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Family and Friends Say Farewell to John McCain; Russia Investigation; U.S. Pulls Palestinian Aid; Coalition Admits "Mistakes" in Attack on Yemeni Bus; McCain's Sense of Humor is Part of His Legacy; McCain's 2008 Presidential Campaign. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired September 2, 2018 - 04:00   ET





MEGHAN MCCAIN, ABC NEWS HOST: The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Powerful eulogies for the great John McCain; his daughter, along with former presidents, their not so subtle statements about the current commander in chief.

Plus the Trump administration ending aid for Palestinian refugees. Israel praising the United States; the E.U. urging it to reconsider.

And in a rare move, the Saudi-led coalition admits that mistakes were made in last month's deadly airstrike killing dozens of children in Yemen. More details on that story ahead.

Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, we want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm George Howell, the CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


HOWELL: Around the world good day to you at 4:01 on the U.S. East Coast.

HOWELL: Four days of memorial services and now the late U.S. senator John McCain will be laid to rest in the coming hours.

On Saturday there were displays of unity; friends, family, colleagues, many people came together celebrating his life, his service and impact around the world. Two of McCain's once political rivals, the former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, spoke for him sending a message of bipartisan at a time when Washington is deeply divided.

Our Jeff Zeleny has more.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Washington paid tribute and bid farewell to John McCain, an American patriot and politician.

At the Washington National Cathedral, a living tableau of history, a who's who of leaders of all stripes, assembling to say goodbye to a war hero and veteran Republican senator.

McCain's daughter, Meghan, overcome with grief and emotion throughout the week, spoke passionately about her father with a poignant and pointed message.

M. MCCAIN: 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.

ZELENY (voice-over): Inside the soaring cathedral, it was the first of several references to President Trump and his own brand of politics her father reviled.

M. MCCAIN: The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great.

ZELENY (voice-over): The funeral unfolded as a parting lesson in civility from McCain himself. To eulogize him, he invited two men who extinguished his own dreams for the White House, George W. Bush, who won a bitter primary fight in 2000, and Barack Obama, who prevailed in 2008.

Amid moments of humor...

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: From trouble- making plebe to presidential candidate --

ZELENY (voice-over): -- praise for McCain's core beliefs.

BUSH: At various points throughout his long career John confronted policies and practices that he believed were unworthy of his country. To the face of those in authority, John McCain would insist, we are better than this. America is better than this.

ZELENY (voice-over): But the personal tributes came with a sharp critique of today's tribal politics.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Trafficking in bombast and insult and phony controversies and manufactured outrage, it's a politics that pretends to be brave and tough but, in fact, is born of fear.

John called on us to be bigger than that. He called on us to be better than that.

ZELENY (voice-over): Despite deep differences over politics and policy -- and Obama said there were many with McCain -- he still fostered a sense of American unity.

OBAMA: When all was said and done, we were on the same team. We never doubted we were on the same team. ZELENY (voice-over): While President Trump's name was never spoken, his absence was an unmistakable undercurrent. McCain made clear he didn't want him there. The two men's strained relationship goes back to the 2016 campaign, when Trump insulted McCain's military service, saying "real American heroes aren't shot down."

Yet several of the president's advisers were on hand, including his daughter, Ivanka; son-in-law, Jared Kushner; chief of staff, John Kelly, and Defense Secretary James Mattis. The senator was sent off in scripture and song, with opera star Renee Fleming's gripping rendition of "Danny Boy."



ZELENY (voice-over): He'll be laid to rest Sunday in a private ceremony at his alma mater, the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

ZELENY: The senator's final resting place will be on a grassy hill at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery, next to lifelong friend, Chuck Larson, another veteran of the Vietnam War.

He selected this out of the way spot in the shadow of Navy midshipmen like he once was, rather than at Arlington National Cemetery, where his father and grandfather, both admirals, are buried -- Jeff Zeleny, CNN, Washington.


HOWELL: Jeff, thank you.

America may have lost a patriot but the McCain family lost its patriarch. John McCain's widow, Cindy, tweeted this photo of the family saluting the senator's flag-draped coffin.

