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US Senator John McCain Has Died At The Age Of 81. Aired: 9-10p ET

Aired August 25, 2018 - 21:00   ET

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


JAN BREWER, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ARIZONA: People that have been able to get to know him.

ANA CABRERA, ANCHOR, CNN: No kidding.

BREWER: A big - a huge loss today. A huge loss. I hope that God has Him in his hand and keeps him safe.

CABRERA: Absolutely. I can hear the emotion in your voice, Governor Brewer, stay with me. I want to welcome our viewers who are just joining us at the top of the hour here.

If you are just joining us, we are following breaking news here on CNN. US Senator John McCain has died at the age of 81. His passing comes after a battle with brain cancer first diagnosed in July of 2017. The Republican from Arizona was a giant in American politics respected on both sides of the aisle. Elected to the Senate six times, the first time in 1987. Now, McCain also served in the US Navy for more than 20 years. He was a captain. He was shot down over North Vietnam and held there as a prisoner of war for more than five years.

He ran for president twice and in 2008, he became the Republican nominee for president eventually losing to Barack Obama. Most recently, he has become an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, and joining us live now in Washington, I want to go back to our Dana Bash, our chief political correspondent and Dana, I know you were in close contact with those who are very close to John McCain this evening as he passed away. What have you learned about his final hours?

DANA BASH, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: My understanding is that they were peaceful and he lived his final hours, final days, final weeks in his favorite place in the world and that is a place they call The Cabin. It was a little bit more than that, but a beautiful spot that the senator and his wife and his family built and called home for many, many years. It is, even though it is Arizona, which you think of as a desert, it is a place that has grass and trees, Sycamore trees and a creek and what he had been doing before he stopped treatment is looking out at the creek, looking out at the hawks, but it is the place where he passed away with his family, with his close friends, long time confidants surrounding him.

This is obviously an incredibly sad day, but we have to remember that Senator McCain said over and over and over again that he understood that he lived the fullest of lives. He had many, many lives, not starting, of course, with the fact that he survived five and a half years of torture and two years of that were in isolation, solitary confinement during the Vietnam War.

He came back. Left the Navy. Went on to political service, first in the House and then in the Senate. Ran for president twice. That's the time I got to know him covering his campaigns and also, of course, before he had this cancer, he had skin cancer, and so he had so many fights, but he loved the fight.

I use the word fight because he used that word, but it was just passion. It was indefatigable passion that he had. Sometimes that passion showed up with a flare of anger, which he got over quickly, but it was always work, work, work, work, never stop, as he said, never look back. keep going. And, again, he always said that he has lived the most full life, the happiest of lives, with close friends, loves both romantic and otherwise in terms of friendship, and, of course, for his family, for his seven kids and his grandchildren.

And I should also mention he has a mother who is still with us who is over 100 years old, which is one of the reasons why people who have known and loved John McCain for so long thought he would be around well into his 80s as opposed to 81. And I just want to mention one thing that is, I think, a bit eerie and that is today, nine years ago, August 25th, 2009, is the day that his close friend Ted Kennedy passed away from the exact same disease, from the exact same brain cancer. Very close friends across the aisle even though they disagreed on lots of things, they worked together on everything from immigration to healthcare and the fact that they died on the same day is ironic, but maybe poignant and in some ways comforting maybe for their families given their relationship.

CABRERA: It gives me goosebumps to think about that. Dana, please stand by with us because you mentioned how he had friends on all sides of the aisle, in all walks of life, and one of those friends was former Vice President Joe Biden who also had a very personal fight with cancer.

[12:05:16]

CABRERA: His son, of course, died of the same kind of brain cancer that John McCain has now passed from. This is a statement now from Vice President Joe Biden on Senator John McCain. He writes, "John McCain's life is proof that some truths are timeless, character, courage, integrity, honor, a life lived embodying those truths casts a long, long shadow. John McCain will cast a long shadow. His impact on America hasn't ended, not even close. It will go on for years to come. As a POW, John endured what human beings can do to one another. In politics he fell short of his greatest ambition. At the end of his life, he faced a cruel and relentless disease, and yet through it all he never lost sight of what he believed most - country first and the spirit that drove him was never extinguished. We are here to commit ourselves to something bigger than ourselves. John has and was many things - a proud graduate of the Naval Academy, a senate colleague, a political opponent, but to me, more than anything, John was a friend. America will miss John McCain. The world will miss John McCain and I will miss him dearly. On behalf of myself, Jill, and the entire Biden family, our sincerest condolences go out to Cindy, Doug, Andy, Sidney, Meghan, Jack, Jimmy, Bridget, and the entire McCain family."

I want to go live now to Stephanie Elam. She is outside the ranch where Senator McCain passed away this evening. These are live pictures as you see the hearse there, a very sad moment. We learned that John McCain passed away at 4:28 this afternoon. I believe that is local time, not according to the press release put out from the senator's office. Our Stephanie Elam is there live in Sedona, Arizona. Stephanie, fill us in on what's been happening there and what you're hearing on the ground.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, right now, Ana you're seeing the most activity. There is just the police escort here to the ranch that Dana so beautifully described just a few moments ago here at what they call The Cabin out here in the rural part of Arizona, where near Sedona and I have to tell you, it has been such a strikingly beautiful day up here with the cloud cover and the rain came in.

