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STATE OF THE UNION
Interview with Senator Amy Klobuchar; Interview with Kelly Ayotte; Interview with Adam Schiff; Remembering the Life and Legacy of Senator John McCain. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired August 26, 2018 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:38] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, I'm Jake Tapper. We're here for a special hour of STATE OF THE UNION honoring the life of Senator John McCain. His remarkable journey coming to an end last night at 81 years old after he had been diagnosed with brain cancer.
He is an American icon, perhaps like no other. He is being remembered today for putting principles above self-interest as he did enduring unthinkable torture during the Vietnam War, refusing to accept early discharge. Put cause above politics quite often as he did for decades in the nation's capital. That's why every living U.S. president is paying tribute to him today.
President Trump seemingly setting aside their differences, offering his deepest sympathies and respect to the family of Senator McCain, "Our hearts and prayers are with you." Former President Obama who defeated Senator McCain in 2008 said in a statement, "John McCain and I were members of different generations, came from completely different backgrounds, and competed at the highest level of politics, but we shared for all our differences a fidelity to something higher, the ideals for which generations of Americans and immigrants alike have fought, marched and sacrificed."
President George W. Bush who defeated McCain in 2000 in the Republican primaries wrote, "John McCain was a man of deep conviction and a patriot of the highest order."
Joining us now to remember Senator McCain is his colleague, Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat of Minnesota. She traveled all over the world with McCain including on a return trip to Vietnam.
Senator, thanks for joining us on this difficult morning for his friends and family. You had the opportunity to see him just a few weeks ago.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: Thank you, Jake.
TAPPER: Tell us about that. Tell us what it was like.
KLOBUCHAR: Well, my husband and I went to Sedona and saw Cindy and John, and of course he was pretty fragile, but he was still his irascible self, yelling things when things came up on the TV.
(LAUGHTER) KLOBUCHAR: Telling me his views on things. But there was this moment, I had brought a few of his books with me, and I don't know what I thought we're going to talk them through, but he pointed to a sentence from one of his books and it said, "Nothing in life is more liberating than to fight for a cause larger than yourself." And that's John McCain, whether it was his decision as a POW to allow others to be released before him because he didn't want to have special treatment, whether it was the way he was in the Senate standing up for immigrants, standing up for healthcare, whether it was the way -- the resiliency after the presidential race where he could have just gone home and given up.
Instead he went back to the Senate, did his work, mentored young senators like myself, taught us how to act on the world stage, always making sure he had women up front. Maybe it's all those strong women in his life from his mom to Cindy to his daughter Meghan, but that was a big part of him. And those are lessons that he has passed on to so many people in politics, and in that way his legacy will live on.
TAPPER: You know, it's interesting because the way that he is being honored this morning, last night, the way that he will be honored in the coming weeks is almost the same way and to the same level as a president would be honored, and yet he was a mere senator.
What is it about him that is causing this pouring forth of tributes from people in the political world, from Democrats such as yourself, from former adversaries such as Obama and Bush. Why? Why all this recognition for him?
KLOBUCHAR: He had a joy about politics and a love for his country that was unmatched. And while he never made it to the presidency, in the Senate, he was the leader that would see a hot spot in the world and decide, we need to go there and stand up for that democracy.
I remember just about a year and a half ago, on New Year's Eve, spending that time, something that Kelly Ayotte has done as well, with Lindsey Graham and with John McCain, on the front line with President Poroshenko because, boy, John McCain knew this was a moment in time, and he wanted to show Russia that America stood with independent democracies like Ukraine.
[10:05:07] He did that. He went every place, every place that no one else would go, to stand up for America. And in that way he was a leader like no other. But I think part of the moments that people don't always realize about him was just this humor he had, this joy for his work. And that's anyone that worked with him experienced that. So, yes, it's about patriotism, but it's also about personal friendship.
TAPPER: We also remember John McCain as a devoted dad. Every time I saw him, he started talking about Meghan, Jack, Jimmy, Bridget, Doug, Andy, Sidney, his children. He was so proud of them.
Meghan McCain, his daughter, wrote this in a statement after her father passed, quote, "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. He taught me how to live. All that I am is thanks to him."
You can tell just from that statement how much he meant to her.
Tell us about John McCain the dad.
