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Remembering John McCain. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired August 26, 2018 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:32] DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Dana Bash in Washington. John King is off today.

This morning, a nation in mourning for the loss of John McCain, the man, and the loss of what John McCain represented to and about America.

First, the man. John Sidney McCain III was as complex as they come, stubborn and flawed, he survived many brush with death, spent a lifetime trying to live up to larger than life characters he idolized, both real and fictional. He forever was the hot dogfighter pilot with a dramatic flair, quick to anger but equally quick to forgive and always eager to share a laugh. He cherished his family and was unusually open about the depth of his love for his friends, a towering figure despite his less than towering stature.

What his loss means for America is even more complex. Sure, he was a hero, yes, a war hero. He was a conservative who fought for smaller government yet spent a lifetime revering and protecting the institutions of government and democracy. He was passionate about his beliefs but also understood the art of compromise for the greater good.

He seized the moment on that very issue last July during a dramatic return to the Senate after his cancer diagnosis.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Stop listening to the bombastic loud mouths on the radio and television and internet. To hell with them.


Let's trust each other. Let's return to regular order. We've been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle. We're getting nothing done, my friends, we're getting nothing done.


BASH: He had a unique voice and he knew it and he wasn't afraid to use it. He was an unofficial ambassador for the United States for decades, traveling the world, trying to help dissidents fighting for freedom and basic rights, believing to his core that America has an obligation to do that. The senator will lie in state in the capitol rotunda ahead of his

funeral at the Washington National Cathedral and burial in Annapolis, Maryland, at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama will deliver eulogies, something I'm told McCain personally asked to do before he died -- two men who at different times kept McCain from becoming president.

In a statement, President Obama wrote: Few of us have been tested the way John was once or required to show the kind of courage that he did. But all of us can aspire to the courage and put the greater good above our own. At John's best, he showed us what that means and for that, we are all in his debt.

And from President George W. Bush: Some lives are so vivid it is difficult to imagine them ended. Some voices are so vibrant, it is hard to think of them still. He was a public servant in the finest traditions of our country and to me, he was a friend whom I'll deeply miss.

And McCain spent years going out of his way to take senators in both parties under his wing, trying to impart the values that he has about his worldview to them.

And Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, a Democrat, is one of them and joins me from his home state in Lewes, Delaware.

Senator, thank you so much for joining me. I know it's a very difficult morning for you and also that you went to see the senator at his home in Arizona within the last few months. Talk about that.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Well, thank you for a chance to be on with you and thank you for that beautiful and well-written summary of John's remarkable career of service to our country.

I just thought it was such a blessing to get a chance to visit with John and Cindy in Phoenix. He had a sense of humor and courage. He was at peace.

He said to me he had no regrets and, you know, he didn't want me to sit around and get weepy about his prognosis s. He wanted to trade inside jokes and comments about what was going on in the Senate. He talked to talk about events of the day and wanted to talk about a bill that we were both working about immigration. He kept working, he kept fighting, and he kept serving literally to his last day.

BASH: And, Senator, as you're speaking, we're looking at photos that you shared with me several months ago of the trip that you took with him, his final trip to Vietnam. You went with him not just to the country but to the place he was imprisoned and tortured for five and a half years.

[08:05:05] COONS: That was a remarkable visit. Dana, if anyone doubted his courage, his dedication to our country, spending time with him in Vietnam was just a remarkable experience to get to go and visit the Hanoi Hilton, the prison where he spent five years under terrible conditions, two years in solitary confinement, being a victim of torture, being someone who resisted torture.

But then also to see the ways in which he worked tirelessly to rebuild bridges between the American and Vietnamese picture, the incredibly high regard in which he was held by the leaders and the people of Vietnam, that's really one of the lasting tributes to John. You mentioned that his tributes at his funeral will be given by his opponents, by men he ran against for president, both President Bush and President Obama. I was so struck by his ability to help our country reconcile with Vietnam and to reconcile with that difficult chapter in our history.

BASH: I mean, for somebody to be held captive and tortured the way he was and to lead the charge to reconcile and establish diplomatic relations with that very country does say a lot.

