tv MSNBC Live MSNBC August 26, 2018 4:00am-4:30am PDT
>> what do you want to be remembered for? >> he served his country. that's what i would like to see. he served his country, hopefully with the word honorably on it. that's all. ♪ a nation mourns the loss of john mccain, the iconic republican senator from arizona, who has died at the age of 81. >> we lost a great public servant, a man who served his country in so many ways, is a warrior, a statesman, as an iconic member for the republican party who was not afraid to take on the republican party. >> senator mccain was always an outsider, always a maverick. >> he was a statesman, you know,
walking, talking, living legend of a statesman. >> independent, courageous. we want them to be great people and grand and he was. >> this morning, a look back at mc's sweeping life from a military to prisoner of war camp to a senate seat to a presidential nominee. reflection to a life of consequence right now on msnbc live. good morning, i'm alex witt at msnbc headquarters in new york. just after 7:00 a.m. in the east. 2018 has a chapter of history dying as the country marks the passing of john mccain. the u.s. flag flying at half staff, honoring the life of the long-time senator from arizona, just one of the first visible public tributes. lawmakers on capitol hill doing the same to pay homage to an american hero who established
himself after 35 years in office as the maverick of the senate. kelly o'donnell covered senator mccain for many years and has more on his life and legacy. >> reporter: a spirited young aviator, the fierce campaigner. >> we face many dangerous threats in this dangerous world but i'm not afraid of them. i'm prepared for them. >> reporter: a statesman. >> we never hide from history. we make history. >> reporter: through it all, john mccain carried himself as a joyful warrior. >> i have enjoyed every single day of it, the good ones and the not so good ones. i have been inspired by the service of better patriots than me. >> reporter: patriotism in family, his father and grandfather passed down his name and navy career. more than 50 years ago, on his 23rd mission over vietnam, enemy
fire downed his plane. >> three american planes were shot down. at least two of the pilots captured, one was lieutenant john mccain iii. >> reporter: a prison of war for almost 2,000 days, tortured and beaten. >> taken to the hospital where i almost died. >> reporter: mccain refused early release to deny vietnam a propaganda victory. in 1973, a celebrated welcome home. a war that forged his national identity. >> i fell in love with my country when i was a prisoner in someone else's. >> reporter: when he remarried, cindy's home state was his political base where he became known as, the maverick. mccain often angered conservatives over immigration, railed against washington's
pension for pork barrel spending and challenged his own party's president, george w. bush, to change strategy in the iraq war. >> early on, i came out and said, this could be not only a long struggle, but a losing one, unless we change the strategy. >> reporter: his presidential ambition warded the straight talk express, twice. in 2000, winning the new hampshire primary, but having to wait another eight years to become the republican candidate for president. >> i'd fight to restore the pride and principles of our party. >> reporter: trailing barack obama, mccain rattled the race by propelling sarah palin on the ticket. history had another plan. mccain returned to the senate and remained a prominent voice. >> proudest of contributing to the security of this country and men and woman who serve it. >> are you okay? can i get you anything? >> reporter: his campaign led to
fun, comedies and cameos. mccain loved to get a laugh. he referred to himself as an imperfect public servant. facing brain cancer fired his independent streak. >> we are getting nothing done, my friends, we are geting nothing done. >> reporter: the fighter termed reflective. >> i celebrate a guy fifth at the bottom of his class at the naval academy. i am so grateful. every night i go to sleep, i'm filled with gratitude. >> with hard earned stars and enduring whit, john mccain made history, the cause of his life. kelly o'donnell, nbc news, washington. president trump, who has openly sparred with senator mccain tweeted his condolences saying my deepest sympathy and
respect go to john mccain. our hearts and prayers are with you. meanwhile, president obama who had a friendship with him issued this statement. all of us can aspire to the courage to put the greater good buf our own. at john's best, he showed us what that means. for that, we are in his debt. we are hearing from senator mccain's family. his wife tweeted last night, my heart is broken. i'm so lucky to have lived the adventure of loving this incredible man for 38 years. he passed the way he lives, surrounded by the people he loves in the place he loves best. megan with an emotional tweet, i love you forever, my beloved father. all that i am is thanks to him. now that he is gone, my task is to live up to his example, expectations and his love.
