tv Dateline MSNBC August 25, 2018 11:00pm-12:01am PDT
i'll be first to say that. spent all that time in that prison. came back and you've been in the senate, twice presidential candidate. >> both times lost. >> what do you want to be remembered for? >> he served his country. that's what i'd like to see. he served his country. hopefully with the word honorably on it. that's all.
america faithfully for 60 years. and want to bring in kelly ayotte who was on the armed services committee traveled around the world many times with john mccain. senator, you're thoughts about john mccain and how this lion of the senate and great leader of the armed services committee brought a new senator into the fold and what he taught you. >> andrea, just what a tremendous loss for the country, and what he taught me, he was my dear friend. he was a mentor. he was such a tremendous leader on national security.
as you know, everywhere in the world that he traveled he was so well received and he was tough on leaders that needed it. they needed tough love. john taught me really the things that i will remember the most, he actually taught me in the senate but he also recently repeated it to me when i saw him at his ranch in the spring. he said do the right thing. and that was how john lived his life. really doing the right thing. even if it was a difficult thing. and even when people would criticize him for it. just the courage that he showed, the leadership and the leader that he was, extraordinary, one-of-a-kind. you called him a lion. i wished there were more john mccains but he was one-of-a-kind. >> senator, it strikes me in
covering the senate years ago and for a long time, it was a boy's club. the men of the senate and john mccain has always mentored younger women when me came into the senate. hillary clinton, people in different parties, amy klobuchar in armed services and other committees. >> i'll tell -- johnny ernst. and john traveled with her. and john very much, he judged you on your ability and as you know, he has very strong daughters and he to me really -- that was part of his core. and he could see when people were capable and he wanted to give them the opportunity and to give them the help and guidance
so they could succeed. >> and you traveled with -- and we're look at pictures in the senate of you in the senate briefing room with john mccain, with lindsey graham. that friendship may have been strained in recent months or years because of the effect of donald trump, but they really -- they and joe lieberman and the others were such close friends. >> such close friends. i mean, first of all, lindsey graham and joe lieberman and john mccain, the original three amigos of the three of them, incredibly close and believe in the exceptional role of america and american leadership and standing up for human rights around the world. and john was the leader of that. whenever he traveled, any person that was -- was a threat he would stand up to them and he stood up for our values and his
legacy will be one of -- i think it is clear vision of america's role in the world and standing up for people who were not in a position to be able to stand up for themselves. >> and as you talk to him when you last saw him, and he was battling this terrible disease, the courage with which he fought this final battle has been so extraordinary and so heroic. tell me about his attitude and how he could maintain that spirit? >> well, john had that same fortitude and was resolute until the end. and the other thing about john, incredibly optimistic, about life and you've heard him say, i'm the luckiest man alive. his family and the country and our future and that was true even when he was fighting cancer.
i mean, it didn't change john mccain and the inner fortitude that he had and you think about that ford -- fortitude to get to the awful experience of being a prisoner of war and that courage it took and he showed that throughout his life. >> kelly ayotte, thank you for calling in and we share the nation's grief with you. but for you it is deeply personal and thank you very much for taking this time. >> thank you. andrea, i want to say, for cindy and john's family and incredible people and i'm just so sad for them. and for all of us tonight. a real loss for the nation. >> well, we all feel that same sense that this is an extraordinary moment, extraordinary family and they have shown such strength but the
pain must be truly unbearable tonight. thank you very much. and with me now is andy card, former white house chief of staff under president george w. bush. and andy, as you think back on that 2000 campaign and how tough that was, and then over the years how president bush and john mccain and you in the middle worked together on some very big policies. >> well i didn't play much of a role. it was truly john mccain and george w. bush recognizing that the greater good is worth the effort to put into making a way to find it -- find the greater good. and john mccain -- look he was a tough negotiator and he had sharp elbows and could be pretty angry at times. but he would find a way to find common ground. and he would work at it. he would invite people to stand
on common ground with him. and george w. bush also had sharp elbows but he worked with john mccain and they came together and did some remarkable things. and i was impressed with the leadership that they both had. i was respectful of how they respected each other. that was very important. john mccain was someone who grew up in a military family. he understood the role of respect and he did show great respect to people. but he also had the courage to be a maverick. and there aren't a lot of people that do that. they kind of follow the false expectation that you have love everybody. he didn't love everybody. but he respected everybody. and he found a way to work together. i was glad to hear joe leiberman's name mentioned the other day. clearly he had a remarkable relationship with john mccain that -- i think they could have been a ticket to run for president and vice president.