Senator, you are a Democrat. John McCain was a Republican. You were half John McCain's age and yet you formed a bond with him.

What is the significance of that that people should take away from your deep friendship?

COONS: John cared deeply about the Senate. He fought tirelessly for the Senate and he invested a lot of time and care in younger senators. When I first met him, he was pretty intimidating. He was chairman of the Armed Services Committee, two time presidential candidate, a global leading figure and he could be gruff and he put me through my paces.

But once you demonstrated to him you would stand up for your own principles and you push back and you debate with him, he was a remarkable friend and great mentor. He had a tireless optimism and great sense of humor, and he was just amazing to travel.

And over the eight years that I had, the blessing of serving with him, it just was an enormous opportunity for me to learn from someone how to work across the aisle, how to respect our veterans, how to be optimistic about our country. He just never stopped surprising me and never stopped challenging me.

BASH: And he led by example but this was a very deliberate -- I don't want to say strategy but part of his character to reach out to people like you, to teach how to be like him, to teach his approach to the Senate and to the world, right?

COONS: That's right. John really was concerned about the sort of tribalism in the Senate in the way in which our modern politics and our countries deeply dividing the partisan way, he pressed me to get to know younger senators, senators of my generation who are Republicans to travel with him, to legislate with him, to work with him, to get to know their families and respect them.

One of the great friendships in the Senate was between Joe Biden, my predecessor and John McCain. They knew each other and served alongside each other more than 40 years and the speech given last year at the National Constitution Center when former Vice President Biden introduced Senator McCain and then when Senator McCain accepted the medal is one of the most moving exchanges, speeches I've ever heard. It should be required viewing at every high school in America.

BASH: I agree, you and I were both there.

I want to just ask a bit of business, if you will. The Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, you probably heard wants to rename the Russell Office Building. You have your office there, McCain had his office there for decades, I think left trenches in the marble racing through the hallways all of those years. He wants to rename it after John McCain. Good idea?

COONS: I think it's an excellent idea. We should honor John in a couple of ways. That would be a terrific thing for us to do, I think.

I also think we should do more for national service. He fought tirelessly for our armed forces and veterans and he believed at national service whether civilian or military, helps to bring our country together, helps make it possible for young people to earn college and to gain skills and I'd like to do something in the national service arena in his name and his honor.

And last, you know, anyone who is watching, if you know someone who is a Vietnam era veteran, or who's a veteran of any kind, we could all do more in John's memory to be grateful for and to support America's veterans.

BASH: Well said.

Senator Coons, thank you so much for coming on this morning and talking about your good friend. Appreciate it.

COONS: Thank you.

BASH: And up next, a conversation with John McCain's best friend in the Senate, Lindsey Graham.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: He is loyal to his friends. He loves his country. And if he has to stand up to his party for his country, so be it.

[08:10:01] He would die for this country. I love him to death.




BASH: Flags around the country are flying at half staff to honor and mourn the passing of Senator John McCain. McCain died Saturday afternoon at age 81 surrounded by his wife and his family. His office noted at the time of death, he had served his country for 60 years. One of the men he served with was Senator Lindsey Graham. And two men

were the closest of friends for two decades. And Senator Graham tweeted this upon hearing the news: America and freedom have lost one of her greatest champions, and I've lost one of my dearest friends and mentor. Graham adds: I will need some time to absorb this but I want Cindy and the entire McCain family to know they are in my prayers.

I recently spoke with Senator Graham about his friend.


[08:15:03] BASH: Why are people so loyal to John McCain?

GRAHAM: I think respect part of it, is that you've got to respect the way he's lived his life, the way he sacrificed for the country. And I think loyalty breeds loyalty. He can be tough. He's a politician like the rest of us.

But the one thing I always believed about John, if I really needed him, he would be here. When he joins the side, he sticks to the bitter end. There's no changing sides.

BASH: And the two of you are very good friends and I think one of the things that draws you to one another is humor.

GRAHAM: Yes, I have some, he doesn't.


GRAHAM: So -- he's very funny. You know, he's funny in the weirdest kind of ways.