here with me now is adolpho. a difficult morning for us who admired the senator so much. you are top of mind among those. >> thank you. >> when you think about him, i'm curious, what is your most important memory of him, your fondest memory, as well. >> i was a surrogate, proudly in the 2008 campaign and 2000 with the media. at that time, a lot of issues and immigration and foreign policy. i tell you, my fondest memory is a personal memory. he introduced me, i was appointed to the bush administration. he appointed me to the senate foreign relations committee. i know how it goes in washington, people are quite busy. one of the things he did, an unscripted statement that meant a lot to me, focused on my family, how they fled from cuba,
my mother and father. he introduced a resolution in the senate that focused on them. there wasn't one time i ever, when it was in his presence, he didn't ask, how is your dad doing? he went through a heart operation. how is your mother. i know this sounds trivial to people. it was heartfelt, unscripted, there weren't notes. most americans should know, he was a regular guy. i think he would want to be remembered by that. he said he was imperfect. i think he was the perfect statesman. >> i don't think it was trivial at all. it shows his character. he was able to think about people one-on-one and relate to people on that one-on-one level. talk to people about being on the campaign trail. did you see evidence of that as well? >> my focus on the campaign trail was largely television and surrogate work. that's what i did. so, i was there as a messenger. a lot of it on spanish media, radio and tv.
i want to talk about that because he was for immigration reform and it was at the forefront with senator kennedy and others. that's what i worked on a great deal in 2008 when it was a difficult issue. in 2007, he pushed it. president bush was behind it as well. it was important to him. he was an arizona senator. he knew the challenge of border security, there's no question about that. he had incredible compassion. i remember one evening at an event, many, many years ago where immigrants tried to come into the u.s. and suffocated and died. he said we cannot continue with this. we have to do something about this on a human level. of course he understood security more than most, i think senators and representatives. he understood defense and the country had to protect borders, but he had an enormous heart and
compassion. i don't think we are going to see that kind of statesman, who can work with conservatives and with liberals and he saw them all as friends. the best evidence, you have done a great show this morning. he wanted to put senator lieberman on the ticket. it would have been revolutionary. i wish he had. >> is there something you know about him that the rest of us don't? something you can share that we don't know about him? >> i don't think so. i would tell you, i think you have done a great insight into this. he was a person and, i mean this sincerely in my interactions and i know through others who worked with him every single day, among them, mark salter, a good friend and chief of staff for many years and i have known for 40 years. i would say what was always remarkable about john mccain was, he was the guy who wanted to eat, he referred to them as
dogs, give me a couple hot dogs. he wasn't about people who come into public service to benefit themselves or to be something. i think he had a love aware with america. i think what you portray is the accurate individual. wasn't a perfect man. i think he regrets some things he did. he opposed the martin luther king holiday, for example, 30 years ago. he mentioned that he regretted that very, very deeply. i think that was a reflection of his recognition of some of the things in his life that he wasn't ashamed to talk about. that was an instance. of course, what you haven't brought up, the charles keating matter. he did nothing wrong, but understood from that that campaign finance reform was essential and he pushed it in a way with senator feingold. there was a gift ban that john mccain pushed. that's when politicians used to
be wined and dined. these things were the course of normal business 20 or 30 years ago. he was the instrumental senator to get these things changed. >> last thought. his legacy, i'm sure it would include the word courage. >> yes, it would. i think he would be -- if he's looking up, down from heaven now, i think he would be a little bit blushing about all this -- all these tributes. i think he would simply say, i want to remember or be remembered for someone who served this country and did the best he could. i think he would be looking ahead, what's going to be -- who is going to be the next senator that's going to be representing arizona, his beloved state for the next two years, then an election in 2000. he was a forward looking person. i remember from all the staff, they said he never rested on his laurels. he would get a great deal, but
then what are we going to do next? i think he would want to be remembered as an american who tried, as he said often, to serve and hopefully use the word honorably. >> i think that is how he will be remembered. thank you for sharing your thoughts this morning. >> thank you. reactions from constituents in phoenix whom he served for 35 years. the loss their community now feels. years. the loss tirhe community now feels. alright, i brought in new max protein ...to give you the protein you need
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mcwith tom brokaw after his diagnosis last year. lindsey graham tweeted america and freedom have lost one of her greatest champions and i have lost a good friend and mentor. joe biden reflecting saying in part, john mccain's life is proof some truths are timeless. meanwhile, senator leader chuck schumer plans to memorialize john mccain by renaming the russell building after him. the loss is hitting hard for constituents in arizona. vaughn hilliard has some of their reactions. >> he was a legend. he was an arizona hero. a good man. >> he was a well respected human being. he served his country and politically, i think you have to respect the man. it's very sad of his passing.