they were so close. and there was great respect for both of them. and joe lieberman's relationship with john mccain was something to witness in the senate. i had the benefit of working with both of them on the legislation that came up after 9/11 and we really respected how john mccain and joe lieberman would find other senators to find common ground to stand on and get things done for the country. >> and you talked about joe -- lieberman and we knew from the books written and from john mccain himself that he wanted joe lieberman to be his running mate but he was persuaded by other campaign advisers and people in the party that the convention would never accept a democrat as the running mate for john mccain in '08. >> well that convention where he was nominated, it was strange
because all of the talk then was about what was happening in iraq and afghanistan and it wasn't what was happening in the economy and the crash came after the economic -- the economic crash came after the republican convention. i think the tickets on both parties might have been very different if the economic problems had been exposed before the conventions took place. but they didn't. that is a story in history. but this is a time to reflect on john mccain's remarkable contributions to this country and the world. and he really has been a champion for democracy all around the world. through his work at the international republican institute under the partnership of the national endowment for democracy which i'm part of it and i respect the work that they do. but john mccain was a champion for democracy in america. but more significantly, he was a champion for democracy around the world and he actually did the work. he traveled with his colleagues from the republican party to do it with the international republican institute and with
his democratic friends in the national democratic institute, all working to plant seeds of democracy in places all around the world so people could experience the remarkable way we have a government that invites people to be part of it and it is a -- it is a we the people government of the united states and john mccain made sure that every person in america recognized that they had a chance to be part of that we that makes this country great. >> thank you so much, andy card. thank you for your recollections about this great man, john mccain. and a statement from president george herbert walker bush, bush 41 writing john mccain was a public service -- and few contributed to the welfare of his fellow citizen and free and loving people around the world. another american maverick and warrior george paton once observed we should thank god that men such as these have lived, to that i could only add my gratitude to john's wife cindy and his family and the
people of arizona that allowed this man to serve with such distinction and this statement from former president barack obama, john mccain and i were membered of different generations, came from completely different backgrounds and complete -- competed at the highest level of politics but we shared for all of our differences for fidelity to something higher, the ideals for which generations of americans have fought and marched and sacrifice. we saw our political battles as a privilege and something noble to serve as the high ideals at home and to advance them around the world. we saw this country as a place where anything is possible and citizenship is our patriotic obligation to ensure it for ever remains that way. few of vus been tested the way john once was or required to show the courage that he did but all of us could aspire to put the greater good above our own.
at john's best he showed us what that means and for that we're all in his debt. michelle and i sent our heart felt condolences to cindy and their family. and with us now is bill crystal, a veteran of bush administration and from the weekly standard. bill, you've witnessed the political wars in washington and this is a man that participated and also conquered and really represents the best of the political gladiators in washington. >> think that is right. i voted for him in -- in the republican primies in 2000 and 2008 and then the general election in 2008 and got to know him well and he was a fierce competitor and had a temper. but occasionally i would be sort of going on about someone we were fighting an some foreign policy issue or -- and arguing, he would say, look he has a
point of view and let's calm down and we're all in the same side here. we're all trying to do the best for the country and he had -- that ability to kind of get above the partisanship and hostility at the same time he engaged in it. >> bill, he also worked with democrats. that is something we don't see often any more. republicans and democrats legislating together. >> and joe lieberman was his closest friend and i heard about the ticket, i went back and looked, the piece in the new york times in 2008, the weekend before he made the vp choice urging -- or maybe ten days before urging lieberman as the pick and i was told indirectly that john mccain was thinking seriously and wouldn't mind having someone on the outside try to validate it a little bit, especially among republicans and conservatives. i tried to -- people told them they couldn't get it through the convention. i don't think that is correct.