KLOBUCHAR: Well, if you ever get that honor of being at their ranch and being in their house, you see everywhere scrapbooks of their family. And I think people kind of -- because he was such a maverick, people thought of him on his own, and then they'd see Cindy sometimes. But he loved his family. I don't think it's a surprise that he spent those last months of his life in Sedona, that ranch he loved, because his family was also there, and his neighbors the Olivers (ph) that he loved, that he knew for so long.
He had this whole family around him. And what was interesting about it is, he took that same concept of honor to his family and really brought that to the Senate. So when you traveled with him, yes, you'd have fancy dinners with ambassadors and heads of state, but he would also always make sure that the group, including the staff, would be together almost every night, so we could spend time together and talk about what happened.
So even though he spent his life traveling all over the world, he always believed that there was no place like home. And, for him, that was his ranch in Arizona. And that was not only because of the beauty around, the oasis that it was. It was also because that was the oasis where he spent time with his family.
TAPPER: Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat of Minnesota, thank you so much, and spending your time with us this morning and reflecting on the loss of your friend. Our deepest condolences to you.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you, Jake.
TAPPER: I want to go now to former Senator Kelly Ayotte, Republican of New Hampshire.
Senator, thanks again for coming on.
KELLY AYOTTE (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Thank you, Jake.
TAPPER: Many of us know John McCain the statesman, the politician, the public figure, but he described you as his friend when you left the Senate. 33And in many ways, you stepped into Joe Lieberman's shoes and that three amigos in the U.S. Senate with -- along with Senator Graham.
What was McCain like to have as a friend?
AYOTTE: An incredible friend. And for me, Jake, not only was he a dear friend, but he was a mentor. He took me under his wing in the Senate and on the Armed Services Committee. And, first of all, hanging out with John McCain, he has the most wonderful sense of humor. He's always cracking jokes. Obviously, he's tough as nails, incredibly bright, so strong and courageous. But to his friends, we loved his sense of humor, his optimism. You
know, and he was always getting ready for the next fight because he was fighting for people who couldn't fight for themselves. I mean, traveling around the world with him, he always stood -- any time there was a member of our military serving somewhere, he would go visit, and anyone who is oppressed around the world, as you know, just a champion for human rights and for people around the world.
TAPPER: I want to play a clip for you. It's from 2016 after you lost your reelection bid for the Senate. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: There are many qualities that are important to being a good senator. But none, in my opinion, is more important than standing firm for what you believe. That is what Senator Ayotte has done.
I have cherished the friendship and partnership of Senator Kelly Ayotte. The kindness and courtesy she has extended to her colleagues has made this institution a better place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: What goes through your mind when you hear those words today?
AYOTTE: What goes through my mind is, I was at the ranch with John and Cindy in the spring. And, you know, he was mentoring me then. We had a long talk sitting -- overlooking the beautiful river there in Sedona. And John said to me, "You know, Kelly, whatever you do, whatever you go on to do, do the right thing." And that's what goes through my mind. And just -- you know, that's how he lived his life.
[10:10:06] And what also goes through my mind is the legacy that John has in terms of inspiring future generations of leaders and many who serve in the Senate, in terms of America's role in the world and standing up to do the right thing.
TAPPER: One of the things that he did that he felt was the right thing was standing up to President Trump when President Trump crosses lines, in his view, having to do with U.S. alliances, having to do with basic decency, with invective. That's something that you know a little bit about. Many people think that if you had embraced President Trump more, you would have won in 2016 in New Hampshire.
Was that something that you and he discussed ever, the difficulty of standing up to somebody who is the president or the nominee for the party in your case?
AYOTTE: Well, with John, he stood up always for what he believed in. And whoever was in the corner office, he would disagree with them when he thought that they weren't acting in the best interest of America.
And the thing I think about today is about John. And I think about, I hope that his passing is a calling for more decency, integrity and honor in our politics because that's what John stood for. And that's really what his legacy is.
TAPPER: Decency, integrity and honor. That would be nice.
Senator Ayotte, thank you so much for coming today and sharing your remembrances of your friend. Our deepest condolences to you.
AYOTTE: Thank you very much, Jake.
TAPPER: One of Senator McCain's final acts as a public servant was to call on President Trump to stand up to Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.
Coming up next, one of the top Democrats in the House investigating Russian meddling, Congressman Adam Schiff, will share his memories of the senator and talk about the last week we just had. Stay with us.
[10:16:22] TAPPER: While many Republicans remain silent on President Trump's summit with Vladimir Putin, one of the most powerful statements came from a dying Senator John McCain who slammed President Trump's inability to stand up to Putin as a, quote, "tragic mistake."
