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CNN NEWSROOM

Discussion of McCain Funeral. Aired 12n-1p ET

Aired September 1, 2018 - 12:00   ET

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


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ANTHEM "THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD," THE WASHINGTON NATIONAL CATHEDRAL CHOIR

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SIDNEY MCCAIN, JOHN MCCAIN'S DAUGHTER: A reading from the Second Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians.

So we are always confident even though we know that while we are at home in the body, we are away from the Lord for we walk by faith not by sight.

Yes, we do have confidence and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

The word of the Lord.

(CONGREGATION): Thanks be to God.

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HYMN, "HOW GREAT THOUGH ART"

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SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: A reading from the Gospel according to St. John, Chapter 15, verses 12 through 13.

Jesus said this is My commandment that you love one another as I have loved you. No greater love than this to lay down one's life for one's friends.

The Word of the Lord.

(CONGREGATION): Thanks be to God.

REV. EDWARD REESE (Homily): Let us remember John McCain with the words of the Jesuit poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins.

"What I do is me. For that I came. But I say more, the just man, justices, keeps grace, that keeps all his goings graces; acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is, Christ. For Christ plays in 10,000 places, lovely in limbs, lovely in eyes, not his, to the father through the features of men's faces." Don't misunderstand me. I am not recommending John for sainthood. He was so very human and for that reason we can see God in his life.

He was the just man, justicing. For John McCain every human being deserved to be treated justly.

He saw God Our Father through the features of every person especially the poor and those persecuted by power and those in need.

John was a man who loved and he knew that love is seen in actions, in doing.

He was so often surrounded by the servicemen and women he had such a special affection for. We can hear him in Shakespeare's words, "But we, we shall be remembered. We, we few, we happy few, we band of brothers."

Love is truly shown in action and God in His love has given us this warrior as a sign, who acted in God's eye what in God's eye he was.

Though we are sad we do celebrate the life of our friend, husband, father, senator, and warrior, by because he did keep grace, Christ- play in 10,000 places.

He gave us an example of how to live, how to be the just man. And with St. Paul, John can now say, "I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith."

Goodbye John McCain. j (MUSIC)

"DANNY BOY" SUNG BY RENEE FLEMING

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): As Jesus taught us, so we now pray.

Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the Kingdom, and the power and the glory. Forever and ever.

Amen.

REV. CANON JAN NAYLOR COPE, WASHINGTON NATIONAL CATHEDRAL PROVOST: For our brother John.

Let us pray to Our Lord Jesus Christ Who said, I am resurrection and I am life.

Lord you consoled Martha and Mary in their distress. Draw near to us who mourn for John and dry the tears of those who weep.

(CONGREGATION): Hear us Lord.

COPE: You wept at the grave of Lazarus your friend. Comfort us in our sorrow.

(CONGREGATION): Hear us Lord.

COPE: You raised the dead to life. Give to our brother eternal life.

(CONGREGATION): Hear us Lord.

COPE: You promised paradise to the thief who repented. Bring our brother to the joys of Heaven.

(CONGREGATION): Hear us Lord.

COPE: Comfort us in our sorrows at the death of our brother. Let our faith be our consolation and eternal life our hope.

RT. REV. MARIANN EDGAR BUDDE, BISHOP OF WASHINGTON: Father of all we pray to you for John and for all those whom we love but see no longer.

Grant to them eternal rest. Let light perpetual shine upon them. May his soul and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

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ANTHEM "AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL"

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): Give rest oh Christ, to Your servant with your saints.

(CONGREGATION): Where sorrow and pain are no more. Not a sigh but light of bliss (ph).

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): You Only are Immortal; The Creator and Maker of mankind and we are mortal formed of the earth and to earth shall we return.

For so did You ordain when You created me saying, you are dust and to dust you shall return.

All of us go down to the dust yet even at the grave we make our song, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah.

(CONGREGATION): Give rest oh Christ, to Thy servants with Thy saints, where sorrow and pain are no more; neither signing but life everlasting.

BUDDE: Into your hands oh merciful Savior we commend Your servant John. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech You, a sheep of Your own flock, a lamb of Your own fold, a sinner of Your own redeeming, receive him into the arms of Your mercy and to the blessed rest of everlasting peace and into the glorious company of the saints in light.

(CONGREGATION): Amen.

BUDDE: And may the God of peace Who brought again from the dead Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will in the days you have, and in the lives to which you have been called, working as He worked in you, what is pleasing in His sight.

And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be with you and remain with you now and always.

Amen.

(CONGREGATION): Amen.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): Let us go forth in the name of Christ.