She wrote this, "Today we lost our hero, our friend, our mentor, our father, our grandfather and our husband together. We mourn and together we go on."

To talk more about this now we have Steve Erlanger with us, the chief diplomatic correspondent in Europe for "The New York Times," live via Skype in Brussels, Belgium.

Steven, thank you for your time today.

This service looking back at it, it was entirely focused on who John McCain was, a politician, an American hero, a man, father, husband, a son. It never deviated from that focus while, at the same time, the messages seemed in direct contrast to the current commander in chief, calling him out without ever calling upon his name.

STEVEN ERLANGER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I agree with that. The whole ceremony was designed by John McCain, who spent quite a lot of time before he died arranging every minute of it. And it was clearly a political rebuke to the man in the White House.

The man in the White House had, as Jeff Zeleny said, insulted John McCain's war experience, which was horrible, as everyone knows. He was shot down; he was kept a prisoner of war for 5.5 years.

He was tortured, he refused to be released early, earlier than others because his father was a well-known admiral. Those things are obvious.

Now Trump says I don't respect people who are captured. Trump, of course, got out of the draft citing bone spurs. So this offended John McCain, if offended his family, it offended the American Legion.

So Trump was deliberately not invited to what was meant to be a show of bipartisanship but absolutely a political commentary on the Trump presidency.

HOWELL: It did seem that there was a focus on the fact that McCain, despite the fact that there are many people who did not agree with his politics, perhaps on war, perhaps on votes that he took, people seem to focus in on his character.

And that really -- the resounding tone coming from this service. Also important to point out that many people in attendance there, some of the same people who helped to give rise to the current president, we even saw the president's daughter and son-in-law in the crowd.

In your view, does this moment resonate so deeply as a point of reflection for the Republican Party as a whole and national discourse here in the United States?

ERLANGER: Well, I think it does resonate. I mean, one other thing one should say is that the Vietnam War is still controversial, too. John McCain's heroism, his endurance as a prisoner is not questioned, shouldn't be questioned.

But many people did question the war and continue to and the discussion of the war seems to be much more about Americans who fought in it than the Vietnamese who actually won it. So that's part of the background.

But this was old Washington striking back at what they consider an interloper. And it was very nice of Ivanka Trump and her husband to come. Also noticed John Bolton, who agreed with John McCain on many issues, very conservative, the national security adviser also came.

But this was, in a way, a moment for Republicans to think what their values are and we'll see in the November elections what Americans decide.

But there is this great debate going on all over the world, which is, is Donald Trump a symptom of a new America?

Or is he an interlude, a break between the America we saw in the National Cathedral, the bipartisan America reaching out to the world, and an angry America first, that is tired of -- tired of the burden of leading --


ERLANGER: -- alliances?

I mean, I think that's really the question and it's a question for the whole Republican Party. It's not about style; it's about aims. It's about the idea of America and what it is to be an American.

HOWELL: We heard during this service, we heard from the former Republican president, George W. Bush, remembered the late Senator McCain as a man who would never cater to dictators. His successor, the last Democrat to hold the office, Barack Obama, he spoke against the politics of mean-spirited, petty insults.

Meghan McCain saying the America of John McCain has no need to be great again because America was already great.

And shortly after that, the president posted this tweet. Want to show the tweet if we have it with us. But again the tweet saying make America great again. Apparently we don't have the tweet but a very short statement. You get the point there, there it is.

Steven, the question here, how does that play into this, the president chiming in apparently during his time at the golf course?

ERLANGER: Well, he -- his view of making -- of America is just very different. He believes that America has been taken advantage of by its allies, that in trade, in defense, Americans have paid too much compared to others, that we've been too generous, we've been taken as chumps, he believes.

McCain felt differently. McCain thought it was in America's enterprise, in its spirit, to help lead the Western world, the world of democracies, the world of free trade.

Now McCain was more conservative than many people. He was, you know, quite a big hawk. He and Barack Obama had terrible fights and he thought Barack Obama actually had a terrible foreign policy.