Joining me now is the top Democrat on House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff of California.
And Congressman, I know you traveled a great deal with Senator McCain. I know you knew him. And also, at one point last year, you said that you were disappointed because you thought there would be more John McCains in Congress.
What did you mean by that? And did you ever discuss that with him?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, he was such a great example of strength and courage and dedication to our democracy, that I would have thought any number of House Republicans in particular would have followed his example. And I raised this with him once. We were appearing jointly on a panel. And before we went on, I remarked to him how much I admired him and how disappointed I was that there didn't seem to be a single Republican in the House who felt they had a constituency to be the John McCain of the House.
And he looked at me and he said, "Well, if there isn't, they will be calling you chairman." And it was a classic kind of blunt John McCain comment, and one of the reasons why I think he won over people on both sides of the aisle with his wit, with his candor, but also with his sense of humor. And I got to tell you, that was one thing I didn't really appreciate about Senator McCain until I traveled with him is just how funny he is.
He used to introduce me by saying, "This is Adam Schiff. He's a good guy who gets things right about zero percent of the time." Even Lindsey Graham, who he loved more than anyone in the Congress, he used to introduce by saying, "This is Lindsey Graham. Everyone knows Lindsey. Few people like him."
(LAUGHTER) SCHIFF: That was the kind of way John would introduce you. And we -- you know, it was just an honor to be in his presence and to watch the kind of respect world leaders had for him, to watch the way he struck up such an easy --
SCHIFF: -- relationship demeanor with others. It was a treat to be around him.
TAPPER: I know that if he were here he would be telling me, don't only talk about me with Adam Schiff. A lot happened in the news this week and you need to talk about it. He believed intensely in the oversight responsibilities of the Congress when it came to the executive branch, even if many of his Republican colleagues have forgotten about that obligation.
So let me ask you, in that vein, the president's former personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, said this week under oath that President Trump, when he was a candidate, directed him to violate federal election laws.
What's your take on that?
SCHIFF: Well, this is pretty serious business. I mean, this is the first witness who, under oath, has basically said during a guilty plea that he was part of a criminal conspiracy with the president of the United States. And these were no inconsequential bookkeeping campaign finance errors. So it wasn't like they inadvertently made a contribution slightly in excess of the limit. This was a planned-out solicitation essentially, a corporate contribution or a payment well in excess, hundreds of thousands of dollars, of the limits, and in an area that could very well have been decisive in the election.
That is, to keep from the public information that -- allegations that the president had an affair with a porn star, for example, to keep that from the public weeks before the election. That could have been determinative in such a close race. So it's serious business. I think we're going to have to look at that evidence in its totality as we learn more and we get a report ultimately from Bob Mueller about what the consequences of all that are.
[10:20:05] TAPPER: So you -- you have argued in a "New York Times" opinion piece in May that impeachment of President Trump will be more difficult politically if it seems like Democrats were hoping to impeach President Trump all along. It seems pretty clear that a lot of Democrats believe that there are now grounds for impeachment based on this Michael Cohen plea agreement in which he admits to committing felonies, and two of them, he says he did in coordination with and at the direction of then candidate Trump.
But it also seems as though Democrats don't want to talk about impeachment because it might hurt your ability to win back the House in November.
SCHIFF: Well, it's not just, I think, that Democrats don't want to talk about impeachment. I think, as a matter of our constitutional responsibility, we have to look candidly at what is the evidence and what does that mean, and what does that say in terms of whether we have reached the point of high crimes and misdemeanors?
But I don't think we should be talking about it and embracing it before we have seen the full body of evidence. As a former prosecutor, I like to know all the facts before I make a judgment. And the reality is, impeachment is a political standard. Impeachment is, at any given time, what half of the House and two-thirds of the Senate say it is. And given the dearth of people in the GOP who are willing to say anything about this president's conduct, I think you're going to need a really powerful case to entertain that kind of a sanction.
Jake, I mean, look what happened after the president started attacking his own attorney general for not getting rid of Bob Mueller and persecuting his political rivals. You had two prominent GOP senators say, well, if he wants to get rid of the A.G., we'll help him get a new one, but let's wait until after the midterms. That is not something you would have ever heard John McCain say.
I was proud to see Ben Sasse take issue with that. That was very John McCain-like. We need people like John McCain now more than ever.
TAPPER: I want to ask you about your party when it comes to accusations of hacking.
Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, has been under scrutiny for his claims Russians hacked the Florida electoral systems. There's no evidence of that that we have seen. The DNC this week said that it had been hacked, when it was really just a test by a state organization.
Are some Democrats being too careless and public about accusations of hacking sensitive national security matters?
SCHIFF: Well, look, I think that everyone is really on razor's edge right now, wondering, is the other shoe going to fall in terms of Russian intervention in the midterms? It is certainly our expectation, from the top intelligence officers of the country on down, that the Russians never stopped interfering, at least not on social media, that they certainly, according to Microsoft and Facebook, are at it once again.
So I think all of us are really on a hair's edge here. And we see all the steps the administration should be taking, but are not, and are trying to sound the alarm. But, yes, we have to be careful and make sure that we're very precise about what we say to the public. We want the public to have confidence, not only that the government's doing what it should -- and that's hard to have at the moment -- but that we aren't going to cry wolf, that we're going to be very specific when we see foreign intruders.
TAPPER: Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California, thank you so much for your time, sir. We appreciate it.
SCHIFF: Thanks, Jake.
It's a rare thing in Washington these days, respect for those who don't see it your way, humility in defeat even when it kept you from the presidency. That's likely why two presidents will be honoring Senator John McCain at his funeral. Stay with us.
[10:27:39] TAPPER: Senator John Sydney McCain III won the respect of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle throughout his decades long career, each the two U.S. presidents who defeated him, one in the primaries, one in the general, preventing him from ever holding the office forever, and yet as McCain planned his funeral services over the last year sources told CNN both President Barack Obama and President George W. Bush have been asked to deliver eulogies.
Joining me now CNN historian Douglas Brinkley and former adviser to Senator John McCain, Mark McKinnon.
Thanks so much to both of you for joining us.
Mark, let me start with you. You worked very closely with McCain, you served as his senior media adviser for much of his run for president in 2008. There is a moment that you recently wrote about in "The Daily Beast" when he turned to you, he bent over, and you realized he needed help to comb his hair. Tell us about that.
MARK MCKINNON, FORMER MCCAIN ADVISER: Thanks, Jake. First of all, my hats off to Senator McCain and the McCain family. There were so many powerful moments, it was, you know, such an honor to spend any time around Senator McCain, but one of the first times I was out with him was when his campaign had kind of collapsed and there were just a few of us that stuck around as volunteers, and I think it was up in New Hampshire.
So I was doing every role, I was press guy, I was travel aide, what have you. And when I went to go with him, whoever was with him before me had a -- gave me a black bag and I didn't really understand what that was for and I looked in it and I saw that there were some, like, grooming tools, like a hairbrush, and I still didn't really get it until we got to the event and the van pulled up so that we could get out on the side of the van where the crowd couldn't see us.
And then Senator McCain, you know, this decorated war hero, comes over to me and bends over in supplication, and I realized at that moment that he couldn't raise his arms above his shoulder to comb his hair because his arms had been broken so many times as a POW, as a prisoner of war.
And, I mean, just to see the humility of that moment, of this -- of this war hero, and so he turns to go into the crowd and I just turned away and started weeping, it was so powerful.
TAPPER: And Doug, let me -- let me ask you, this is a man who famously did not become president twice, but there are few politicians, I would even posit even some presidents, who haven't risen or didn't rise to the level of prominence in admiration that Senator McCain has. Put that in perspective, if you would.
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, it's a good way of putting it because McCain is something larger than a politician. He's a folk hero. We honor him for his Vietnam service, the fact that he spent that five and a half years in a POW camp, was tortured, beaten, and yet came out stronger.
And he became our, kind of, a promoter, all over the world, of the values of American democracy -- his disdain of tyranny and Communism, autocrats, and he was ceaseless on that, but he did it with an incredible sense of humor.
You know, the late Tom Wolfe, Jake, who died, who wrote the famous book "The Right Stuff" about the Mercury astronauts, was looking "What is that quality of the right stuff in a certain particular military person going to space back in the early '60s?" The right stuff is John McCain. He had it all, duty, honor, country, the patriotism, his idealism and belief in love of this country, and that Theodore Roosevelt sense of the great American outdoors. Senator McCain's love of the Grand Canyon and hiking and where he passed in Sedona, that beautiful part of our country, that landscape was part of him, too. He always was a man of the West.