But up against those stark red rocks that you can see here in Sedona, that I could see why Senator McCain called this home, called this place that he wanted to be, and just now we saw the hearse making their way into the property, here along with a bunch of other SUVs that are making their way from what we understand is about a mile long ride to make their way up to the cabin up this road.

The Troopers were not here. We've been here all day, we've been here since the middle of the night. The troopers were not here earlier, but they're out here now marking this passing that we have heard of Senator McCain passing away under his own sort of plan, under his own way. And it seems like most of this has already been planned out with the reaction that we are seeing here.

But this is the most activity we've seen here all day right now, Ana, is this procession of SUVs making it up there with the escort of the motorcycle police officers who have just made their way in here and making it up this dirt road. But from what we understand, it's a beautiful oasis up there. It's a place where he could reflect on his life. And in this time, what we've been struck by here is just how much Senator McCain has played a part in planning his end of days and how he wanted to be remembered.

And right now, obviously everyone's hearts here, you've seen people coming by bringing flowers - there's a sign out here. You may not be able to read it because it's kind of faint, but there is a sign out there, we saw a man come by with a sign up that said - he was a huge Trump supporter. The flag was massive on this truck. There was no surprise about that, but at the same time, despite the fact that we've seen lots of disagreement and animosity between the President and the Senator, this man came out here and brought a sign up here that says "Senator McCain, thank you for your service."

So the people of Arizona, very thankful to the senator for all he has done. Keep in mind, he was elected six times to represent this state. He was loved here. And as people have been coming by and seeing this and dropping off flowers, they are feeling for the McCain family. I'm feeling for the McCain family as someone who just loved my father to cancer, I'm a little emotional, so forgive me if you hear it in my voice. I'm feeling for the McCains right now as well. It is a difficult, difficult time but it sounds like the senator did so much of it as he did his life.

[21:09:57]

ELAM: Even if it wasn't popular, he spoke out in a way that he felt was correct, even if it that may have costing him the presidency. This is how he wanted his life to be remembered and it's striking and you can feel that here on the ground in Sedona, Ana.

CABRERA: A man of character, a man of integrity, a man who was really, really loved by so many people. Thank you Stephanie Elam. Please stay with us. I want to bring back the former Governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer. Thank you for staying with me on the phone Governor Brewer. What did John McCain mean to the state of Arizona?

ARIZONA: I think he meant everything. He was what Arizona represented a maverick, the Wild West. He stood for the Arizonan principles. He embodied it. He was truly was such a marvelous man and it's just hard to comprehend that he's not going to be here with us.

He is a man that he is so hard to explain and everybody has put so many beautiful words together out there to describe him, but he's probably one of the most difficult persons to describe because once you know him, you love him and he loves you back. He just was so engaging and that earnest-y about what it was that he wanted to do for our country and particularly for the state of Arizona and he was willing to fight for it.

He was willing to go to bat for it. He was willing to stand as a man of one if he had to and to know from whence he came to Arizona from Vietnam and to build his family here with Cindy and his children and gave his all, he gave his all for our country and he never flinched, never flinching. Even when he was under attack, he had that hearty belly laugh that came from inside.

CABRERA: No doubt he didn't lose his sense of humor through it all.

BREWER: No.

CABRERA: And I have to ask you because you know as well as anybody, as a politician, it's a tough go and this is somebody who served six terms in the US Senate. To what do you attribute that longevity?

BREWER: It's interesting. Tenacity, the will to want to make a difference, the will to serve your country. John and I started our careers together. He ran for the United States Congress and I ran for the Arizona House of Representatives here in Arizona and then he ran for the Senate and I ran for the Arizona Senate. So our lives have paralleled all these years and, of course, we worked very closely when I was governor with him. I think that's because people knew that he would fight for what he

believed in and I always felt like, you know, he really loved his country. I think other people understood he really loved his country and he would never do anything to harm it. Whether you agree with him or not, he was doing what he thought was right and I think that in itself just shown through.

I mean, people know that John McCain loved his country and he would fight. He would fight. He gave his life for six years as a POW. All these years as a public servant, getting beaten up, battered about, ripped apart, but he stood his ground. And I tell you, I've said it more than once, if I was in a war, oh boy, I'd want John McCain in my foxhole.

CABRERA: Yes.

BREWER: That's how he made me feel. He made me feel safe and secure and he was accessible. You could talk to John McCain.

CABRERA: Do you think he felt optimistic, though, about his party until the end?

BREWER: There are certain arenas that were not friendly to John McCain within the Republican Party, but I think overwhelmingly everybody appreciated him and respected him. It's tough out there. Politics is a nasty world and it got mean and it got ugly. But let me tell you, John McCain never, ever flinched. He never flinched. Never blinked. Never blinked.