it could have. it would have been a fight. but mccain went to palin and i thought -- might as well take a gamble if it is not lieberman that that is way -- in retrospect, i'm more -- john mccain wrote last week, john wrote that -- last month, last year he wrote in the book that he regretted that he hadn't gone ahead and picked joe lieberman. i don't know that they would have won but it would have been an interesting and fighting moment in american politics to that that ticket and barack obama might have won the election any way but that didn't happen. but he accomplished a lot. he worked with democrats and not just moderates like joe, but teddy kennedy and russ feingold and a ton of different pieces of legislation. and i would say one more thing. i was talking to someone tonight who worked for mccain, and a young man that i recommended him to, mark salterman and he worked for john mccain for several years and he moved on to other things in washington and it was
very sweet and he thanked me for the opportunity of having the honor of working for john mccain which wasn't just -- i just recommended him. he did the job. but he was reminding me of the little things mccain did, which were genuinely gracious and thoughtful and considerate. he was -- he could berate staff if something went wrong as people did occasionally and in his case pretty occasionally but not that often. he would do all kinds of little things for people and relatives people that wanted to meet him. and go out of his way to do things, jake tapper had this -- pointed out he had a little party for a young man getting -- the medal of honor by president obama several years ago and -- jake invited many and he no need to do it or anything like that. it wasn't someone he knew or just thought, you know what,
someone has served his country and i had the chance to show up for half an hour and pay my respect and i'll do it and there were little things like that with mccain that were really unusual as kind of personal decency and concern for others. >> bill crystal, that is so true. the little things, the little kindnesses for someone who could be testy and difficult and even describe himself, he was also very, very kind. thank you, bill. thanks for joining us. >> thank you. and with us for more comment on john mccain and the legacy, author and presidential historian michael beshlas. bill crystal was talking about the possibility of this bipartisan ticket with joe lieberman which -- who was his first choice to be his running mate. help me here. in american history, have we ever had a democratic and republican or two different parties on the ticket?
>> not in modern times. franklin roosevelt for instance in 1940 chose helpry -- henry colins who was a republican but in modern times the conflict has become so fierce as we're saying just a few moments earlier, it is almost unthinkable. and another thing that you were talking with bill crystal about was john mccain's character. one element was this ability to go across the aisle and some of his greatest friendships in the senate were with people that were democrats. but the other thing is that in the 19th century and the 18th century oftentimes american parents who were bringing up children looking for role models would look to political leaders as examples of people they wanted their children to grow up to be like. i'm afraid in 2018 that doesn't happen very often. and there are some people who do some very good work in the senate.
but my guess is that not terribly many families these days across the united states say, i want my child to grow up to be like senator x. john mccain is an exception to that. for all sorts of reasons, and i think you've touched on and the people we've spoken to have been talking about but the paramount example is the 5 1/2 years he spent in hanoi in the hanoi hilton during which he was tortured and given the opportunity to leave captivity earlier and he wouldn't do it and it came out. so it was not only the courage, but most of all is this. anyone who had been through that experience for five and a half years, you would expect afterwards to be justifiably angry, they wouldn't be able to operate in life in a way that all of us would like to see. the thing about john mccain was despite that experience this was someone who was gracious, in was someone civil who did have a sense of proportion about life
and maybe the best example of that, i think, was as you know andrea and you reported and we've talked about this too, in the 1990s when there was a movement to restore relations with vietnam, another kind of person who had gone through 5 1/2 years in the hanoi hilton would have said absolutely not. i'm a holdout. last country on earth we should restore relations with is vietnam. but john mccain was someone of the first. he said this is the time to restore that relationship and to do it with healing. it says so much about him. >> and exactly. end did it for a democratic president who wanted that policy but didn't have the political weight with the military to do it himself. >> absolutely. >> not served in vietnam because bill clinton had been excoriated during the '92 campaign and so -- having not served and on the two sides of the war and anti-war debate helped bill clinton effect that policy.