You know, I'm not a big reader. He is. But I might as well be because he reads the entire book to me.

BASH: He reads aloud.

GRAHAM: Yes, reads aloud. What do you think about that? I said, I think if I like that book, I would have bought it.

But John has a very sarcastic sense of humor that took him through some pretty dark times, but he's a very funny guy.

BASH: Tell me about John McCain's temper?

GRAHAM: He's got one. He come by it honestly. Yes, he can get really mad and -- but the ability to let it go amazes me to this day. I mean, he can really let it rip and come up and say, hey, I'm sorry.

BASH: Have you ever been on the receiving end?

GRAHAM: Oh, everybody has. Ask everybody in the Senate. If he hadn't been cussed out by John, that means you haven't done much.

But he thinks -- I mean, every cause is like the most important thing at the moment and if you're on the other side, you're a crappie person. When it's over, hey, buddy, how are you doing? He just to this day, he fights like he's a plebe at the naval academy.

BASH: Talk about John McCain as a military man and the McCain family and what that means for him to try to live up to it.

GRAHAM: OK, to really understand Senator McCain, you got to understand where he comes from family-wise. His dad was a four-star admiral. His grandfather was a four-star admiral. They were gone a lot.

His mother really was the heart and souls that family but the values of his father and grandfather, he very much -- mean a lot to him. So, when John talks about the military, he does so with a reverence. When he visits the troops, he feels compelled not to let them down. There's a part of John McCain that to this day is driven by not letting people down.

You know, it is my job to take care of these men and women. And I think his father and his grandfather instilled in him a sense of duty, honor and country.

BASH: The big return. He had a surgery and got the diagnosis and came back. First of all, the moment when he walked into the Senate chamber.

GRAHAM: Yes, I mean, I didn't see this coming. I thought it would be something with a melanoma, I knew he wasn't himself. But nobody close to him, including him, expected this diagnosis.

So, when he came back, for first time, I appreciated him -- didn't take for granted that he would be there. I've always viewed him as indestructible. It's never crossed my mind there would be political life for Lindsey Graham about John McCain until now.

BASH: That must be hard.

GRAHAM: It's different. It's different. So, when he came back, it's the first time I saw him walk into chamber where I really thought that maybe he wouldn't be here forever.

BASH: And witnessing the embrace after embrace after embrace, it seemed to take him by surprise.

GRAHAM: I think he appreciated it, didn't expect it but it meant the world to him. And from everybody on behalf of his family, it meant the world to him and some people came up and hugged him who had been on the wrong side, in John's mind, their mind, John was on the wrong side for 20 years. It says a lot about the guy.


BASH: Sure does. And up next, memories of John McCain from his one time Senate colleague friend and yes, drinking buddy, Hillary Clinton.


[08:24:03] BASH: John McCain ran for president twice. George W. Bush defeated him for the Republican nomination in 2000. He won the nomination eight years later but not the general election. The night of his defeat by Barack Obama.

True to form, McCain gave a speech for the country, not for himself.


MCCAIN: This is a historic election and I recognize the special significance it has for African-Americans. And for the special pride that must be theirs tonight. I've always believed that America offers opportunities to all who have the industry and will to seize it.

Senator Obama believes that too. But we both recognize that though we've come a long way from the old injustices that once stained our nation's reputation and denied some Americans the full blessings of American citizenship, the memory of them still had the power to wound.


[08:25:06] BASH: McCain worked closely with President Obama's secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. They had been colleagues in the Senate, traveled extensively together and became good friends.

I spoke with her about their time together.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: We did have a chance to really share some of the experiences that come with being at the highest levels of American politics.

BASH: Is there something that stuck with you about the conversations that you had about those experiences at the highest level of politics?

CLINTON: John and I started traveling together on his very famous Senate CODELs. He liked to tryout different colleagues to see whether they were good traveling companions. And I admit to being a little surprised when he first approached me and said, would you like to travel? And I immediately said, sure, I think that would be quite an experience.

And during those long, long flights, we had a lot of time to talk. We talked about the unfairness that sometimes infects our politics.