His foreign policy, McCain's, would probably be closer to what Trump has actually done as opposed to what Trump has actually said. But you do have this major contrast here about what makes America great and what its enduring mission, if one can put it that way, in the world ought to be in this century, not in the last one.

HOWELL: Steven Erlanger there live from Brussels. Of course we'll keep in touch with you.

ERLANGER: Thanks, George.

HOWELL: The U.S. president spent Saturday playing golf and tweeting. Mr. Trump was spotted at one of his golf courses in the U.S. state of Virginia and, at the top of his mind, trade with one of the country's closest allies, Canada. Mr. Trump saying this, quote, "There is no political necessity to keep

Canada in the new NAFTA deal. If we don't make a fair deal for the U.S. after decades of abuse, Canada will be out. Congress should not interfere with these negotiations or I will simply terminate NAFTA entirely and we will be far better off."

Hours later, he tweeted this, "We shouldn't have to buy our friends with bad trade deals and free military protection."

Trade negotiations with Canada resume Wednesday.

Still, the cloud of the Russia investigation looms large over this president. A convicted former Trump campaign adviser now back in the news contradicting the attorney general of the United States. His sworn testimony before Congress, our Sarah Westwood explains.


SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: A former advisor to President Trump's campaign is adding another wrinkle to the Russia controversy by sharing new details about a proposed meeting between then candidate Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin.

George Papadopoulos, the former foreign policy adviser to Trump's campaign, pleaded guilty to lying to investigators in October of last year. But on Friday his legal team told the courts that, during a March 2016 campaign meeting, Papadopoulos suggested a summit between Putin and Trump.

And then candidate Trump nodded his head approvingly at the idea and deferred to attorney general Jeff Sessions, who was at that time an Alabama senator and powerful surrogate for the Trump campaign.

And Jeff Sessions, contrary to what he has said publicly in the past, reacted favorably to that suggestion and suggested that perhaps they should look into the proposal.

Now attorney general Jeff Sessions said in testimony to the House Judiciary Committee that he had pushed back on the proposed meeting between Trump and Putin when it was brought to his attention in March 2016. Take a listen to what he had to say in November of last year about this proposal.


SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALA.: I have no clear recollection of the details of what he said at that meeting. After reading his account and --


SESSIONS: -- to the best of my recollection, I believe that I wanted to make clear to him that he was not authorized to represent the campaign with the Russian government or any other foreign government for that matter.


WESTWOOD: Now the Department of Justice is not commenting on Papadopoulos' new revelations. They're directing reporters to Sessions' testimony before the House Judiciary Committee.

And this is all coming against the backdrop of tensions between President Trump and attorney general Jeff Sessions. The two have been feuding for more than a year now. But President Trump has recently said that attorney general Jeff Sessions is safe in his position at least until the November elections -- Sarah Westwood, CNN, at the White House.


HOWELL: After nearly seven decades, the United States pulls the plug on a lifeline for many Palestinian refugees. Why critics say that is a dangerous move.

Also ahead, the Saudi-led coalition speaks out about its bombing of a school bus in Yemen. What it says led to the massacre of children. Stay with us.





HOWELL: Explosions have reportedly rocked the Syrian military airport in the city of Damascus. A private pro-government news outlet first reported Israeli airstrikes hit the base on Saturday. State media later denied that.

They cited a military source saying an electrical issue led to an explosion at an ammo dump. Images on social media show bright lights in the night sky but their source is unclear. In the past, state media have widely reported Israeli airstrikes against Syrian military targets.

The Trump administration is ending aid to Palestinian refugees. Israel is praising that decision but Palestinian leaders, the European Union and reportedly some U.S. officials are criticizing the move. Following the story, CNN correspondent Ian Lee, live from Jerusalem.

Ian, clearly this adds insult to injury to Palestinians after the U.S.' decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

What reaction are you hearing?

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, George, and it's likely to increase tensions. We've been following the situation in Gaza that, really this violence that sprung up in the spring and then into the summer, was focusing around the United States declaration that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel and moving the embassy to Jerusalem. And there was a lot of anger.