One of the proudest days of my life was in Minneapolis when he was running for president and I was able to nominate him for President - to be the Republican nominee for President and to stand on that floor and to know that I knew that great man and to nominate him for that nomination. My heart just swelled. It was like, "How did this happen to me that I got that honor," and I will never forget that. I will never forget that.

[21:15:09]

BREWER: It's something that I can't put into words. I wish I could. I wish I could explain how I truly loved him, respected him and stood up and fought tigers for him on some occasions and did it willingly and I will miss him. I will miss him so, so much.

BABRERA: Former Governor Jan Brewer, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, your love, your passion, your appreciation for Senator John McCain is felt through your words and your emotion tonight. Again, thank you. You talked about nominating him for president, that was in his 2008 presidential run where he became the Republican nominee for president. Went head to head with Barack Obama. That was the year he chose Sarah Palin to be his running mate.

She too is reacting tonight, tweeting this just a few moments ago. "Today, we lost an American original. Senator John McCain was a Maverick and a fighter. Never afraid to stand for his beliefs. John never took the easy path in life and through sacrifice and suffering, he inspired others to serve something greater than self." She also writes, "John McCain was my friend. I will remember the good times. My family and I send prayers for Cindy and the McCain family." That was from Sarah Palin and family and you see the picture that she tweeted out, the two of them laughing, it looks like a belly laugh there from Senator John McCain and Sarah Palin as well that year in 2008 as they ran as running mates for the presidency and vice presidency.

I want to go back to our Wolf Blitzer who is still with us and Wolf, I asked this question to Jan Brewer because so many people now have commented on how he didn't take the easy route and he stayed true to himself, to what he believed was right for the people he represented in Arizona and really tried to do what was right for the country in the best interests of America, and yet this last year or so of service as he continued to battle this disease of brain cancer that was so aggressive and struggled with his health, he maintained that conviction and wanted to continue to serve in his capacity as a US Senator and he really did bang heads with some of those who were in his party on Capitol Hill and of course at the White House. Do you believe that he was optimistic about his party at this point?

WOLF BLITZER, ANCHOR, CNN: I think he had obviously very strong disagreements with President Trump on several issues and that became clear and there was no love lost between these two men, but I think he was basically an optimist about the United States, the greatest country in the world.

He basically had total confidence that whatever differences there are, whatever disagreements there, whatever crises there may be, this country will not only survive, but eventually will thrive. He was always so optimistic, even when the country was going through some very, very rough moments. He had from his own personal experience an appreciation that people will get through this. He had total confidence in the Constitution, total confidence in our democratic system and he was very gracious even in defeat - even in his defeat in 2008 when he lost the presidency, he lost the presidential election to Barack Obama, he was clearly very gracious in his defeat and he didn't walk away as others might have done.

He decided, "Yes, I'm not going to be the President of the United States, but I still will be a United States senator, I still will be on the Armed Services Committee, I still will have a role in trying to get a comprehensive immigration passed. I still have a role in critically important economic related issues. I want to serve our country," and that's what he continued to do even in the aftermath of that political setback. But yes, there were plenty of differences, but I think bottom line, he was upbeat, he was optimistic.

CABRERA: Let me read again the President's tweet tonight. This is from President Donald Trump. He writes, "My deepest sympathies and respect goes out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you." And just moments ago, we saw the flag come down half-staff at the White House. There you go, you see it there flying now overhead half -staff remembering John McCain tonight who passed away today at the age of 81. This is a man who had many words that he shared over the course of his

life. Dana Bash, he wrote three books. The most recent was published just this past summer. I know you have some new information for us.

[21:20:05]

BASH: That's right, he actually wrote, I think maybe about a half a dozen books, believe it or not with his co-author and close friend, Mark Salter. But yes, before - I want to read a couple of quotes which I think are quite telling and poignant right now, but before that I just wanted to share something that the Democratic leader, Senator Chuck Schumer, who, again, this is a familiar theme that you're going to be hearing, a Democrat who has the utmost respect for Senator McCain, who worked with Senator McCain on a number of issues, has proposed that the Russell Office Building, which is the Senate Office Building where John McCain had his office for decades and oddly so, did his friend Ted Kennedy, they were in the same wing, Ted Kennedy was on the third floor, John McCain on the second floor, and what Senator Schumer wants to do is to rename the Russell Building after Senator John Sidney McCain, rename that building, which is a really, really big deal.

First of all, the fact that there is a Democrat announcing that; second of all, that it means that they would take the name Russell presumably away and it's a bit controversial because Senator Russell fought hard against the Civil Rights Bill and he was a long-time senator, very well regarded at the time, but since there have been questions about that building, so the fact that the top Democrat in the Senate and another good friend of John McCain wants to rename that building after him says a lot about Senator McCain's stature in the US Senate across the aisle.

As we've heard tonight, he certainly made his enemies, usually temporarily in the US Senate, when he was fighting hard for a piece of legislation, but everybody understood that it came from a place of love of country, love of issues and love of the American people. Whether they were with him on that particular issue or not, the fact that we've seen and heard statements from people like Senator Mitch McConnell who is the current Senate Majority Leader, whom I've watched Senator McCain tussle with for months and months on end over campaign finance reform, the fact he has been so loving frankly in his statements and the fact that he went to visit Senator McCain again says a lot about the bipartisan support for him.