If you were his friend, he would stand up for you. He would defend you. He didn't like the personal attacks that went along with politics that became increasingly common. And I knew how painful it had been for him with the attacks on his family and obviously he knew what it was like for me.

We basically said, look, this is not the way politics should be conducted. We should be arguing over issues and differences and we shouldn't be denigrating people. We shouldn't be lying about people's families. We shouldn't be using the personal to really substitute for the political. And as long as I've known him, that's what he's tried to do. BASH: You bonded over a lot of policy issues, particularly serving

the other in the armed services committee.

CLINTON: Yes, we did. One was taking care of our troops, understanding the military strategy in Iraq an Afghanistan. I had a memorable trip with him to both countries in 2005.

And traveling with John was great, because if a door didn't open, he just started banging on it until it fell. So, if we wanted to see somebody and the ambassador or the general didn't want us to see that person, I can guarantee you after John was done making the case, we would see them.

But it was poignant because seeing John with soldiers was really seeing him in his element. They knew his story. They respected him. He felt very protective toward them.

So, every time I went anywhere with him, I learned something. And we had fun and laughed a lot. We had some drinking associated with our fun --

BASH: You got to tell me about the vodka shots.

CLINTON: Well, our most famous experience with vodka shots was in Tallinn, Estonia, and, of course, we were there because John understand that Estonia was right on front lines with Russia and although we all hoped that Russia would be a good partner, we had reason to be concerned. So, we spent a memorable night in a hotel right on the old square in Tallinn doing vodka shots.

BASH: And I've heard or I've seen reported that it was your idea.

CLINTON: Oh, I would not take credit for it. I think -- I think it was a mutually agreed upon venture but we used to say what happens in Tallinn stays in Tallinn.

BASH: 2008, for a long time, people thought the two of you were going to go up against each other.

CLINTON: We did. I think we both thought that. I thought it would have been a great campaign because we both respected each other and worked with each other. And in that campaign, that eventually did happen, with Senator McCain running against then Senator Obama, I so respected John, because, you know, when his supporters got carried away and started making racial or religious comments about then Senator Obama or Mrs. Obama. He would just shot him down.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's an Arab. He's not --

MCCAIN: No, ma'am. No, ma'am. He's a decent family man, citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with.


CLINTON: He would not go along with that kind of talk.

BASH: What did that tell you about John McCain?

CLINTON: Well, it was so in keeping with who John McCain is. You know, John believes so deeply in fundamental fairness. He could -- he can get really wrought up and be upset with people and sometimes say things he later regrets.

BASH: Did that ever happen with you?


CLINTON: Well, occasionally. But overall, he's a very honorable person and he has deep integrity that does lead him to defend those he thinks are wrongly accused. I saw that with respect to my own staff. Because of our traveling together, he got to know Huma Abedin who worked with me.

And then when some on the far right began to attack her and make all these accusations against her, which were, you know, totally fraudulent , John McCain went to the floor of the Senate and defended her. And I will never forget that because that's who he is.

BASH: The concession speech that John McCain gave in 2008.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our goodwill and earnest effort to find ways to come together.

BASH: People close to McCain have told me that when he travels, people he meets quote that speech back to him, particularly in places where they are striving to be like America. What did that speech mean to you, particularly about him?

CLINTON: That he's a great patriot and that he understands that our democracy has to be protected and defended every day.

He wanted to make clear not just to his supporters, but to all Americans and indeed to the world audience that we have elections in America. And we are proud of our democracy. We have a winner and we have a loser. And if you're on the losing side, you speak up and do your part to try to keep our democracy going.

BASH: Did you study his speech, his concession speech or think about it when you had to give yours?

CLINTON: I did think about it. I thought that it was -- it was such a tribute to who he is as a man, as a political leader and as you know in my concession speech, I tried to reach out to my supporters, including particularly little girls and young women that they not get discouraged, that their voices mattered.