thank you, again, michael. our friend tom brokaw sat down with the senator for one of his last interviews and he recalled what michael was just referring to. when he was shot down and held captive in vietnam. >> senator, when you woke up this morning, did you say to yourself, where was i 50 years ago in. >> i did. and i thought, wow, maybe i zigged when i should have zagged. and i thought about it. but i also thought about, tom, about the heros that i have known and the benefit of having served in the company of heroes and the -- i'm the luckiest guy you will ever talk to. >> want to hanoi and i stood at the edge of the lake and i got emotional thinking about you and going down a second time and them grabbing you and doing all of that.
does that memory ever fade for you? is it there constantly or can you park it somewhere? >> it doesn't fade. but i have parked it. tom, in life we have to go on. and put it behind us and be grateful and every once in a while something reminds me of it or i hear from an old friend who calls up and asked me why i voted wrong and they never call me and tell me i voted right. so think about it. but what i really think about is the people that i had the honor of serving with. some of the gutsiest, most patriotic, most wonderful people i've ever known in my life. they're my dearest and best friends. >> and with us now is colonel jack jake cobbs, retire colonel and analyst and medal of honor recipient. hearing john mccain talk about
that, he is and was closest to those men he served with whom he served. he wants to be buried near chuck larsson, one of his classmated from annapolis. that whole experience going to annapolis is what shaped his life. >> yeah, there is -- there is nothing like the authority and responsibility young people get in uniform and all of us particularly those who have served in combat think about it all of the time. we do try to park it. but it pops up time and time again, especially when we see others or meet others with the same experience. i had a conversation with him some years ago and we were talking about being a warrior. and the difficulty of being in uniform and -- and the danger of being in uniform. and he said, you know, when he was in flight school or he was training to be an aviator, everybody knew that because we
were in a war, there was a possibility might get shot down and killed or captured. but it was never going to happen to you. it would always happen to somebody else. and then when it did happen to you, there is this sharp intake of breath and a recognition that in fact this is real and it is happening to you. and when it did happen to him, he said he thought that this was -- he had to steel himself and prepare himself for the most difficult final exam he would have to take. when he was in -- as mike at beshlass reminded us, when he was in prison, his father -- john mccain father had just become the commander of all naval forces in the pacific and the north vietnamese thought there would be propaganda value in releasing him and e -- and he refused and continued to resist
and take the -- take the impossible abuse visited on him by his captors. he told me, he said, you know, you think that you're not going to break. and you think you're tough. and eventually everybody has a breaking point. and they found mine. he always felt particularly bad about it. and down through the years. but if you talk to people as i have who were with him in the hanoi hilton, they'll tell you that he's the bravest guy they ever saw. they just happened to find his breaking point. if there is one thing that john mccain's life teaches us, it is that you can't do anything about yesterday. but you certainly need to gear up to do as much as you possibly can about tomorrow. and he had a heck avenue sense of humor.
i was talking with him at a lunch and -- and i remarked injudicially that he looked a lot like charlie chaplain and he paused for a second and he said, i think i did. but i'm a lot funnier than he was. >> a great recollection. colonel, thank you very much. colonel jack jack job -- jacobs and joining me now is mike floots and our condolences to you, part of the political family and such a close family it was. >> thanks, andrea. he was great and led by example. and he had a great team around him that was loyal and i was someone who came from president george w. bush's world and the primary had been with mayor giuliani who was a good friend of senator mccain and the team brought us together after the primary. i was one of the people who was
brought in and it was a great team and very loyal to him and they loved him and wanted him to become part tv for a while and it all started at the top. he served with such -- such integrity and it was all about service to america. and so all of the people around him emulated him and followed that. that leadership came from him. so it is an honor to be part of it. >> and did he have the sense after the crash, after the economic crash that they were just not going to pull it together. when did he know they could not win the '08 campaign? >> well i think had his eyes open throughout. historically it is difficult to follow someone from your own party, other than president george h.w. bush, it is rare and in the 20th century on that someone follows from the same party and then the economic meltdown happened, he was very aware but decided as he always does, to soldier on and as he often said, the worst thing that
happened in his life had already happened so certainly running a tough political campaign was something that was not the most difficult for him and he certainly could come back from the past and he fought on and per -- persevered with him and even at the time of a candidate and what he metropolitan to america in terms of history and senator mccain acted within -- with integrity. and when you see circumstances where the campaign is -- is close but you're not ahead and certainly you can feel things maybe in the right direction or see that desperation and lash out. he never did that. he acted with great integrity through the campaign and that is something i'm proud of and if you look back in politics like i do, you want to be proud of the people you worked for in the
past, whether you win or lose and i couldn't be prouder than to have served senator mccabe. >> mike, thank you very much. >> thanks. >> and earlier tonight among those helping to remember senator john mccain this evening's joe scarborough, host of msnbc morning joe and joined us on the phone tonight talking to richard lui. >> he remained a committed small government conservative throughout his entire career. and you know, but he was always a maverick. he was not an insider. i remember david briar a former rules chairman of the republican party telling me when i first came to congress, he said there are two doors. and you need to choose which door you want to walk through when you go into congress. you can go in as an insider or you can go in as an outsider. and of course i think he meant that to encourage me to go in as an insider. i chose the other door. but senator mccain was always an outsider.
