathedral. We haven't seen them yet. But we are told they are there.
The other guests are there as well. The VIPs as well as so many of the friends, the long-time staffers, those who worked with Senator McCain over the years.
There you can see George W. Bush, you can see him right there. You can see Barack -- president -- former President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama. They are now inside. They are greeting some of the other was have been invited.
Hillary Clinton is there. The former first lady. Former senator Al Gore. You saw him. The former vice president. A lot, a lot of dignitaries are there. A lot of VIPs, Jamie Gangel a lot of Democrats and a lot of Republicans.
GANGEL: Right. We know also that former President Bill Clinton is there. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton we just saw.
WOLF: There you see Bill Clinton right there.
GANGEL: There's Bill Clinton. We know that Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill are there.
And my understanding is that both former -- and there is former Vice President Dick Cheney right next to former President Bill Clinton.
My understanding is that both former President George Bush and former President Barack Obama were surprised to be asked to give eulogies, but it was a statement by John McCain about bipartisanship but not just about bipartisanship. He picked the two men who defeated him. One in primary, one if general election that kept him from his goal of getting to the White House.
ZELENY: And even though he didn't get to the White House, this is really the closest thing to a presidential funeral that we see. This is a rite of American passage we are seeing here where there -- it's sort of reminding me of the funeral of President Ronald Reagan which indeed was in this very same cathedral back in June of 2004.
You know, watching these former presidents gather and you see the conversations there with Bill Clinton and Al Gore. We just don't have many occasions in America where both sides and parties come together so it's the side conversations here certainly are interesting as well as we see the family now leaving.
There is Meghan McCain and her tribute. We've seen her throughout the week. We have not yet heard from her.
She is so close to her father. They talked several times a day on the phone. He would call her up after her show.
She would call him up after a vote. So hearing from Meghan McCain, is there with her husband, Ben Domenech, and of course Cindy McCain also and the rest of the family there.
ZELENY: And we also hear from Sidney McCain, Senator McCain's oldest daughter from his first marriage there. She'll be giving a reading. So really this is a -- once again the McCain family here in their grief in a nation's time of mourning.
WOLF: They will escort the casket into the cathedral. And this service is about to begin.
I don't know as you look at the family of -- look at the family, it's a moment that certainly they and so many of us will always remember.
Once the casket is removed, it will be taken inside the cathedral. We are waiting for the honor guard to take that casket inside.
I don't remember, David Axelrod, a time when we have seen at least recently Dick Cheney, Al Gore, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, so many others, all of them gathered together.
AXELROD: I mentioned to you the other day that one of my early experiences as a reporter was covering the death of Hubert Humphrey when he died in 1978 and -- and it was the first time Richard Nixon returned to the capital for that --
WOLF: Hold on -- hold on just one moment. I just want to pause and listen.
RT. REV. MARIANN EDGAR BUDDE, BISHOP OF WASHINGTON: Dear friends. (INAUDIBLE) he (ph) said, come to me, all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest.
Let us pray then for our brother John, that he may rest from his labors and enter into the light of God's eternal Sabbath rest. With faith in Jesus Christ, we receive the body of our brother John for burial. Let us pray with confidence to God, the giver of life, that God will raise him to perfection in the company of the saints.
Deliver your servant, John, sovereign lord Christ from all evil and set him free from every bond, that he may rest with all your saints in the eternal habitations where with the Father and the Holy Spirit, you live and reign one God forever and ever. Amen.
BUDDE: Let us also pray for all who mourn that they may cast their care on God and know the consolation of his love. Almighty God, look with pity upon the sorrows of your servants for whom we pray.
Remember them, gracious God, in mercy, nourish them with patience. Comfort them with a sense of your goodness, lift up your countenance upon them and give them peace, through Jesus Christ, our lord.
WOLF: The family is now walking into the Washington National Cathedral. This service is about to formally begin and it's going to be extremely powerful, very, very emotional.