So I tried to speak in a way that would create the same sort of reaction, even from people who were incredibly upset about what happened, didn't know what happened, couldn't figure it out. And I did want to give the President-elect all the opportunity in the world to transition from being a partisan and whipping up the feelings, the anger, the resentment, the fears of the people who supported him, to being a president for all the people. That's what John McCain would have done had he won.

BASH: What's John McCain's legacy?

CLINTON: A warrior patriot. You know, when I first started traveling with John, I saw in a very personal way how, you know, he couldn't lift his arm. He couldn't comb his hair. He had trouble physically because of the torture and the injuries that he endured in the service of our country.

I saw the same grit and commitment that made him turn down early release from the Hanoi Hilton prison in Vietnam. I saw someone who revered the values of our country. And he's always thinking about America's place in history and America's place in the world.

I saw his passion and his love, his love of his family, his love of our country, his love of the friends that he has made over the years. And he is a patriot. Regardless of party, he is a patriot. And I am honored that he's also my friend.


BASH: You've heard many words to describe John McCain -- hero, statesman, fighter, patriot, but the label he most reveled in especially during his political campaigns is, of course, Maverick.

Next our panel of reporters shares their memories of and with John McCain.



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: How do you want the American people to remember you?

MCCAIN: 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".


BASH: Amid the national outpouring of sympathy for John McCain's family is a tweet from President Trump. He tweeted "My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you."

To say Donald Trump and John McCain never hit it off is probably the most polite way, I think, of describing the relationship. The President is not expected to attend McCain's funeral.

We can talk about that and a lot more with our panel here to share the reporting and their insights: the "Washington Post's" Josh Dawsey, Julie Hirschfeld-Davis from the "New York Times", and Michael Shear from the "New York Times", and Jackie Kucinich from the "Daily Beast".

Let's start on that beat. Josh -- you had a story in the paper this weekend in your paper the "Washington Post". And you write among the things that you discussed is the following. "Their increasingly combative relationship has served as a metaphor of sorts for the Republican Party -- the former Vietnam POW and proud conservative who fell short to Barack Obama in his run for president in 2008 versus the loud draft avoider who rapidly seized control of the GOP and White House eight years later."

[08:40:02] It is so true. There's such a dichotomy in the way John McCain and he thinks of his party, and then of course Donald Trump and they really do personify that split.

JOSH DAWSEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Right. Well, President Trump has not made it a secret that he dislikes John McCain. I mean he has said --

BASH: And vice verse.

DAWSEY: And vice versa -- definitely vice versa. He said, you know, he's not a war hero. He never took those comments back. And we reported the tweets that he said he does not regret those even to this day.

John McCain was very critical of his foreign policy, even on Russia. He said a couple of weeks ago before he died that no president ever abased himself in front of a foreign leader as such.

A number of the President's aides have come out with kind statements about John McCain, fond remembrances.

BASH: His daughter as well.


DAWSEY: -- his daughter.

We haven't seen that from the President. And the President made clear that before John McCain died he didn't want the White House to put out a statement on Friday when every, you know, a lot of politicians -- Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, others -- were putting out kind of laudatory and, you know, effusive statements about John McCain.

BASH: Right.

DAWSEY: The President didn't want that.

BASH: Well, it's very clear that from Donald Trump's perspective it's personal. But I think it's fundamental to know that from John McCain's perspective, certainly he took things personally and being told that he's not a war hero was not the best moment of his life.

But it was really the President's world view and the way he treated Vladimir Putin, the way he treated American institutions and the way he treated the media. That is -- all told -- those are the things that made John McCain so upset and frankly fearful of President Trump.

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": You know, the contrast between how the two men dealt with their opponents, their adversaries is so striking. You know, you look at John McCain who we now know had asked that Barack Obama and George Bush deliver the eulogies at his funeral -- that's kind of the respect that he had for the people who had bested him in the political arena.

You contrast that with Donald Trump who when he delivered the commencement at the Naval Academy this past year didn't even mention John McCain in a place that reveres both John McCain and the family name because of their connection to the Navy and the Naval Academy.

And it probably didn't even occur to him, you know, to, you know, offer some thoughts at the time McCain was already sick.

BASH: He didn't mention his name when he signed a bill that bore John McCain's name.