You mentioned the fact that there are a lot of words that we are gifted to us from Senator McCain himself. One of the things we've heard about the fact he is a hero. He comes from a long line, a couple of hundred years of a military family, but he also had a passion for literature. He loved books.

Every one of his very lengthy trips that he took across the world visiting far flung places in order to go visit dissidents or visit leaders and talk about America's place in the world, he would read a book. And his favorite author by far was Ernest Hemmingway and his favorite book by Hemmingway was "For Whom The Bell Tolls " so he sort of litters his books with quotes and allusions to that book, and particularly the lead character, Robert Jordan, who was a larger than life figure who John McCain wanted to be like, he always said, his whole life, and I just want to read this for you. "The world is a fine place and worth fighting for and I hate very much to leave it, spoke my hero Robert Jordan in "For Whom The Bell Tolls." And I do, too. I hate to leave it, but I don't have a complaint, not one. It's been quite a ride. I've known great passions, seen amazing wonders, fought a war and helped make a peace. I've lived very well and I've been deprived of all comforts. I have been as lonely as a person can be and have enjoyed the company of heroes. I've suffered the deepest despair and experienced the highest exaltation. I made a small place for myself in the story of America and the history of my times."

I think this particular graph in his most recent book, "The Restless Wave" really does sum up so much of what Governor Jan Brewer really did explain is a very, very different complex man - very hard to sum up, even in a paragraph, never mind an entire book or 24 hours a day as we have here on CNN.

CABRERA: What's striking to me is I think the feeling people have expressed about their appreciation because of who he was, how he lived his life and his really commitment to serve that was at such a deep, deep, deep level who can't admire and appreciate that? Again, regardless of political party, it's an amazing characteristic to have that conviction and the way that conviction was poured into everything he did.

[21:25:16]

CABRERA: And as you say, words can't do him justice, but at the top of the hour looking forward to your documentary where you really are able to lay out and showcase John McCain the moments that made this man. Give us a little bit of an idea of what we'll see.

BASH: Well, Ana, there are so many stages of his very long, very rich life. Starting of course, with the fact that he was the son and grandson of four-star Admirals. When he was in Vietnam, his father - he didn't even know that his father had gotten promoted because he was in prison, but his father was in charge of what is effectively the Asia Command and so that is how senior his father was, how well respected he was, not just by his son, but by the military community.

His grandfather was a very important man in World War II and in the Pacific Command as well. And it goes even back. He can trace his lineage at least according to his father, to somebody who worked alongside George Washington and apparently on one line, they can go all the way back Charlemagne. That is how ingrained and entrenched the idea of service and military honor his family is.

And so, when I mentioned the literature, I mean, he always joked that he kind of look up to and be jealous of friends in high school who went on to regular colleges, liberal arts schools, and got to study that full time where he knew always that his future was in the Naval Academy. He fought it. He was rambunctious. He graduated fifth from the bottom of his class. He joked about that all the time, but being a prisoner of war and even before that being on board the USS Forestall during the Vietnam War where there was an explosion and over 150 men died, and he saw many of his comrades die, that changed him.

So those are parts of him and, of course, his political career and the fact that he really has been a mentor to so many senators, Democrats and Republicans, about what it means to be a United States senator, taking them all around the world so many times. Younger senators, people who have known him for a long time, and he got that drive to do that because he himself was a liaison when he was still in the Navy to the United States Senate.

He was an attache and worked to help arrange these trips for members of the Armed Services Committee when he got back and got released from the Vietnam prison camp, from Hanoi Hilton.

So there's so many life experiences that he's had and there are certainly experiences that he has said that he regrets and things that were stains on his record, the Keating Five which we'll get into, but also he never got over the fact that when he was in the Hanoi Hilton, they broke him because they beat him so, so aggressively in that prison that he signed a false confession and to the day he died, I am sure he never got over that, even though every other human who begins to understand what someone like that went through would not fault him for it at all and haven't.

CABRERA: I mean, he is such a man of humility because he has talked about making mistakes in life and doing his best, but not always doing what is right. I think it's so interesting because of how he carried himself, he would never have known about all the awards and honors he racked up in his time in the military. I was looking at my notes here and it is amazing to know he has been awarded the silver star, the bronze star, the Legion of Merit, a purple heart and the distinguished flying cross. That speaks volumes about this man.

Dana Bash, stand by with me as we listen to Senator McCain's own words because last September he sat down with CNN's Jake Tapper and Jake asked him how he wanted to be remembered, so let's listen.

(START VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE TAPPER, ANCHOR, CNN: How is your family taking it? Cindy and Jack and Jimmy and Bridget and Meghan ...

JOHN MCCAIN, US SENATOR, ARIZONA, REPUBLICAN: Well, you know, it's tough. And we've tried to include them in when we have conference calls with the doctors. And by the way, Mayo Clinic, and they're paying me nothing for this is excellent. NIH has been really good, and so I'm getting the best treatment than anybody could get and I'm very happy. I'm very happy with my life. I'm very happy with what I've ...