Maeve, I think some of the moments that we will see, not only John McCain's 106 year young mother Roberta will be there. She was there yesterday. She was actually comforting her 33-year-old granddaughter, having her tissues at the time, Meghan.
We'll hear from Meghan. We'll hear have some of the other children as well and that will be so, so emotional. RESTON: So moving and you know I think -- I think John McCain would have liked it that his mother outlived him. He was so proud of her, you know, often said that maybe children become more like their mothers than their fathers.
And he loved the life that she had led and she taught him that spirit of adventurousness and she always thought of the fact that they had to move around constantly in the Navy as disruptions being a good thing, because they meant an interesting life.
And, of course this will be this very long walk through the nave of the Washington National Cathedral which is a place of worship that is so open about embracing people of all faiths and creeds. And that's also, you know, one of the reasons that he chose this place. He'll be there with his children.
And of course we'll soon see his honorary pallbearers, so many of the people who are part of his campaign, his long time co-author and friend Mark Salter, who helped him chose all of these readings. Rick Davis his campaign chairman. Carla Eudy, who is his long time fund- raiser. Warren Beatty who became a close friend over the years will all be accompanying him down the nave.
WOLF: And, you know, Jaime, there will be powerful eulogies from two former presidents who have gathered as well as others. But you know what? I'm really looking forward near the end of the service, the great opera singer Renee Fleming will do a musical reflection, "Danny Boy," in honor, in memory of Senator McCain.
GANGEL: Right, which we understand is one of his favorite songs. He picked it.
And here we have the presidents, the former presidents together. Former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, former President George W. Bush and Laura Bush, former President Bill Clinton and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton. And it's --
ZELENY: And of all those, Hillary Clinton is a very close friend of Senator McCain. They formed this huge bond in the Senate, traveled around the world together. Thought they would be running against each other in the --
WOLF: There's Roberta -- there's Roberta McCain, the 106-year-old mother of Senator John McCain who looks -- really looks amazing.
ZELENY: Who still lives here in Washington, in the Washington area. And as Maeve was saying she was a central figure in both of Senator McCain's presidential campaigns. But much more than that, she was the towering strength of his life indeed. So it is so sad and poignant that she is here still outliving her son.
GANGEL: You can also see in the third row that is the White House chief of staff John Kelly, and defense secretary retired General James Mattis there.
I just want to mention we showed some pictures a little bit earlier of all of the former presidents, vice presidents, coming together, and when they walked in the cathedral they were all chatting, and smiling, and greeting each other. I think a lot of people outside of Washington don't understand that there is this life beyond politics, that these people do have friendships.
Former Vice President Joe Biden gave an incredible speech for former Vice President Dick Cheney when his statue was unveiled at the Senate.
ZELENY: And there's John Bolton, of course, is the national security adviser in this Trump administration. But, you know, was in the Bush administration and was close to Senator McCain as well. They're both big foreign policy haws if you will.
We should point out, I mean, John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, is right there on the center of our screen. He was accompanying Cindy McCain at the Vietnam Wall.
So I think (INAUDIBLE) there's been a lot made this week.
RESTON: And there is --
ZELENY: And Ivanka, of course, the president's daughter and son-in- law, senior advisers. There has been a lot said about how President Trump is not in this service. On his side he also, you know, has not interrupted it in any way at all.
GANGEL: I wouldn't say that because he has been tweeting all morning.
ZELENY: But not about this.
GANGEL: No. Not about this.
WOLF: I want to bring in Gloria. Gloria Borger there at the Washington National Cathedral.
Gloria, you've seen -- you've been watching as all these VIPs, and friends, staffers, family, they've been walking in. The service is about to begin.
BORGER: Well, I want to say it is not just the luminaries that we see inside -- inside the National Cathedral, but our producers telling us that Wisconsin Avenue, which is a big street here in Washington, a major thoroughfare was lined with people waving American flags and wanting to catch a last glimpse of Senator John McCain as he made his way to the cathedral which is right off of Wisconsin Avenue. People who were not invited into the ceremony, but just wanted to see him.