And so Palestinians are saying that this is just adding to that anger. The head of the Palestinian Liberation Organization's delegation to the United States says that this just reinforces that the U.S. does not have a place at the table, that the U.S. isn't a peacemaker, according to the Palestinians.

He also said that this could add instability to that situation along the Gaza-Israel border. For the past few weeks, we've seen relative calm as there are negotiations underway. The U.N. and Egypt working hard to maintain that calm. But an announcement like this where we're hearing from Palestinians, it could inflame that fragile situation.

HOWELL: This money goes to education, goes to basic needs for refugees. But is there an underlying concern, even though this is praised and celebrated in Israel, is there an underlying about destabilizing the region from this move?

LEE: Yes, because, unlike the embassy move, which was a decision by the United States which is very symbolic, withholding money from UNRWA will be felt on the ground, not only in Gaza and the West Bank but also Jordan, Syria, Lebanon.

These are areas where there's large Palestinian refugee communities and a lot of them rely on UNRWA for basic services, like health care, social services, education. A lot of schools are run by UNRWA.

And these are schools that are in session so there's going to be a lot of concern if they can keep this going. And if they can't, then that could create further instability.

The Israelis, though, have said that -- and we've heard from the prime minister earlier this year -- he said that it was UNRWA that perpetuates the conflict, not the conflict that perpetuates UNRWA.

He also made a comment. This is what he had to say.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: I suggest a gradual conversion of all funds going to UNRWA to other agencies that deal with the question of refugees and actually have criteria.

This will not have negative effects; it will have positive effects because the perpetuation of the dream of bringing the descendents of refugees back to Jaffa is what sustains this conflict.


LEE: There's a fundamental disagreement about who is a refugee; this whole right of return between the Israelis and Palestinians. When it comes to UNRWA, this is a U.N. agency that's mandated by the U.N. General Assembly.

So even if the United States wanted to shut down this agency, it couldn't; that's up to the U.N. We also heard from UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunnis (ph), who refutes what the prime minister is saying, saying it's the conflict that perpetuates UNRWA, not UNRWA, the conflict.

Essentially that UNRWA is there to provide basic services for the Palestinians because of the conflict. And he says that will continue until the conflict is solved.

HOWELL: Tell us more about the international response to this move.

LEE: There's a lot of anger, frankly, from the international community, a lot of confusion. This is a huge blow to UNRWA because it cuts off over $300 million in aid, about a third of UNRWA's --


LEE: -- budget. The next largest donator is the European Union. And they said the regrettable decision of the U.S. to no longer be part of this international and multilateral effort leaves a substantial gap and we hope the U.S. can reconsider their decision.

The U.S. has always played and will continue to play an essential role in any effort to achieve peace in the Middle East. The E.U. will continue to engage with the U.S. and other regional and international partners to work towards that common goal.

Right now, George, the main effort is going to be by UNRWA, is to fill that gap. They're reaching out to other donors, hoping that they can raise that hundreds of millions of dollars that's needed to sustain the U.N. organization.

HOWELL: CNN international correspondent Ian Lee, live for us in Jerusalem, thank you.

Ugandan pop star and lawmaker who says he was tortured by the country's military has arrived in the United States. Bobi Wine left Uganda on Saturday. He says that he'll be get medical care after being arrested in Uganda last month.

Uganda's president dismisses the allegations that Wine and other opposition figures were tortured. Bobi Wine posted this photo of himself in the U.S. on social media. His lawyer says that he arrived in Boston and will travel to Washington, D.C.

Witnesses describe a direct hit on a school bus in Yemen. It was done with a U.S.-made laser-guided bomb. Why the Saudi-led coalition says mistakes were made. We'll explain. Stay with us.





HOWELL: Coast to coast across the United States and to our viewers around the world, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Atlanta.


HOWELL: The Saudi-led coalition says mistakes were made in last month's airstrike, a strike hitting a school bus in Yemen. Houthi officials in Yemen say 51 people, 40 of them children, were killed. Witnesses say it was a direct hit and CNN has learned the attack used a U.S.-supplied laser-guided bomb.