[21:30:13]

MCCAIN: ... been able to do. There's two ways of looking at these things and one of them is to celebrate. I am able to celebrate a wonderful life and I will be grateful for additional time that I have.

TAPPER: We were talking about old memories. I covered the Straight Talk Express, your campaign in 2000. I have a vivid memory. One time, we're flying on your airplane during that 2000 presidential race and you remember that plane was a bucket of bolts. That was an awful plane.

MCCAIN: It was on the tube.

TAPPER: And we were going through turbulence, it was bad turbulence. People on the plane were scared. I was scared. You were standing in the aisle holding a glass of vodka, I think, and you were saying, "They can't kill me in a plane. I can't be killed in a plane," because obviously, you had survived a number of plane crashes as a Navy pilot. Does this face off with mortality feel different than previous ones you have faced?

MCCAIN: I think the other ones I had much more control, obviously. I was flying the airplane, although the melanoma was similar to this, but it's similar in that the challenges are very significant obviously, but everything so far has gone very, very well and I'm very grateful and I've had no side effects, no nothing, except frankly an increased level of energy and I want to thank the doctors and the nurses and the attendants and all of those who inflicted so much pain on me. I didn't know I had any blood left, but I'd like to thank them for their wonderful care. They're wonderful people.

TAPPER: Last question on health and then we'll move on to issues and that is, you went through chemo and radiation to fight this cancer. When do you find out if it worked?

MCCAIN: On Monday, we will take an MRI, but so far, all indications are very good. But again, I'm not trying to paint this as a rosy picture. This has a very virulent form of cancer. It has to be fought against. We have new technologies which I won't bother you with the details of that make chances much better, but Jake, every life has to end one way or another. I think it was a playwright, I'll think of his name in a minute, he said I always knew that no one could live forever, but I thought there might be one exception.

TAPPER: That reminds me ...

MCCAIN: You've got to have joy, joy. Listen, those joyful memories of the campaign in 2000 are some of the most enjoyable types times of my life. We were the underdogs. We were fighting our way up. We went to Sedona if you remember. I mean, everything was so magic about that campaign and I'm very grateful for having the opportunity. Remember, I'm the guy that stood fifth from the bottom of his class at the Naval Academy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: His smile. You've got to love that. Meghan McCain tweeted about her father tonight. She too talk about his joy and what he brought to this world, to her personally. She writes, "I love you forever my beloved father, Senator John McCain," and then you see her statement below, the longer statement, she says, "My father, United States Senator John McCain III departed this life today. I was with my father at his end as he was with me at my beginning. In the 33 years we shared together, he raised me, taught me, corrected me, comforted me, encouraged me and supported me in all things. He loved me and I loved him."

Presidents also tweeting out their responses. President Donald Trump tweeting this earlier this evening, "My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you." I also want to go to Stephanie Elam who is on the ground now in Arizona where word of McCain's death obviously has now trickled out into the community there. Stephanie, what's the reaction?

ELAN: Well, we've had a few people stop by. One man just stopped by in a pickup truck to ask what was the status of Senator McCain and when I told him, he took a moment, kind of curled his lips and digested that news. I don't think you can understate, Ana, just how much Senator McCain is loved in the state of Arizona. You don't really have to look further than the fact that he was elected six times to the US Senate to represent this state, but all day long, people have been stopping, dropping off flowers, checking in, seeing if we know anything before they do about the status.

Cell reception is spotty in this area, so not everyone has been able to get that information on their phone as quickly as perhaps you would in a city, and we've seen people stopping by and dropping off flowers and they've been very receptive, I have to say. The security that's been here all day, it's beefed up a little bit now since we've seen - since we got official word ...

[21:35:16]

ELAM: ... that the Senator has passed away, that there is more vehicles out here now. It seems like there's almost like three levels of checkpoints now. It was just one before, so just the idea that people are being this respectful out here in Sedona, where obviously, he was loved in this very beautiful part of the United States.

And just to give you an idea, earlier this morning there was a gentlemen who came by with a a truck - a small truck with two very huge flags. One of them was a Trump banner that he was flying off the back of his truck and I think that's noteworthy in the sense that you know how much Senator McCain and President Trump have clashed. We know how much to the point that we hear that President Trump is not invited to his funeral proceedings, but that man came here today and he hoisted up that sign here that said, "Senator McCain, thank you for your service."

It just says a lot about how much Senator McCain is respected and loved here in the state. And here in Sedona, which is a beautiful part of the country and today, the weather and all that we've seen of the sky changing here today, it's been moody for lack of a better word. It's been moody here. It's cool now. It's drizzling a little bit here today and in many ways, it definitely feels the appropriate response from the heavens above as we've gotten word now that Senator McCain has passed on.

CABRERA: All right, Stephanie Elam, stand by. Thank you. And joining us now on the phone is Ohio Governor John Kasich. Governor Kasich, thank you for being with us. I know it's an emotional night for so many people in this country, yourself included. You and John McCain, we know, were friends and obviously colleagues as Republican leaders in this country. What are your thoughts tonight?