>> i'm a democrat, but john mccain was always a politician i looked up to. he was a huge part of arizona. i think, as a person, he was a good guy. obviously, he went through a lot as a veteran and, you know, prisoner of war. you know, he had a really sad life and turned it into something triumphant. >> he served the people of arizona for four years in the house of representatives, then served 31 years in the united states senate. before he was a politician, he was a war hero. coming up, a look at his mill care career. >> what do you want to be remembered for? >> he served his country. that's what i would like to see. he served his country. hopefully, with the word honorably on it. that's all. ♪ it's the final days of the ford summer sales event. ♪
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this place is important. the work we do is important. our strange rules and seemingly eccentr eccentric practices are important. we are an important check on the powers of executive. our powers are necessary for the president to appoint government officials and in many respects conduct foreign policy, whether or not we are of the same party, we are not the president's sub a ordinates, we are his we quaul. >> jack jacobs, retired colonel and a good friend here. colonel jack, good to see you. mccain's passing marks the end of the chapter, in some ways, a
legacy in american future here. i was thinking of him being one of the most visibility reminders of the vietnam war. you both served with honor. talk about his life, as an american and military hero from vietnam. >> he always thought wearing the uniform was the highest of all callings, you are representing all people not on the battlefield and defending all of those people. in addition to that, when you are wearing a uniform, you are carrying out decisions that are made in the abstract by people who are very far away from where the shooting is, who don't really have a good view of what it's like to be at the bottom of the food chain, trying to slug it out and do what needs to get done in order to accomplish the defense of the country. he always went back to, if you talk to him, he would always go back, not to the events of his service, he would go back to
the -- to the notion that when you are wearing a uniform, you are doing the will of the people. it was incumbent on the people making those decisions, to make the best decisions they possibly could because they were, in theory, keeping the country free and also had to keep faith with those people like him and like me and millions of others who were carrying it out. >> i'm curious about how he reacted to john kerry, a senate colleague of his, who returned to war and testified on capitol hill in 1971, saying a monster had been created by sending the troops to vietnam and he openly demonstrated, threw ribbons on the steps of the memorial. what was his response so that? >> john kerry conflated the decisions from the president all the way through to congress on one hand and the actions of the
people carrying out those decisions on the other. if you were making a decision and it's a bad one, at the highest levels of abstraction, you have a lot to answer for. if you were a young, soldier, sailor, marine, and you are carrying those out and when you are on the battlefield or in the air and fighting, he has to accomplish those missions. but you are also fighting more than anything, for those who are around you and he thought that john kerry had collapsed those two things and he thought it was the wrong thing. >> his return to the hilton, one which he took his son with him. what was that like for him? >> it was very jarring, especially in view of the fact when you go there, to that museum, the vietnamese have a glass case, in which they have
displayed his flight uniform. so, it is a very jarring thing. you know, tom wolf once said, you can't go home again. that was his home for 5 1/2 years where they tortured him all the time and finally broke him. it was very jarring to go back. >> will you share a little bit about the lunch you have and how funny he was. >> a tremendous sense of humor, dry sense of humor that was burnished by his experiences over decades and decades, first in uniform, then later on on the hill. i said to him, i thought that he looked a lot like charlie chaplin. he said, you know, i think you're right, but i'm a lot funnier than he was. >> there you have it, john mccain, a man of humor and dignity. >> a real hero in everybody's
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