and always a maverick. and you saw that in 2008 in his presidential campaign. he was a guy that was supposed to walk away with the nomination and the campaign just went terribly. and he was bleeding money. he was -- bleeding support in the fall of 2007. and everybody thought that john mccain was finished. but he wasn't comfortable as a front-runner. this guy was a maverick. and i remember in my late father telling me in late 2007 when everybody said that mccain was out of it, i remember my dad telling me, as i was leaving his house on a sunday afternoon to fly back to new york, that was the first year of morning joe, he pointed at me and he said, joey, don't forget mccain. he's coming back. and i remember laughing saying sure, dad, sure. and sure enough, john mccain
without the massive campaign operation, john mccain the maverick, john mccain on a ring and a prayer came back and he won that nomination. and i think that really -- it really epitomized the type of person he is. he was -- when you walk into his senate office, it wasn't cold or corporate. it wasn't like a lot of senate offices that you walk into. there was just a bustle of activity. and any time you went into to see the senator, you weaved through a thousand different desks and stacks of paper everywhere and people -- people roaming here and there. it was not the most organized office in the world. he was -- a constant -- he was just constantly in motion and constantly moving. i think the one time that i wanted -- i went into his office through the years where there
was more of a silence and it was more contemplateive was when i saw him in february -- think it was february of 2017. and it is so interesting when i went to the hill, which i've been going to for 20 years. every time i went to the hill, i would have jesse rodriguez say who do you want to meet or who do you want to line up meetings with and named senators or congressmen and i said, you know what, i only want to go see senator mccain. and the reason why is because i knew that -- that he was -- again, he was fearless and he was a fearless voice. and he knew that -- that he a -- he agreed with me and many others that constitutional norms were being threatened and challenged.
and i knew that senator mccain would be the one person who be fearless and sure enough he's proven that. he proved that in his final years. just like he proved that in vietnam. just like he proved that throughout his entire congressional career. he has been fearless in war, fearless in -- and i can't think of another political figure, another public figure, gosh, since bobby kennedy, 50 years ago, with his passing, that dominated the american political landscape more that wasn't president of the united states. his -- his legacy is extraordinary. >> joe scarborough talking tonight, and from morning joe, talking about the legacy of john mccain and how the tributes that are pouring out for him are -- are because of the unique place
he held in history as a legislator and senator and war hero, prisoner of war, twice candidate for president, once the nominee for president, and yet still having such a large impact on our public life, despite the fact he was not elected to the presidency. historian john meachum joins us again. john, john mccain carved out such a unique role in public life. having never won the office of the presidency, the office he always wanted, he still looms so large in human rights, in fighting for the -- against what was happening to the prisoners in guantanamo and what was happening to prisoners in black prisons around the world.