And there you see Henry Kissinger and Lindsey Graham, of course, who was John McCain's very best friend.
Also the cathedral bells were ringing playing "America the Beautiful" as we sat here, and as the hearse made its way on to the front of the cathedral. So it was quite a scene outside as much as it was inside, with people in Washington wanting to pay their respects.
And it has been said many times that there will never be another like John McCain in the United States Senate. There will never be another fighter like McCain and somebody who also admitted he was wrong when he was wrong and then when the fight was over, just continued on.
I mean, I remember speaking with him for a piece I did about people who lost the presidency, and it's hard. And he almost made it against Barack Obama, or so he thought. And I said, what was that like losing? It is so public. It is the most public kind of a loss anybody can have in politics.
And he said you know what, I was lucky because I made it to the top two. And I'm grateful for it, and I will always be grateful for those moments of people who supported me. And I consider myself lucky to have even gotten that far in my life. And that was his attitude towards everything.
I mean, we spoke with his former prisoner of war colleagues who said he had that same attitude when he was imprisoned and beaten and feeling like he could get out of it and do something with his life, and then today we see people of all political persuasions, people on the streets of Washington just paying their respects.
WOLF: And the first row, you see the former presidents, the former vice presidents all sitting together. These are live pictures we are showing our viewers now, the ceremony only moments away from beginning. And there will be various religious moments as well as personal tributes and celebrations of this truly extraordinary man and the first will be with Meghan McCain, the daughter of Senator McCain. She will have a tribute that will no doubt resonate and be rather powerful.
AXELROD: One of the things striking me a few minutes ago was to see the leaders of the Senate Republican and Democrat sitting together and -- which is exactly how Senator McCain would want.
There are no aisles today. There is no Democratic aisle and Republican aisle. Everyone is in the same pew.
WOLF: He would have been happy to see that.
Doug, your reflection?
BRINKLEY: Well, you know, really I was thinking back, when have we ever mourned a senator like this? You have to go back to Robert Kennedy, 50 years ago when --
WOLF: Ted Kennedy.
BORGER: Ted Kenney.
BRINKLEY: He was shot and then Ted Kennedy, with the interest in the Kennedy family, but I think McCain is more than the senator, and not just the Vietnam background, he is sort of the hero of the Cold War.
I mean, we did have John Glenn and Neil Armstrong, but McCain is coming out in history as a sustainable hero representing his Vietnam generation in a very meaningful, poignant way.
ZELENY: And expanding other generations as well. I think Jamie was saying earlier, he did have such a young following. His presidential campaigns were the early -- people were excited and moved by his movement. It would almost be fitting if the Straight Talk Express was parked outside the cathedral this morning.
ZELENY: Because that was who he was. And this ear here. But as we sit and watch this, there are -- you know, there's no question also this is a passing of time. Passing of history.
The Senate is entirely, entirely different now than when he arrived. And we have seen people leave one by one.
But Senator Kennedy when he passed nine years ago he did not have the fanfare like this, he did not lie in states in the U.S. capital. His body was driven around the capital. His service was, of course, in Massachusetts.
So this is how Senator McCain wanted it. I agree with you, Doug, he is bigger than a senator. He's much more than that in our history books.
RESTON: Well, and I think the reason there has been so much international interest to this whole week is reflected in the conversations that you have with ordinary people that his values and what he imparted, what he will impart in this service are so distinctly American. It is what people love about America. Honor, duty, service.
Those are the lessons that he is trying to leave people with today. And that was why he was so universally loved.
BORGER: And no question in this political climate, it is all magnified.
RESTON: Right. Exactly.
WOLF: And so many current and former foreign leaders have come to Washington to join in this moment, including the president of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko.
And as we know John McCain was very much involved in trying to help Ukraine deal with the Russian problem --