Following the story, CNN's Salma Abdelaziz is in our London bureau.

Salma, with what appears to be a targeting of a school bus with a precision weapon, how is the Saudi-led coalition explaining this away as a mistake?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN PRODUCER: George, this is a significant departure from what we heard earlier from Saudi officials in the immediate aftermath of the strike. At the time, they called it a legitimate military operation. They even defended their, quote, "high military standards for targeting."

Now we have the statement, saying there was a mistake in the rules of engagement. That can mean anything from faulty intelligence to not following proper rules and procedures. We simply don't know at this time.

But the statement says that they will hold those responsible, accountable for those mistakes and that they'll compensate the victims.

But remember, as you said, it's not just Saudi Arabia that's implicated in this. The imaged we saw in the aftermath of this airstrike on the school boys are some of the most horrible we've seen in the three-year civil war, little boys covered in blood with their blue backpacks on.

And it's caused an international outrage. It was a U.S.-supplied bomb after a CNN investigation was led by Nima Elbagir. It was a U.S.- supplied bomb that was found to have been used in this airstrike. So the implications of this airstrike and the implications of this guilt could reach much farther than Riyadh.

HOWELL: The Saudi-led coalition has been accused by the international community and human rights groups of causing civilian deaths in the past.

What's the difference this time and could we see a change with this?

ABDELAZIZ: That's exactly right. This exact body, the joint incidents assessment team, has, in the past, found the Saudi-led coalition to be at fault.

One example, in 2016, there was a funeral hall that was struck; 150 people were killed. It was found that there was faulty intelligence given that led to these civilian casualties. A year later, 2017, Human Rights Watch publishes a statement, accusing

the joint incidents assessment team of not taking concrete steps to hold people accountable or to compensate the victims.

So the question for the people on the ground in Yemen, who have suffered under this war for three years, and for the international community at large is, will these words turn into action?

And for the Americans and for the allies of Saudi Arabia, who want to see the rules of engagement to be followed, international standards of war to be followed, the question will be, is Saudi Arabia a reliable partner in this conflict in Yemen?

HOWELL: This particular attack on a school bus certainly drew the attention of the world. It will be interesting to see how things move forward with the Saudi-led coalition.

Salma Abdelaziz, live for us in our London bureau, thank you for the reporting.

We have new information to share with you about the man police say stabbed two people in Amsterdam. Police tell CNN the suspect had a terrorist motive when he stabbed two Americans in the city's central train station.

The 19-year-old Afghan man in the hospital recovering after being shot by police. Dutch officials are working with Germany, where the suspect has legal residency.

Now what was the strongest storm of the year is now headed towards Japan but even though it's losing strength, that doesn't mean the threat is over for Japan. The latest on this typhoon ahead.

Plus, the bipartisan affair John McCain hoped for. How former president George W. Bush and the former first lady, Michelle Obama --


HOWELL: -- delivered on that. Stay with us.




HOWELL: Japan is bracing for another powerful storm in a season that just hasn't let up in severe weather. Now Typhoon Jebi is on its way, the storm packing winds of 250 kilometers or 155 mph. And even though it's weakening it's still going to hit parts of Japan quite hard.



HOWELL: Off to London now and it is revenge of the blimps. Take a look at this balloon depicting London mayor Sadiq Khan, wearing a bikini. It flew over the British Parliament on Saturday. The mayor says yellow is not really his color.

Organizers say the balloon is a statement on rising crime, I should say. And they also say that the stunt is in retaliation after the London mayor allowed protesters in July to fly this balloon, depicting a baby Donald Trump.

As the world mourns the loss of the U.S. Senator John McCain, we remember his 2008 presidential run and why he was beloved by so many.






HOWELL: As the United States and the world honor the life of the U.S. senator and war hero, John McCain, we're also remembering, the man had a sense of humor. Just weeks before the 2008 presidential election, McCain poked fun at his rival, who would eventually be President of the United States.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZ.: This campaign needed the common touch of a working man. After all, it began so long ago with the heralded arrival of a man known to Oprah Winfrey as The One. Being a friend and colleague of Barack, I just called him That One.