these were not popular positions that he took. >> no. we used to think of him as kind of the umpire of american life. he would call them as he saw them. and where -- to belabor the metaphor, we're at a moment in our politics today where everybody is on one team or the other. it is a ferociously tribal moment. you cheer or you -- you hiss depending on which side of the stadium you are on. and senator john mccain lived up to the great american tradition of using reason as the approach to different issues. so yes, he was a ferocious critic of the war on terror, more of the harsher interrogation techniques for the obvious biographical reasons. but george w. bush had no more loyal supporter for his iraq policy than john mccain.
i remember sitting in a gloomy time square hotel room with senator mccain and mark salter in august of 2007. so exactly 12 years ago. and basically -- john mccain couldn't -- as joe said, he could barely get arrested. because he had put all of his chips on the fact that he thought the surge in iraq was an essential policy decision and he been very critical of george w. bush on the the other parts of that policy. but he called it as he saw it. and he said, if the surge works, people will give me a second look in this race and we'll go out and test our medal -- we'll test our metal. as if he had something to prove as to his medal. but one of the reasons you're seeing this level of emotion is people appreciate that he had a
certain level of common sense. you might disagree with him, but he looked at the fact and made up his mind and this is -- coming at a political time where voters decide what they think, not on the merits of what is being said, but who is saying it. and that is not american. that reflective partisanship and he embodied a reflective partisanship. >> that is one of the reasons why a lot of us are feeling this sense of nobility and of heroism to his unique character for all of his flaws, that would be the first to admit because we are now in such a partisan space and he rejected that. he represented the best efforts that -- at reaching across the aisle, teddy kennedy and joe
biden and joe lieberman. joining us now, is also brian williams, host of the 11th hour. brian, earlier we played some of the al smith dinner from 2008 when you were sitting right there behind john mccain and he gave the most generous tribute to his political rival for the presidency, barack obama. that was classic mccain. >> classic make cain. thank you for having me. it is a pleasure however sad the occasion to watch you on television running this coverage and to hear everyone you had on the phone, including john meachum and jack jacobs and michael beshloss. what a night that was -- and all of us wondering how we ranked enough to be there to be in such a special seat and listen to these two men at the height of the campaign.
you can't fake class. and he displayed nothing but old school class and good manners and what politics needs to be in the way it used to be carried out in this country. i always thought that -- here is a name you and i will remember. hubert humphrey not had the nickname happy warrior, it would have had have been coined nor john mccain. he was equal parts both. he was as happy and fun-loving a man who was owed a debt of 5 1/2 years of his life by enemy forces as you could ever know. and every inch the warrior. he did love the trenches and he did love a fight. but at the end of the political day, it was -- it was shake hands and move on. >> brian, i'm hard pressed to
think of some figure in the senate in either party who occupies the kind of role that he played. we think of the senate and the senate that used to be where men and women would stand up and speak out no matter what the political impact would be and surely there are some. but none with the breath and majesty of john mccain. >> absolutely right. and i had this discussion with michael i think it was exactly 20 hours ago to this moment. even the way he gave -- he delivered his thumbs down vote on obamacare on the remark of it that has bedevilled donald trump was em -- was emblematic of who he was. the vote itself, yes. but also the way he delivered it.
kind of a visual reminder. that is as high up as he could lift his arms. this is a guy who could not comb his own hair for the last 50 years of his life. often had to explain to people why he couldn't hoist his arms above a political convention in the clasped hand gesture we're all so used to. and but never complained of course. that wasn't him. but that solitary figure coming in off the floor of the senate from the cloak room, the hush around him because we know it was a pivotal vote and what went up on the democratic side only to be shushed by their leader senator schumer who we knew it was a moment of moment in politics. and the visual of it just struck me. also here was a hero of a war that didn't produce any in realtime.
it was a genuine consensus american hero from an unpopular war. so his bravery and his exploits what he survived was well-known to the brothers and sisters in the military before the rest of us in civilian life knew. it took books like nightingale song and most recently defiance, the struggle of getting p.o.w. recognized with things like bracelets and a greater -- a greater pentagon effort to get them home and it took that to learn his story. but he was every inch a consensus american hero. i just find the torture he endured was so much of who he became later in life. >> and the fact that he worked through the injuries the way bob dole did and john kerry is
another war hero who came through that and having lost his leg and still went to the senate. but bob dole living every day of his life with the real pain and just disability and still operating on such a high level. the highest level of american politics. >> absolutely. we all know the inspiring, sad at times story, of bob dole's recovery best told by the great author, the late richard ben kramer and the two men you mentioned dole and mccain both had to put their lives back together. and that tarted with putting their bodies back together. the story of mccain's injuries starting with his ejection, and starting with the fact that he wasn't supposed to survive that day or that shoot-down.