SHEAR: Right -- couldn't bring himself to mention it.

BASH: That was last week.

SHEAR: And I think it just -- that just shows you the contras. Whatever their political views, they dealt with their adversaries very differently.

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "THE DAILY BEAST": And not only their adversaries that they -- that defeated them but the ones that they bested themselves. I was in New Hampshire in 2012 when John McCain came there for Mitt Romney. And Mitt Romney really needed to win New Hampshire and keep his momentum from Iowa going. I know that went a different direction.

But anyway, you could see and you couldn't find two people that were more opposite. And yet, John McCain was more than happy to go there, rib Mitt Romney a little bit, and then tell all of his supporters, he could have been the President of New Hampshire at that point.

BASH: I think he was.

KUCINICH: I think he was. To get behind Mitt Romney and that's just who he was. And we saw that with Hillary Clinton. We've seen that with others who have given testimonials.

He didn't hold a grudge with people who -- and President Bush, I mean, my goodness, that was a horribly ugly campaign and he's eulogizing him.

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well -- and he did hold personal judges sometimes. You heard Lindsey Graham earlier say, you know, he could really give it to his colleagues.

BASH: I should say that I've chased him around the hallways with you -- with all of you, yes.


DAVIS: Yes -- reporters who he would, you know, who he would take issue with the premise of your question or he didn't have time or something like that. He was never shy about showing his antagonism when he had it.

But I think in his mind, and certainly in the way he comported himself, there was a bigger purpose. There was a bigger, in the case of Mitt Romney, there was an election to win. And he cared about the country and he cared about principle.

And what was so defining about covering him, I think, was he had this real sense of sort of the absurd in politics. Everyone plays their role and he would sort of -- he was in on the joke and he as journalists I think we all saw that he would make fun of it, you know, at times.

But he also had this deep, deep reverence for the process and for his country. And that really came across as well. So that pairing I think really sets him apart from a lot of the people we see in the political realm these days. And it's just -- it's something that we don't see as often anymore.

BASH: So we don't have time to play it but I want to show it. I think everybody has heard this and has this probably seared into their memory in 2008, when a voter in Minnesota just before Election Day, said to John McCain, "Barack Obama is an Arab". He grabbed the microphone and "No ma'am, no ma'am."

[08:45:07] Michael, you were there. I was there. We both -- we covered the McCain 2008 campaign together start to finish.


MCCAIN: No, ma'am, no ma'am.


BASH: My memory of that was how -- how not unusual it was for John McCain. Because at that point we had seen him do a version of this so many times but obviously in the context of today's times, it's remarkable.

SHEAR: Yes, and I think, you know, what's worth remembering is that in some ways, John McCain helped to unleash the kind of vitriol that kind of emerged in the ending days of that campaign.

He picked Sarah Palin. It wasn't until Sarah Palin was standing by him at those rallies that we would arrive as reporters and there would be people screaming obscenities at the press and the sort of anger of that campaign really spiked.

I mean, it's nothing compared to what everybody saw later then with Trump years later but there was a real sense among John McCain's campaign driven by John McCain himself that he had to tamp that down. And again and again and again that was the most memorable moment. But again and again at those rallies he would try to do that.

BASH: That's right. It was simmering then. He tried to tamp it down but it has since exploded.

Thank you all for your insights. Thank you for coming in. And I appreciate it very much.

Up next, we're going to talk to McCain's closest colleagues about their personal stories -- remembering John McCain.



MCCAIN: After Labor Day, I'll go back to the Senate and I'll try to be as persistent as Ted was, and as passionate for the work. I know I'm privileged to serve there. But I think most of my colleagues would agree, the place won't be the same without him.


BASH: That was Senator John McCain, eulogizing his friend Ted Kennedy. The two larger-than-life figures died on the same date, August 25th, nine years apart of the same type of brain cancer.

John McCain was so unique he was hard to describe. Somehow though, his long time friend, aide and collaborator Mark Salter always finds a way to put McCain's complicated essence into beautiful prose. He did it again this morning writing in "The Washington Post". "He was relentless and enthusiastic, quick and quick-tempered. He could be impetuous and cantankerous. He was defiant in defeat and sometimes in victory too.