(CONGREGATION): Thanks be to God.

FORWARD MARCH

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[12:36:29] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: A truly beautiful and powerful service for a truly wonderful American patriot and a great American hero. We heard lots of praise. We also heard lots of strong words as the guests are beginning to leave the Washington National Cathedral. And there we see -- I think that's John McCain's 106-year-old mother Roberta McCain. She's in the wheelchair.

Jamie Gangel.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: I think we have to start at the end, watching Cindy McCain's face as Renee Fleming sang "Danny Boy" was just an incredibly touching and difficult moment to watch her grieve. But there were also wonderfully funny moments when President Obama talked about John McCain's mischievous style and saying that he got the last laugh because he got President Bush and President Obama to stand up on T.V. and say nice things about him.

But there is no question, there is one moment that we are going to watch over and over again and that is Meghan McCain during his -- her speech saying the America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great. This week was a celebration of John McCain. Donald Trump's name was not said today. But in every speech, there was an underlying reference to him.

BLITZER: David Axelrod.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No doubt about this, this is an event that -- a service that operated on two levels. And that's as Senator McCain intended it. On the one hand, it was a celebration of his life. But it also set up this contrast and it was an unmistakable rebuke of the prevailing politics of Washington and of the president.

BLITZER: Maeve Reston.

MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: And I think that the service achieved everything that Senator McCain wanted it to achieve in provoking that conversation that David Axelrod talked about. But I agree with Jamie that the two images that will stay with us are Cindy McCain, you know, falling into the arms of her son Jack and grieving. And Senator McCain would be so proud of Meghan McCain today.

BLITZER: You know what, let's just watch for a moment.

[12:40:57] The hearse and the casket continue to -- will head over to the U.S. Naval Academy for a private ceremony. A private burial, tomorrow at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Maeve you were finishing your thought.

RESTON: "Danny Boy" was a song that McCain could never hear without a tear in his eye, his aides would say. And so for that to be the moment for Cindy McCain really mourning this long and intense marriage that she had. But I do think that Meghan McCain, her eulogy today was just remarkable in the sense that passing on that lesson that her father taught her, that nothing can break you, and him telling her, you know, show them you're tough and she did that today in a remarkable way, Wolf.

BLITZER: It was 17 minutes. An amazing eulogy by Meghan McCain, John McCain's daughter.

Jeff Zeleny.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And we are still seeing here a living -- we see Senator McCain's mother Roberta McCain, a 106 years old, incredibly there watching as her son, the senator body is loaded into the hearse and being taken away. He'll be buried tomorrow in Annapolis at the U.S. Naval Academy. But of course, the takeaway, so poignant and pointed from Meghan McCain, and this was the person who her father wanted to be the headliner if you will.

We talked a lot this week about Barack Obama and George W. Bush and they each delivered a message that had something of a lesson in its own way about our politics of our time. But it was Meghan McCain who directly said that we gather here to mourn the passing of American greatness. The real thing, not cheap rhetoric. For men who will never come near the sacrifice, he gave so willingly.

She's talking about President Trump, who we should point out was not invited to the service, did not come to the service, was at his golf course just outside Washington today. But it was Meghan McCain I think who is carrying on her father's message and his torch.

BLITZER: And Douglas Brinkley, two former presidents subtly, maybe not so subtly, also expressing their very strong view on the political climate now here in Washington.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Yes, they both did a first-rate job. George W. Bush talked about what a troublesome (INAUDIBLE), you know, McCain could be. Even the admirals and generals put a lot of humor on his talk. But then had a line about the swaggering despots and bigots that McCain could not stand in his life. And it was a theme that came up couple of times that he did not (INAUDIBLE) to bigots, period. It's part of John McCain's legacy. And then Barack Obama talking about Theodore Roosevelt who was John McCain's all seasons hero and did the famous man in the arena speech, that did -- that quote defines the public career of John McCain quite eloquently. And again, Obama talked about, you know, the fact that he was somebody who was a man without prejudice, who always fought for team America. Didn't matter if you were D or R or independent, if you were fighting for America, McCain was your friend.

BLITZER: Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona, you obviously knew John McCain well.

JAN BREWER (R), FORMER ARIZONA GOVERNOR: I did. It was a powerful tribute today by so many of those that shared their memories with us. And I felt today that we were all Americans. We were all Americans today.

And Meghan proved today she was John's daughter. There is no doubt about it. And I think she was able to release all those emotions and shared that with us, making us feel better.