JOHN KASICH, GOVERNOR, OHIO, REPUBLICAN: Well, I mean, I'm kind of listening to the broadcast and as I listen it's - he was just really incredible. McCain was just an amazing guy. I first met him, we went into Congress together and we weren't there a couple of days before we all just knew that John was going to be the president of our class. He would be the leader of our class, and I've had so much time with him and just most recently, I remember he took a very hard position on the health care law and didn't feel as though it was going to be fair to people or help people and I called him and I said, "John, you know, you've always been a hero to me and you've just underlined it so many times because of the way in which you care so much about the people."

He's just an independent guy. He loved his country more than anything else and I just cannot tell you all the listeners what an incredible guy he was. He really did march to his own drummer. When he had to take a position that was sort of against the grain. He didn't revel in it. He just felt - there was a deep conscience about John, combined with a backbone that allowed him to just feel so good about what he did. And he inspired all of us, and I mean, you're not going to replace this guy. You just can't. There's only been one John McCain and there's not going to be another one like him.

For those that knew him and I have a number of friends that were really extremely close to him, it's such a sad day, but at the same time I'd have to say, we were so proud to be with him. Because you know John not only felt strongly about public policy and all of that, he had an incredible sense of humor. He just loved to laugh. I was with him not long ago in Munich and I saw some pictures just briefly and his buddy, Joe Lieberman, I mean, these guys were - they were like so close ...

CABRERA: We're looking at a picture of them right now smiling and laughing.

KASICH: Yes, I'm sure that Joe is so sad tonight. I mean, John just loved Joe and Joe just so much loved John and that was a deep, deep friendship. In politics a lot of times, they say if you want to have a friend, you get a dog. In most cases that's true, but when I think about Joe Lieberman and I think about John McCain, that was a deep, deep friendship.

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KASICH: And all I can say is I'm so glad that I knew him. I'm so glad that we were friends. I'm so glad that he had an opportunity to inspire our country. So there's going to be a lot said about him in the next few days, but I just have to tell the folks that are watching, at a time when we really want leaders, no one like him. He was the real McCoy.

CABRERA: When was the last time you spoke? KASICH: Well, I spoke to him, oh, I guess, it was about a month ago

and I said to him, "How are we doing with the Lord? How are we doing with the big guy?" And he said, "Johnnie ..." and he's one of the few people - my wife, my mother and John McCain - all three of them just call me "Johnnie" and said, "Johnnie, you don't have to worry about that. I'm squared away."

But you know, as time went on, it was harder and harder to talk to John because it was difficult for him. He was losing a lot of energy and we knew that this moment was just around the corner as my friends - in fact, I was just with one of his dear friends, a man who traveled with him on his campaign and he said, "John, John's not going to be around much longer." And one of my friends, John Weaver who works with me, this is going to be a devastating day. People that were around him, they just - they just loved him. They loved him.

CABRERA: What kinds of lessons do you think he - he was able to impart before he left?

KASICH: Well, for those that listened and today I think many of us wonder, do people listen? But for those that listened, it was America is always number one. Political parties or vehicles for which we do things, but that's not who we saluted. And we have just got to stand tall. That's what John did. I mean, he just stood tall. He just said, "I don't care. All the pressure that they can place on me ..." I don't think John - when you think about what he went through when he was at the Hanoi Hilton, I mean, what kind of pressure could you put on John?

And, you know, he just was not somebody that ever bent or folded, but he was polite about it and kind about it and he had that - that sort of that impish laugh about him, that chuckle that he had. So I think what everybody should take from him is think about what we're saying about him now. Wouldn't we all want somebody to say the things about us the way that we are saying things about John McCain? He is a great example for the way we need to conduct ourselves.

CABRERA: You both have expressed concern, especially in the last year - a year plus or so, about where the Republican Party is right now. I mean, now with his passing, do you feel more conviction that you have to really sort of pick up the mantel and fight that much harder for the soul of your party?

KASICH: Well, I think - the last time I was with John traveling was in Munich where he expressed the deep concerns about America, about the peace - since World War II about the strength of the alliance, about our friends - this is not a night to be thinking about party or any of that other stuff. It's really a night to just think about the contributions that he made and how dedicated he was, really peace through strength.

He was a peace through strength guy. Like, he - you're going to hear so much from all the traveling that he did and he just took so many people around the world and gave them exposure and tried to teach them that we are the best in America when we stand together with those that share our values. CABRERA: Such a great note to leave that. Thank you Governor John

Kasich for joining us, for sharing your thoughts, your memories about Senator John McCain, a man who has made such a deep mark on this world.

Joining us now to continue the conversation is another man who knew McCain well, who served alongside him in the state of Arizona, former Senator Jon Kyl, another Republican senator from Arizona. I know you were in the Senate with him for more than 15 years. Sir, what's on your mind right now?

JON KYL, FORMER US SENATOR: Well, I'm very sad. I mean, it's been 18 years I spent with John in the Senate and then six years since I left the Senate. We knew the time would come, but still when it comes, it's a very sad occasion. I was listening a little bit to your last interview and the fact is that I think when all is said and written about John McCain, one of the things that will be most important is his contribution to the country on national security and international relations.