J. MCCAIN: My friends, he doesn't mind at all. In fact, he even has a pet name for me: George Bush.


HOWELL: That video from 2008, a charity function, when Senator John McCain and President Obama were political rivals. Although McCain didn't win the presidency, he could hardly believe that he came so close. Our Gloria Borger has this.


GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): The 2008 Republican presidential nominee should have been on top of the world.

J. MCCAIN: I could do the job. I was prepared to be commander in chief.

BORGER: But John McCain was running against history. Barack Obama had a clear shot at becoming America's first black president.

MARK PHILLIPS, CBS CORRESPONDENT: The 200,000-plus crowd confirmed his rock star status.


J. MCCAIN: And I was picked up by some North Vietnamese.

BORGER (voice-over): So you're a bona fide war hero. A former prisoner of war.

MARK MCKINNON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: McCain has leadership stuff. Tell me a greater patriot than John McCain.

BORGER (voice-over): But now you're facing a losing battle. What do you do?

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I've got an idea. We can do something different that will maybe give us a shot.

So what do you want?

He's a gambler. He's a pilot, right?

They always going to take the shot.

BORGER (voice-over): Take the shot, the perfect title for the story of John McCain's run for the White House. Chapter 1, pick a vice president. And he knew exactly who he wanted.

SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: You can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska.

BORGER (voice-over): No, not her, him.

JOE LIEBERMAN (I), FORMER SENATOR OF CONNECTICUT: John McCain, our next great president.

BORGER (voice-over): McCain's first love was Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, an independent.

J. MCCAIN: He's honest, he's decent, he lives his religion and we were very close and dear friends.

BORGER: So you did want him?

J. MCCAIN: Of course. But it was going to cause a problem in the convention because Joe Lieberman is pro-choice.

BORGER (voice-over): So it was no to Joe. Quick, find someone fresh, someone new.

MCKINNON: They didn't manage the process well. McCain didn't manage it well. The clock ran out and they suddenly were left with limited choices. And, in sort of McCain fashion, he threw deep. J. MCCAIN: She's exactly who I need.

BORGER (voice-over): It was the very definition of a Hail Mary pass.

J. MCCAIN: Governor Sarah Palin of the great state of Alaska.

BORGER (voice-over): And so Sarah Palin met America.

PALIN: I was just your average --


PALIN: -- hockey mom in Alaska.

MCKINNON: This is an outside the box bold pick.

Is it a bad pick?

Is it a risky pick?

You know, for a while it looked great, it looked brilliant. For a few weeks. And then it went south.

BORGER (voice-over): Boy, did it ever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Her level of ignorance is astounding.

PALIN: I don't know ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Palin couldn't explain why North and South Korea were separate nations.

BORGER (voice-over): Palin struggled with the national media.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What newspapers and magazines did you regularly read specifically?

I'm curious ...

PALIN: All of them.

CHARLIE GIBSON, FORMER "GOOD MORNING AMERICA" HOST: Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?

PALIN: In what respect, Charlie?

BORGER: Comedians like Tina Fey were relentless.

TINA FEY, COMEDIAN: You've got Alaska here and this right here is water and then that up there's Russia.

I can see Russia from my house.

BORGER (voice-over): Even now, John McCain's answer to all of it?

Give me a break. J. MCCAIN: She did get our base energized.


J. MCCAIN: She did hold her own against a 35-year member of the Senate, Joe Biden.

PALIN: Can I call you Joe?

CINDY MCCAIN, JOHN MCCAIN'S WIFE: What I didn't get was how the media just skewered her. She became fodder for everything and I thought that was terribly unfair.

J. MCCAIN: People, in my view, are not kind to Sarah Palin.

BORGER (voice-over): Despite the media frenzy, the McCain-Palin ticket was holding its own until five weeks before the election.

J. MCCAIN: We were, according to our polls, basically running even or slightly ahead the day that the stock market went down 700 points.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Crisis on Wall Street, one of the biggest banking failures in U.S. history.

BORGER (voice-over): September 29, 2008.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The credit crisis worsened overnight.