no one shooting at him that day in hanoi was trying to wound him. they were trying to blow him out of the sky. surviving that fall, that canopy -- that ejection, surviving being dragged out of the water and beaten up and then all of the horrible things that happened to him in captivity, including but not limited to more than one surgical procedure without any anesthesia at all during that famous propaganda interview that black and white film of which we've been showing all evening long. he was a man on the edge of survival right then while being asked those questions. we hear repeat his name, rank and branch of service and he had said often and in interviews as he said with nbc news, he probably should have died back then. >> well, brian i know you'll have a lot of recollections and a lot of tributes throughout
this week as john mccain will first be honored in his home state, his adopted home state of arizona. where he made his plit -- political career and joe biden will pay tribute to him. it is a democrat who will be one of the speakers and they were bound together through tragedy, through beau bidens death from the same horrible brain cancer, the glioblastoma from which john mccain eventually succumbed after this very brave heroic fight. thank you and then there will be of course a service here in washington. brian, we'll all be here all week covering that. as the national cathedral gathers to pay tribute to john sidney mccain iii. thank you, brian williams. >> thank you. >> john meachum with us, that senator mccain wants to be buried with his classmates from
an app -- annapolis. >> it is. and listing to brian talk about the generational question. senator mccain is so interesting because he is a veteran of the vietnam war. but to so many americans he feels as if he's almost an honorary member of the greatest generation. he seems -- a more of a world war ii type character than one from the decades past. i remember talking to him about -- it sounds as though we had a book club which we did not. but there was -- we used to talk about hemingway which he did. but we also talked about her man woke. the great novelist who -- two marvelous books, winds of war and the war and remembrance and the protag annist played by robert meacham in the 80s, a
naval captain named pug henry and i remember suggesting to mccain once in an interview that his father struck me as a pug henry type and without hesitated, he said my father was exactly like pug henry. sort of a taciturn and no nonsense and do your duty. and that is -- that is some part of john mccain himself. he does represent a tradition of sacrifice and of service. not to be sentimental or to suggest he's a perfect figure. but there is in his legacy those virtues like senator dole, like george herber walker bush, like bob kerry and john kerry, like john lewis, who also bears the wounds of an american war from the civil rights struggle. there are very few vanishingly
few people in american public life any more who bear those wounds of valor. and i think it gives them -- it forms them in a crucible that so many of us can simply appreciate from afar. but can't fully ever truly know what it was like to suffer at that level for the country. and it produces, i think, a commensurate level of both love of country and a willingness to see an ability to rather to see life in all its complexity. my sense is that senator dole, senator mccain would very much have liked to be president of the united states. but they knew that a presidential campaign was not the worst thing that could happen to you. they knew that from bitter personal experience. george h.w. bush knew it when he was shot down if september of 1944.
these are politicians who know that politics is vital but the country itself has to take precedence. >> and it is such a good point, john. and earlier i misspoke and referring to bob kerry. as john kerry but i meant bob kerry, the nebraska former senator seriously wounded in vietnam as well. earlier this evening our colleague chuck todd and political director and moderator of "meet the press" joined us by phone and helped us remember senator mccain. >> it is a sad moment here in washington. a sad moment i think for a lot of americans. every generation of senate has somebody that is referred to as a lion of the senate. and this generation, this era, this last decade, that is john mccain. and when somebody sort of gets that title, in washington it is
because the type of person that is sort of a bedrock of the institute that puts the institution above a political party and john mccain, he was bipartisan and he was a republican. but when the chips were down, he would always defend the institutions above his party. and he would put his -- his slogan for the presidential campaign country first -- live up to. he had a towering senator in arizona he had to live up to. so, it took a lot for john mccain to do what he did in the united states senate. remembrance of senator john mccain.