TAPPER: And, Mark, when you signed up to help John McCain run for president in 2007, 2008, there was a caveat with your service. You told him that if he won the nomination and Barack Obama won the nomination, you didn't want to work against Barack Obama. Ultimately, both men won the nomination, and you said you didn't want to be the tip of the spear attacking Obama. What happened when you went to McCain and said, "OK, I've got to go?"
MCKINNON: Well, it was an unusual arrangement. Senator McCain asked me to work on the campaign and of course I was honored to do that. But I -- I had met Senator Obama and I thought his candidacy was going to be good for the country. I disagreed with a lot of his politics and was 100 percent for McCain, but I -- so I told McCain that if they were both nominated that I would feel uncomfortable in that position, didn't think I'd be the right person to do it anyway.
And McCain, kind of, said, "OK, whatever," because nobody really thought that was going to happen at the time, particularly with Obama. So I wrote it in a memo to memorialize it, just to make sure, because I thought he'd probably forget about it, and also to pin my own wings to the wall because I thought I'd probably chicken out if McCain won the nomination.
But, sure enough, it happened, and so I walked in with the memo to Senator McCain and he turned to me and just -- he, kind of, shook his head and he goes, "Ah," and he grabbed me and hugged me and he said, "Listen, McKinnon, I appreciate you helping me get where I am today, but it would be very un-McCain-like not to keep your word. God bless you and good luck." TAPPER: That's remarkable. Doug, as we mentioned earlier, Senator McCain -- he's been planning his own funeral services over the last year, and he requested Presidents Bush and Obama, the two men who prevented him from being president -- they're going to eulogize him. Does this surprise you or is this perfectly keeping in character?
And put it in the context also of McCain making it clear that he does not want the current president to attend.
BRINKLEY: Oh, by all means. John McCain really had one big request and that's that Donald Trump doesn't show up at his funeral. He had really no respect or liking for President Trump. They're very different personalities. But the straw that broke the camel's back was Helsinki, for John McCain, an arch-Cold-Warrior turned great skeptic of Putin, to watch Donald Trump grovel to Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. I mean, that was unacceptable to -- to John McCain.
But, you know, Gerald Ford had Jimmy Carter give his eulogy. This happens. But there's -- what the point is, is that McCain respected George W. Bush and Barack Obama in the end. He was a bipartisan man in spirit, McCain. At his wedding to Cindy, he had William Cohen, the Republican from Maine, and Gary Hart, the senator from Colorado, as his groomsmen. So it's part and parcel, too, with his believing that he knew how to pick who were the best and the brightest in America, and that includes Obama and Bush. And it's fitting that they'll be there at the memorial services.
TAPPER: And, Mark, one of the reasons I think this feels like such a gut punch to so many of us, including both of you, is that -- the environment that we're in right now. I wouldn't exactly say it's a pride of lions in the Senate these days, and McCain tried to stand for bipartisanship and decency, straight talk, and we have the exact opposite of that in a lot of quarters.
MCKINNON: Well, that's what really hit me, Jake. You know, the news was expected. We knew this disease was going to take the senator at some point; we wished not this early. But when I heard it, of course, immediately I missed the man, but I also had just this overwhelming sense of how much we're going to miss his voice. We're just going to miss his voice in Washington. We're going to miss it in American politics. We're going to miss it in the world stage.
And, you know, so we're going to miss the man; we're going to miss his principle. He's really, for a lot of young politicos and aspiring journalists and others who are in the public policy arena, he just -- he represented an ideal. And, also, what a lot of people have said on the program today, Jake, is he was so much fun. I had the honor of working for both President Bush and Senator McCain. I love them both, but their operations were so different. Working with George Bush was like working in the Royal British Navy. Working with Senator McCain was like working with the pirates of the Caribbean.
TAPPER: That's such a great memory.
Mark McKinnon, Doug Brinkley, thanks to both of you for being here this morning. We appreciate it.
MCKINNON: Thank you, Jake.
BRINKLEY: Thanks, Jake.
TAPPER: How Senator McCain wanted his country to remember him in his own words during one of his final interviews. That's next.
TAPPER: He was just beginning to deal with the diagnosis for brain cancer that would ultimately end his life when Senator John McCain sat down with me at this table almost one year ago for one of those final network interviews. And his signature courage was on full display when I asked him about the horrific diagnosis.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: I'm very happy with my life. I'm very happy with what I've been able to do. And 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're talking about old memories. I covered the "Straight Talk Express," your campaign in 2000. I have a very 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 cheap.