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KYL: He led many, many, many congressional delegation trips abroad, and there were not for the nice places, these were the places like Yemen and Afghanistan and Iraq and so on, and he knew more world leaders. He knew more countries and what they were all about and I believe, having served with him, right alongside him for 18 years, he had the best instincts on national security matters of anybody in Washington, and you can throw the Secretaries of State in there.

I think John was one of our best representatives, our meaning of the United States of America abroad and I think he will be missed abroad as well as he is here in the United States.

CABRERA: What was he like in casual settings when he wasn't the Senator John McCain that we saw on camera doing his service for the country? When you guys were just hanging out behind the scenes when the cameras weren't on him, what was he like?

KYL: Well, one of my best memories is of several different congressional delegation trips with John, Lindsey Graham and others just sitting in the airplane for hours upon hours upon hours and the conversations we had. John was a very funny guy. He was very well read. He saw a lot of movies and so on.

And the interplay between John and Lindsey was like two great comedians like Martin and Lewis. They played off of each other. So, a lot of my memories are fun memories of those trips and they're both very quick to the quip, and John had such a great range of knowledge about the writings that he read a lot. He was a prolific reader and he had seen a lot of movies. He knew a lot of the pop culture. He knew a lot of the sports culture, as well as the important things that we were doing within the Senate. So it was always fun to be with him on these trips and that's one of the things I'll certainly remember.

CABRERA: What do you think he was most proud of, of the things you accomplished with him in the Senate?

KYL: I'm not sure. I know that he was proud of his achievements with respect to campaign finance reform and that sort of thing, but - and he was proud of some of the things he achieved here in the state of Arizona for Native Americans and our environment here and so on, but I hope he was proud of what I think is his most important legacy, which is his contribution to American national security and national relations.

CABRERA: What do you see as his contribution there?

KYL: Well, as I said before, I don't know of another American leader who knew more about the issues and had better instincts as to what we should be doing about them internationally as it relates to national security than John McCain over a period of 30 years or so. He traveled everywhere. He knew the foreign leaders. He knew the issues and he influenced a lot of policy through the young people he would take on these trips, the young senators and representatives and the information he would bring back to us all and how he would inform the debate on these issues. It was just extraordinary important. Our Secretaries of State do a lot of traveling and they meet a lot of people and they represent the US, but I'm telling you that john McCain did as much as any of them.

CABRERA: How does somebody these days serve as long as Senator John McCain? Six terms. First elected in the mid '80s. I mean, he had such a career and it's not easy being a politician, right? It's not easy to serve your country.

KYL: No, it's not and political winds shift and change and certainly the environment today is a lot different than it was when John was first elected. But I'll tell you how he was first elected. He jumped into a primary late when he moved to Arizona. There were three prominent candidates running for the House seat that was vacant from John Rhodes's retirement and John just outworked him.

He and Cindy and his team of young folks walked door-to-door and they simply outworked the more establishment candidates and he won the primary and then of course, he won the election and the rest is history.

CABRERA: Senator Kyl, let me interrupt for one moment. I want to let our viewers know we're looking at live pictures right now. This is a procession happening in Sedona, Arizona near the home of John McCain where he was spending his last days. So that's what we're looking at, but please continue.

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KYL: Well, I was saying John had a lot of energy. I mean, he got up early in the morning. He worked very hard all day all day long. He had more energy and ability to keep at the campaign than a lot of people who were a lot older than he was, and that counts for part of it. Part of it also was the fact that he just enjoyed the fight. He enjoyed being in the fight and in the campaign and in the effort. That's what drove him. By the way, I want to - I want make one comment. He fortunately had

the advantage in the last year or so of his life to be able to spend it in a place he just dearly loved, which is what you're looking at there. It's called Hidden Valley and it's the place that he and his family have. It's a beautiful spot on Oak Creek in Arizona. He was very proud of it. He was very happy there. It's a beautiful little piece of our environment. He enjoyed it immensely, and of course, that's where his family joined him and I'm just glad that he had that last year with his family in the place that he loved so much.

CABRERA: No doubt. Former Senator of Arizona, Jon Kyl, thank you very much for sharing your memories and your knowledge of Senator McCain with all of us. We continue to learn more about this man and the gifts that he leaves behind in this world, his legacy is something that is quite enormous.

We continue to look at these live pictures of the procession that's happening in honor and in memory of John McCain. We do see a hearse right there. We know that his family was with him in his final days and hours and are crying and hurting tonight obviously, but also thinking of him with great joy.

And I want to get back to Dana Bash. I know you're still with me. What are your thoughts as you watch this, Dana?

BASH: It's hard for him - to watch him leave this place that he loved as Senator Kyl knows really well and stated so eloquently. This place, Hidden Valley, is the place somebody who was - as an itinerant as he was as the son of an Admiral, traveled all around, barely stayed in the same school more than a year, this was a place he finally put down roots and adored and loved spending time with his family.