there had been a huge vacuum in washington. it's not clear who, if anyone, is going to fill this vacuum any time soon and i think there is this extra stomach punch that some people feel tonight because there's this feeling that john mccain was one of the last people holding up a guardrail. and trying with everything he had to hold up one of these political guardrails, so i think as we remember john mccain throughout the week it'll be interesting to see other politicians and hear the stories of john mccain, how that will impact them going forward as we try to sort of heal this political moment that we're in and i think a lot of people don't like. >> chuck, stand by, we also have
andrea mitchell, just joined the conversation as well and, andrea, over the years that you've covered washington, d.c. and certainly john mccain, senator john mccain and his family, as chuck was just reminding us, the very energy and force that he represents of doing good work, that will remain. >> absolutely and you were just saying especially at this time in history, not just the campaigns but his standing up on things and ran up against the cia, he was honest with senator dianne feinstein, the leading democrat of course to go up against the intelligence directions. i think at this time there's such a contrast between the honor of john mccain and the short supply of honor in american politics right now. in particular you can go back to his days in vietnam. refusing to go home early when he was offered that opportunity to standby his extraordinaries -- troops all the way up to challenging the woman who approached him at a rally and said that barack obama was an arab and wasn't of this country.
i think he brought that every day to his job. he brought it to the american public. he was a frequent guest on television shows before he ran for president and afterward. somebody who brought that spirit and that ability to work with others in a way that so few do. andrea, i also look at john mccain and i see a warrior who deeply and thoroughly understood and demonstrated that the beauty of our countries are our ability to resolve our differences through a political process. that depends on norms and civility and depends on dealing with one another with respect and all of those things are sort of wrapped into that idea of the honor that john mccain conducted his life with. >> we look at a senate now and are looking at both political parties and a few independents
and looking for voices who will stand up especially during time when our politics have become so partisan and so poisonous. >> what's so interesting is we do have so few of those independent voices. his critics in the republican party were angry at him for not being loyal enough. i think democrats were disappointed in mccain for being too loyal for the gop. i think he would have been perfectly happy annoying some people on the other side. dick durbin came to the house with mccain as a freshman in 1983. he said that mccain could stare you down one day and embrace you the next. you don't see a lot of that anymore. we so tribalized and polarized. what it means is we're not getting anything done. the american public is frustrated that it's dysfunctional.
senators and members of the house no longer work with each other. mccain is somebody who enjoyed the battle almost as much as the cause he was fighting for and could be harsh and a tough competitor and could bruise other people in those battles and turn around and work with them when he found common cause with them. that's how things operate when we're working well. >> thanks so you john allen. john meachum, some final thoughts in the closing hour of our coverage. >> i think senator mccain would say there's a time to mourn and a time to remember and then he would say get back in the area that as quickly as possible and fight for the ideas on which the country was founded and for which he nearly gave his life as a young man and ultimately gave the full decades of his life in
service to the country. very few people have been tested in the ways that he was tested, physically, psychologically, emotionally and patriotically. the fact that he emerged from the caldron of captivity in vietnam is an enduring lesson, an invigorating lesson for all of us who think our politics is so broken. our politics is so terrible. they may be broken, it may feel terrible but this is still the last best hope. >> thank you so much. more of our coverage of the death of arizona senator john mccain who passed away today at the age of 81 continues directly ahead. xfinity mobile is a new wireless network
is about to cost a whole lot less. ask how you get xfinity mobile included with your xfinity internet. so you just pay for data -- by the gig or unlimited. saving you hundreds of dollars a year. plus, get $300 back when you buy a new smartphone. xfinity mobile. it's simple. easy. awesome. click, call or visit a store today. we're americans and we never give up. we never quit. we never hide from history. we make history. >> mccain's not in it for the wins and losses of politics. he's in it were the worthiness of the fight. >> from pow to presidential contender. >> the mack is back. >> he weathered scandal. >> he was almost at the point where he was willing to walk away. >> and stuck by his principles.