Also, Cindy was magnificent. Again, showed her strength. And I believe truly that John McCain was a man of greatness and people are able to draw from so many different avenues and opportunities from him to be able to share with the world. So that the world would really know the man of the greatness that he was, his faith in God, his humility, his integrity and most of all his humor and love of his country.

[12:45:19] John, rest in peace, my friend.

BLITZER: Yes, rest in peace indeed. Gloria Borger, you watched as all of us did, your thoughts?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: First of all, I want to say, I agree with everyone about Meghan McCain's eulogy, which I think was extraordinary and directed. And I think she spoke from her father's heart, not only her own heart. And what was so stunning to me is that this entire service seemed like John McCain was speaking himself. And John McCain's, you know, words came out of other people's mouths and I think that's the way he wanted it.

And I never heard -- maybe you guys have, but there was applause at this funeral. At the moment that Meghan McCain said the America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because it is great. And there was applause from the gathered here, who were mourning John McCain, but this kind of spontaneous outburst was because that is a line that John McCain would have uttered.

And so when people spoke about thinking about things greater than yourself, how many times have we heard that from John McCain. It was as if these people were just -- including two former presidents, by the way, who talked about John McCain's temper, who talked about tangling with him. Who told stories about McCain going to Bush before his last debate saying, oh, just relax. When we know, in fact -- I've talked to McCain about this myself, how nervous he got before his own presidential debates and how crazy they drove him. But he went -- you know, he went to Bush and he said, you know, just chill and relax. And I just kept thinking throughout all of this that in a way, to me, it was McCain speaking through other people. And that's really the way he wanted it.

BLITZER: Yes. Those of us who knew John McCain totally, totally agree with you, Gloria. You know, Jamie, as we watched all of this unfold, a couple of hours of very, very poignant tributes to John McCain. There was Joe Lieberman and his wife, Hadasah Lieberman, he spoke from the heart. He spoke for about 20 minutes and told stories, including one about when John McCain was ready to offer him to be his running mate.

GANGEL: One that I don't think any of us had heard before. And Joe Lieberman said, well, that's crazy, you know, and McCain said, no, not at all. I'm a Republican, you're a Democrat. We could give the country something.

I also just want to mention one line by Henry Kissinger that I think sums up today. He said that John McCain gave us a much needed moment of unity. And that certainly was the case.

BLITZER: You know, David Axelrod, you listened as closely as anyone to the various speeches, including the one from your former boss President Obama.

AXELROD: Yes. And, you know, I think both President Bush and President Obama conveyed essentially the same message in different ways, which were -- which was about McCain himself and the ability to look beyond differences and find common ground around the things that they shared about this country and its fundamental principles. And the rebuke that was there of President Obama said so much of our politics seem small and mean and petty, trafficking in bombast and insult and phony controversies and manufactured outrage. It's a politics that pretends to be brave but, in fact, is born in fear. John called on us to be bigger than that. He called on us to be better than that.

I mean, you could not be clearer there. So, you know -- and I think that they were playing the role that John McCain wanted them to play in this service.

BLITZER: Yes, they did. Dana Bash is with us. Dana, you were inside the Washington National Cathedral during this two and a half-hour service. Take us inside, give us your impressions of what you saw, the reaction, especially surrounding the Meghan McCain eulogy.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was overwhelming. The emotions really ran the gamut.

[12:50:01] I mean, you felt it certainly watching on T.V. and it was probably a million fold being in the room and being inside that cathedral.

With regard to Meghan McCain, she was so emotional and so powerful. And when she came out with the line that she had about America doesn't have to be made great again because it already is great, there was some shock, I have to say. Maybe shouldn't be shocked but there was.

and then right after the shock as you all heard, a round of applause, the only speaker to get that kind of spontaneous applause for anything. And it was almost as if there was a release in the room. People wanted to be respectful, wanted to pay tribute to John McCain, but also it was something that they almost couldn't help themselves in doing. But there was some surprise about the Meghan McCain line, that direct line about the president.

And then of course the "Danny Boy" moment. Watching Cindy McCain stoic through the entire service, a service that she helped her husband plan so meticulously and then losing it when Renee Fleming came out and sang her beautiful rendition of "Danny Boy." And Rick Davis, John McCain's former campaign manager, who helped arrange this, told me when John McCain was sick, they would listen to "Danny Boy" over and over on his porch as he looked out at oak creek, at his house near Sedona.

And so what was going through my mind was probably her memories of sitting with him listening to that song. And it was just something that -- it always will get people but particularly at that moment, particularly with this man.

Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes, it will. And Dana, I want you and I want everyone to listen. I'm going to play that excerpt from Meghan McCain's eulogy of her dad when she referenced the current politics of Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MEGHAN 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 while he suffered and served. ] Dad, I know you were not perfect. We live in an era where we knock down old American heroes for all their imperfections. When no leader wants to admit to fault or failure. You were an exception. And you gave us an ideal to strive for.

Look, I know you can see this gathering here in this cathedral. The nation is here to remember you. Like so many other heroes, you leave us draped in the flag you loved. You defended it. You sacrificed it. You have always honored it.

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Pretty unusual to hear that applause at a service like this inside the Washington National Cathedral.

AXELROD: Incredible moment. The whole eulogy was incredible. I was moved by the governor's point which is, that was John McCain. I mean, John McCain would have fully approved of those points and the way she made them.

But I think we ought to also point out the other parts of the eulogy that won't be quoted as much in which she talked about John McCain as a father and John McCain as a husband. And the love he felt for his family. And it reminds us that the McCain family is having to grieve in public. They are sharing this moment with the public. It's what he wanted.

But they're also going through really private and difficult loss that transcends the political moment. So we ought to note that. And her eulogy was as moving in those parts as it was in the parts that will be quoted again and again.

BLITZER: And everyone knew, Jamie, who she was talking about during those -- during that specific moment.

GANGEL: Absolutely. It's, you know, President Trump. Everybody else was at the service today or invited to be at one of the services. And President Trump was not invited very specifically.

I think that Meghan McCain, nothing was left on the floor, as we say. She did not hold back either personally or about President Trump even though his name was never said.

[12:55:07] And it was, as Maeve said, when she was preparing the eulogy, she said to her father, well what do you want me to do with this, and he said, show them how tough you are. And that's what she did.

ZELENY: Even though President Trump wasn't there, we should point out, Ivanka Trump, his daughter, who really is the closest adviser and person to this president and her husband, Jared Kushner, were sitting there in the pews of this Washington National --

AXELROD: How many eyes must have darted in that direction?

ZELENY: They certainly must have, and this is something that is a lesson, that they know this. This is not a surprise that they know what official Washington and others sort of think of them. But I was just struck by the fact that not only the words were said. Meghan McCain actually has, you know, been sparring with the Trumps for quite some time. But in the venue at this moment with them listening was certainly striking.

But I think overall, we should not -- this was a very serious service but I think it did John McCain very right by those moments of humor and levity. He, you know, would be, you know, certainly have a joke to tell or something at this moment because that is what he was known for and what he did and what we've heard all week long as well.

BLITZER: And let's listen to these two former presidents of the United States also referencing in a more subtle way but clear in their intent the current politics of Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH (R), FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He respected the dignity inherent in every life, a dignity that does not stop at borders and can't be erased by dictators. Perhaps above all, John detested the abuse of power. Could not abide bigots and swaggering despots. There was something inside him that made him stand up for the little guy, to speak for forgotten people and forgotten places.

BARACK OBAMA (D), FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse, can seem small and mean and petty. 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Not so subtle.

RESTON: Not so subtle. But what he -- what President Obama went on to say was we are all on the same team. And I think in that way he really brought -- he and President Bush brought the service full circle because that was Meghan McCain's point, we are all Americans. We are all on one team. We all, you know, have duty to this nation.

And, you know, I think that it did achieve overall the message that he would have wanted to deliver.

AXELROD: Without question. Without question. And again, just the presence of these two former opponents eulogizing their comrade as it were in this great project of democracy. Spoke even more eloquently than the words themselves.

GANGEL: Throughout the week, the number of Democrats that John McCain has had participate and speak at all of these events is not an accident as we've been saying. And I think there's also something that we talked about earlier. It's a call perhaps to arms for the future. That, you know, don't just think about it with the nostalgia of the past when perhaps there is more bipartisanship, that this is a way to act in the future.

BRINKLEY: Well, you know, when I think of John McCain as a historian, I think of 2008, in that big moment of picking Sarah Palin. And there is no Sarah Palin there. It's almost as if her history's been washed out of Trump history. And I thought her absence is quite large.

And also I've never watched a memorial funeral service that Bill Clinton attended when he did not speak because he is a magnificent person at giving eulogies. And it must have been a little bit frustrating for him. Because I think one of John McCain's great accomplishments was normalization in Vietnam and Bill Clinton was such a central part of that and yet he didn't get an opportunity to be the third president that spoke.

BLITZER: It was pretty extraordinary, Dana, when you think about it the -- not only former presidents were there, the former vice presidents were there. You saw Al Gore sitting basically very, very close to Dick Cheney.

BASH: That's right. And one of the most emotional moments --