BORGER (voice-over): Economic panic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is absolutely stunning.

BORGER: Big banks were failing.

BLITZER: The House rejects the financial bailout plan.

J. MCCAIN: At the end of that day, we were seven points down. As Americans watched their 401(k)s disappear before their eyes.

BORGER (voice-over): For the second time in his campaign, John McCain threw a Hail Mary.

J. MCCAIN: I'll suspend my campaign and return to Washington.

I'm an old Navy pilot and I know when a crisis calls for all hands on deck.

BORGER (voice-over): Reporters and analysts were skeptical.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The market appears to be melting down, threatening to bring John McCain's campaign with it.

J. MCCAIN: I would point out that Barack Obama came back to Washington, too.

BORGER: He didn't say he suspended ... J. MCCAIN: Just didn't say it.

BORGER (voice-over): After a series of tense meetings, nothing was resolved. But now McCain was losing ground.

J. MCCAIN: I knew that we were in serious trouble.

BORGER (voice-over): He had one last chance: the presidential debates. And he struggled against Obama.

J. MCCAIN: Now, my old buddy, Joe, Joe the plumber, is out there. If you don't get -- adopt the health care plan that Senator Obama mandates, he's going to fine you.

OBAMA: I'm happy to talk to you, Joe, too, if you're out there. Here's your fine. Zero.

J. MCCAIN: Zero?

OBAMA: You won't pay a fine because -- zero -- because as I said in our last debate and I'll repeat, John, I exempt small businesses.

J. MCCAIN: I was not on my game and I have to admit that. And I have no real excuse for it. It was doubly inexcusable because I'd been through so many debates before.

BORGER: And do you know when you mess up, like ...

J. MCCAIN: Oh, yes.

BORGER: -- you get in the car and your staff is like ...


BORGER: -- "Oh, my God."

And do you sort of sit around blaming yourself?

J. MCCAIN: Unfortunately, that's my -- one of my character flaws, is that do I sometime sit around and say, "Oh, my God, why did I do that?"

BORGER (voice-over): McCain believes he understands what his biggest mistake was. There's a tug-of-war every candidate shares, between being yourself and sticking to a carefully calibrated message.

J. MCCAIN: You can't become almost totally scripted so that there's no mistake. And, as you know, my greatest strength is extemporaneous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're scared of an Obama presidency.

BORGER (voice-over): But sometimes there's a moment...

J. MCCAIN: I will respect him and I want -- no, no.

BORGER (voice-over): -- as there was during one town hall where we saw the real McCain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't trust Obama. He's an Arab. He is not -- no?

J. MCCAIN: No, ma'am. He's a decent family man, citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental --


J. MCCAIN: -- issues and that's what this campaign is all about. He's not.

Thank you.

BORGER (voice-over): The inevitable happened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An African-American has broken the barrier as old as the republic.

BORGER: John McCain conceded graciously.

J. MCCAIN: I call on all Americans to not despair of our present difficulties, but to believe always in the promise and greatness of America.

C. MCCAIN: I've never heard a finer speech out of him, ever. That told me, in so many different levels, it told the world what this country was about.

J. MCCAIN: I loved it. I look forward to it. I love the campaigning. My second favorite state is New Hampshire, the town hall meetings, in people's living rooms, the interaction that you get ...

BORGER: The bus.

J. MCCAIN: Yes, the bus. Riding around with jerks like you on the bus.


J. MCCAIN: I mean, to think really that you could be competitive for president of the United States. It's incredible that sometimes I would literally pinch myself.


HOWELL: Gloria Borger for us, thank you.

And as the nation says goodbye to the late senator, here's a moment of bipartisanship from Saturday's service that even John McCain couldn't have planned for. Could call it a sweet moment.

The former president George W. Bush, sneaking a piece of candy over to Michelle Obama. They may seem an unlikely pair but the special bond dates back years. The two are often seated next to each other at events -- and maybe this is why. That's this hour of NEWSROOM, I'm George Howell at the CNN Center in

Atlanta. Let's do it again. Another hour of NEWSROOM right after the break. Stay with us.