WASHINGTON – World leaders, lawmakers of both parties and the military effusively praised the late senator John McCain as a statesman, a hero and the conscience of the Senate on Sunday while President Donald Trump, who has had a combative relationship with McCain, remained silent.
The White House lowered flags to half-staff in honor of McCain, who died Saturday at age 81 after a battle with brain cancer.
In a sign of the senator’s stature, McCain will lie in state at both the U.S. Capitol and Arizona State Capitol buildings, and memorial services will be held in Phoenix and Washington, D.C.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, a longtime Senate colleague of McCain, is expected to speak at the Phoenix service, Biden’s office confirmed Sunday.
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The rites will conclude with a private burial at the cemetery on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, according to McCain’s office.
McCain has requested that two of his former White House rivals – George W. Bush and Barack Obama – speak at his funeral, a move that the junior Republican senator from Arizona, Jeff Flake, described as a mark of his colleague’s integrity.
“That says all that we need to know about John McCain – that his opponents love, admire and respect him,” Flake said during an emotional appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “That’s something we could all strive for.”
Trump extended his condolences to McCain’s family in a Saturday night tweet. But the president, who has mocked McCain’s war record since as far back as 1999, offered no words on McCain himself.
“My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!” Trump said.
Trump made no mention of McCain in his Sunday morning tweets, reposting previous tweets on the economy, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s emails and the special counsel investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The president then left the White House for golf at his Virginia course.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, R, will appoint a successor to serve out the remainder of McCain’s term through 2020. The governor’s spokesman said Ducey will wait until after McCain’s funeral to announce an appointment and will not appoint himself to the seat.
Services in honor of McCain will take place over five consecutive days this week, beginning Wednesday, on what would have been the senator’s 82nd birthday, when he will lie in state at the Arizona Capitol.
On Thursday morning, a memorial service for McCain will be held at North Phoenix Baptist Church. McCain will then be flown to Washington, where he will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda on Friday and a ceremony will be held in honor of his life and service.
On Saturday morning, a national memorial service will take place at Washington National Cathedral, followed by McCain’s private burial at the U.S. Naval Academy on Sunday.
In his book “The Restless Wave,” which was published in May, McCain said he would be buried close to his classmate Charles R. Larson, the late admiral who led U.S. Pacific Command and later served as superintendent of the Naval Academy.
Freddy Ford, a spokesman for Bush, confirmed that the former president plans to deliver a eulogy for McCain at the funeral. An Obama spokesman declined to comment on Obama’s potential attendance.
On the Sunday morning news shows, those who knew McCain hailed the Arizona Republican as a principled and independent voice that will be sorely missed at a time of bitter division in Washington.
In an interview with NBC News’ Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press,” Hillary Clinton said McCain “really understood in the marrow of his bones what it meant to be an American.”
At a time when U.S. institutions are being tested, Clinton said, McCain was “trying to sound the alarm” and urging Americans to rally around the country’s fundamental ideals, such as human rights.
In addition to Flake, another of McCain’s Arizona colleagues, Jon Kyl, R, recounted stories from the longtime senator and 2008 GOP presidential nominee’s tenure in Washington.
“John was always there as a kind of conscience of the Senate,” said Kyl, who represented Arizona with McCain from 1995 to 2013 and has been floated as a possible interim replacement for the senator. Kyl pointed to an episode years ago during which McCain had a heated argument with Senate Republican leaders and urged them to give Democrats a vote they had been seeking on an amendment.
“He was always there trying to make sure that both sides got their say and were treated fairly,” Kyl said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Biden, who served with McCain in the Senate for more than two decades, on Saturday evening added his voice to the chorus of those hailing the senator.
“John McCain was many things – a proud graduate of the Naval Academy, a Senate colleague, a political opponent,” Biden said in a statement. “But, to me, more than anything, John was a friend. He will be missed dearly.”
Members of the military also lauded McCain, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam.
“As a Naval Officer and defiant prisoner of war, John McCain stood with his brothers-in-arms until they returned home together,” Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said in a statement, referring to McCain’s refusal of early release by his North Vietnamese captors.
Retired Army general and former CIA Director David Petraeus said McCain spent nearly every Fourth of July over the decade after Sept. 11, 2001, with U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“No one had the backs of America’s new greatest generation – those who fought the wars of the post-9/11 period – more than he did,” Petraeus said on “This Week.”
Journalists, as well, recalled their long conversations with McCain as they rolled across the country aboard his campaign bus, the “Straight Talk Express,” and on Capitol Hill.
In one memorable exchange last year, McCain mischievously stood behind CNN’s Manu Raju during a live shot in a Capitol office building and gave the reporter “devil horns” with his fingers.
Raju said Saturday that McCain loved the moment and especially got a kick out of his own tweet about it, “which he said may have been his most retweeted tweet.”
Lawmakers including Flake and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., voiced support on Sunday for a proposal by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to rename the Russell Senate Office Building after McCain.
In a video posted online by ABC News, Schumer said he is introducing the legislation so that McCain will be remembered for generations to come.The New York Democrat also appeared to make a nod to McCain’s memorable thumbs-down vote last year against a partial repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
“I’d like, decades from now, little children to ask their parents, ‘Who was John McCain?’ ” Schumer said. “And they’ll explain his sacrifice, his patriotism and, most of all, his fidelity to do the right thing as he saw it – and when he did the wrong thing, to change.”
The Washington Post’s Paul Kane, Abha Bhattarai, Tory Newmyer, Paul Sonne and Mike DeBonis contributed to this report.
Video: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was vocal in his opposition to some Republican policies.(Elyse Samuels,Meg Kelly/The Washington Post)