He didn't have sides his mother said, meaning different faces for different occasions. He was all he was all of the time."

I've spoken to many of Senator McCain's friends and colleagues over the last year. Here's how they describe him.


BROOKE BUCHANAN, FORMER MCCAIN PRESS SECRETARY: He's like a shark. Like he can't stop moving, which keeps him who he is. And he's -- he's hard to keep up with. On all of our international travels he would be the one up reading his briefing book while the rest of us would be passed out sleeping. First one up, first one off the plane, first one into a meeting -- that's just who he is.

BASH: Tell me about his sense of humor.

TOM DASCHLE, FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: There are people who are really great at funny stories. And I don't see John as a story teller as much as I am a one liner and I just --

BASH: Just quick wit.

DASCHLE: A quick wit -- yes, exactly.

JOE LIEBERMAN, FORMER CONNECTICUT SENATOR: He loves to laugh. He loves humor. A little known fact about John McCain -- if you just give him the slightest provocation, he will into a series of one- liners by the late great comedian Henny Youngman.

BASH: Really?

LIEBERMAN: Oh, my goodness -- and laughing all the way.

BASH: And that connected you guys?

LIEBERMAN: I think that connected us. We both like to laugh.

BASH: He does love literature.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Oh, my God. We traveled the globe a hundred times probably. And I think he would jump out of the plane if he didn't have a book.

BASH: Mostly fiction or nonfiction?

GRAHAM: History. History. He can tell you about every Knight Templar and I can tell you about every Knight Templar because he's told me about them.

LIEBERMAN: He reads history. You wouldn't be surprised that he reads fiction too and he certain favorite books of fiction like Hemingway's --

BASH: "For Whom the Bell Tolls".

LIEBERKMAN: There you go. He goes back to that all the time.

BASH: What do his favorite authors tell you about John McCain?

BILL COHEN, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: That he really believes in the romantic ideal of fighting for one's belief, even if you know you're going to fail.

BASH: He's really obsessed with figures larger than life.


BASH: Teddy Roosevelt, Robert Jordan, you know, his father.

WEAVER: What's the central thread with all the people you just named? It's either their honor or their struggle with honor. I think that's the central thread and that's the common thread I see with John every day -- it's that constant search for honor.

DASCHLE: He sees these giants of the past as people he himself would like to aspire to and there is. There's a certain amount of Teddy Roosevelt in John McCain. Somebody who really can invoke an inspiration when you watch him from

a distance and, you know, that's what I think he's aspired to be for a long time and to a certain extent he's achieved it.

LIEBERMAN: He once referred to a guy working for me by an expletive and I said to the guy working for me, you've made it. If John is calling you by a swear word you're in the inner circle.

COHEN: He has a temper, it's quick. But he doesn't hold grudges that I've seen.

WEAVER: Once we were in New Hampshire, he really lit me up and so I thought, I'm just not even going to get near him. And at the end of the day, this was like first thing in the morning, at the end of the day he walks over with two ice cream cones --

BASH: Peace offering?

[08:54:59] WEAVER: Peace offering -- you know, offers me an ice cream cone and we move on. And he, you know, he writes apology notes --

BASH: Really?

WEAVER: He's famous for those. Oh yes. He doesn't hold grudges. He's a man remarkably who looks forward not backward.

BASH: Maverick, ideologue, temperamental -- there's so many words that have been used to describe John McCain. What would you use?

DASCHLE: I would use committed, faithful. I would use fun, institutionalist. I would use hero.


BASH: And a point of personal privilege as they say in the U.S. Senate, I want to say thank you, John McCain. Thank you for teaching reporters like me who followed you around for a living had to be serious without taking ourselves too seriously, how to respect the political process as meaningful and not mean; and how to walk really fast in the Capitol hallways which was the only way to do it when I had to keep up with you.

And up next is "STATE OF THE UNION WITH JAKE TAPPER". He will be remembering John McCain with some of his colleagues including Arizona colleague Jeff Flake.