I was lucky enough as part of the traveling press corps in his 2008 presidential campaign to spend a little time there and witness his love of just cooking ribs on the grill and talking about all of the different plants that are growing and trees that are growing there and hawks that are flying and it is just so peaceful and it's a little bit ironic for somebody who you would never use or think of the word peaceful when you think of John McCain. He shuddered at peace. He was in constant motion, which is one of the many reasons why he was so prolific in politics and everything else, but this was a place that he could find peace and to see that procession, to see the hearse carrying John McCain away, that's pretty tough.

CABRERA: It is. Dana stay with me. We're hearing now from three former Presidents, Former President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary Clinton, saying, "Senator John McCain believed that every citizen has a responsibility to make something of the freedoms given by our Constitution and from his heroic service in the Navy to his 35 years in Congress, he lived by his creed every day. He was a skilled, tough politician, as well as a trusted colleague alongside whom Hillary was honored to serve in the Senate. He frequently put partisanship aside to do what he felt was best for the country and was never afraid to break the mold if it was the right thing to do. I will always be especially grateful for his leadership and our successful efforts to normalize relations with Vietnam. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Cindy, his mother, Roberta; his children and his entire family."

And he mentioned normalizing relation with Vietnam and that was in the '90s as part of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs, McCain, he worked with Democrats on normalizing relations and increasing trade with Vietnam. So one of his many, many marks that he leaves behind in history as we were just speaking with former Senator Kyl about how he really made a mark when it came to foreign relations and national security, that's where his passion was, that's where he really was courageous in making things happen.

Let me read you what former President George W. Bush is saying, also sharing his condolences saying, "Some lives are so vivid it is difficult to imagine them ended. Some voices are so vibrant, it is hard to think of them stilled. John McCain was a man of deep conviction and a patriot of the highest order. He was a public servant in the finest traditions of our country and to me ..."

[21:55:14]

CABRERA: "... he was a friend whom I will deeply miss. Laura and I send our heartfelt sympathies to Cindy and the entire McCain family and our thanks to God to the life of John McCain." And former President Jimmy Carter also saying this, "John McCain was a man of honor, a true patriot in the best sense of the word. Americans will be forever grateful for his heroic military service and for his steadfast integrity as a member of the United States Senate. Rosalynn and I extend our sincere condolences to Senator McCain's family and to the people of Arizona whom he represented so forthrightly for so many years."

And here you see the sun setting over Sedona, Arizona. I want to go back to Dana Bash. John McCain, he never won the presidency, Dana, but he also never gave up his fight for this country and he earned the respect of all of these Presidents who call him his friend.

BASH: That's right. I'm just mesmerized by what we're seeing on the screen, Ana, I'm sure you are, too. I mean, that's almost - it's other worldly what we're looking at with that sunset in his beloved place. It's hard to really find words to describe it and to describe the man. As you said, he didn't make it to the highest office in the land. He didn't make it to the White House, but the fact that we are hearing from two men who kept him from the presidency, George W. Bush in the primaries - the Republican primaries back in 2000 and, of course, President Barack Obama who beat him in the general election in 2008, with such long and heartfelt statements tells you so much about this man because they were his competitors, but they were not his adversaries and they were certainly not his enemies.

And I can just tell you that I was at John McCain's concession speech there in Arizona in Phoenix not far away where he talked about the fact that the country needed to unite behind Barack Obama and I have heard since that people, when John McCain would visit them around the world, they would quote that speech back to him, Ana, because it meant so much about the nature of our democracy and that is what John McCain always strove for, his mantra was, "Striving for a cause greater than one's own self," and he lived that and he spoke that and he acted that way until this day when he passed.

CABRERA: As we continue to look at these pictures, I just want to read to you a couple of quotes, John McCain's own words when he was talking about his diagnosis in his interview with Jake Tapper, he said, "I'm very happy with my life. I am very happy with what I have been able to do and there's two ways of looking at things and one of them is to celebrate. I'm able to celebrate a wonderful life and I will be grateful for additional time that I have," and that was last September. He went on to live another year even though his prognosis was not good. He knew it. But he lived his life fully to the very last days.

We look at the White House there, flag tonight at half-staff. He talked about how he wanted to be remembered. This is what he said, quote, "He served his country and not always right, made a lot of mistakes, made a lot of errors, but served his country," and I hope we could add honorably. I don't think there's anybody who would say John McCain did not serve honorably. He was an honorable man, Dana.

BASH: Duty, honor, country, that was john McCain and I will just say that Meghan McCain's full statement will take your breath away for anybody - everybody should read it and I will just read you part as we're looking at this fiery, fiery sky. Meghan McCain wrote in part, "He was a great fire who burned bright and we lived in his light and warmth for so very long. We know that his flame lives on in each of us." And you can almost see that in the sky there in Arizona, Ana.

CABRERA: All right, Dana Bash, thank you. Just to recap our breaking news, Senator John McCain, an American hero, dead at age 81 surrounded by his family and his loved ones at his ranch in Sedona, Arizona. CNN takes a look back at his incredible life of service and sacrifice now in this Dana Bash documentary, John McCain, "Moments That Made The Man."

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