TAPPER: And we -- 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'd survived a number of plane crashes as a -- as a Navy pilot. Does this face-off with mortality feel different than previous ones you have faced?
MCCAIN: The other ones I had much more control, obviously. I was flying the airplane, you know. Although the melanoma was similar to this, but it's -- 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 is a very virulent form of cancer. It has to be fought against. We have new technologies which I won't bother you with -- with the details of -- that make chances much better.
But, Jake, you know, 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 -- you've got to have joy -- joy. Listen, those joyful memories of the campaign in 2000 are some of the most enjoyable times of my life. We were the underdogs; we were fighting our way up; we went to Sedona, 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.
TAPPER: 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.
TAPPER: I think that we can say honorably.
TAPPER: Our last interview with Senator John McCain, almost one year ago, at this very table. My panel's here with me. Congressman, you're a Democrat; you're in the House, as opposed to
Senator McCain, Republican in the Senate. But this seems like a loss that all of Congress will feel.
CICILLINE: I think it's a loss our whole country will feel. I was in college when Senator McCain was first elected, but even for people who didn't know him personally or maybe work with him directly, he was an example to the country of someone who put country first, displayed tremendous courage, incredible integrity, loved his work, passionately believed in the issues that he fought for, but did it in a way that preserved our democracy and strengthened our democracy.
And so I think he is an example to all of us, particularly in this moment, of what it means to be a statesman, not a politician, because he put our country first; he served our country; he did it with great courage; he spoke his mind. And I think that's an example and the inspiration to everyone; it's an example for us, and we should honor his legacy by conducting ourselves that way.
TAPPER: Senator McCain was obviously very popular in his home state of Arizona and as a national figure very popular, but among Republicans nationally he had a higher disapproval rating than he had an approval rating. Now, some of that is obviously because he would buck his party, vote against the repeal of Obamacare. But there are other reasons for it, too?
CARPENTER: Yeah, and I think he was coming at the tail end of a time when, among the Republican Party, the base voters, there was a yearning for non-establishment types, and he represented the establishment. And the happy side of that is that he made friendships there. I don't think anybody can think of John McCain in the Senate without thinking of the "three amigos," Joe Lieberman, Lindsey Graham. And I hope that people look at that memory and realize it's OK to have friendships; it's OK to fight for your values but yet be friends at the end of the day. Because when I served in the Senate as a staffer, there was very little of that, and maybe we will return in the name of John McCain.
TAPPER: Karine, obviously you disagreed with Senator McCain on most policy issues, although not all. He did attempt to forge compromises when it came to immigration reform and he did take stances -- for instance, when Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton's aide, was being slimed as a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, he took to the floor of the Senate, stood up against that.
What does he mean to you?
JEAN-PIERRE: So Senator McCain is someone who I admire his service to this country. He is an American hero, without a doubt. I admired his strength; I admired his conviction. And this country would be better with -- with more John McCains. Washington, D.C. would be better with more John McCains. I want to send my prayers out to his wife, his children and the rest of his family. I can't imagine what they're going through in this tough time.
And you mentioned how he really stood up for important issues. I remember a year ago, July 25th, when he had that dramatic display, one of the most dramatic days that we've seen on the U.S. Senate floor, where he did a thumbs-down, ending, kind of, like that final approach of Republicans trying to end -- end Obamacare, repeal Obamacare. And at that moment he was seen as a hero of the resistance. I don't think he ever thought that would be his place, but it was -- it showed courage; it showed, certainly, strength.
And then there's another moment that sticks with me, which was when I was a campaign aide in the 2008 Obama campaign. And during the general election, it's really tough, and it's so negative. And there's that video that's been shown a lot the last few hours of a woman, his own supporter, really degrading and saying bigoted and hateful things about then Senator Obama. And he stood up and you saw his character; you saw his decency, and he said, "No, no, no," grabbed the microphone out of her hands. And it changed his campaign, that moment. And so that was a moment that I was, like, "Wow, this is a different type of -- a different type of man."
TAPPER: Marc, what do you want President Trump to do this week?
Obviously, there was a lot of bad blood between him and McCain; we don't have to go into all of it right now. What would you advise President Trump to do in terms of what he says about Senator McCain?
SHORT: Well, the president's expressed his condolences today. He has also asked that flags be flown at half mast. But I think it's an opportunity to really celebrate his amazing life and to celebrate his incredible self-sacrifice for America.
And I think that it's important to recognize that the president has surrounded himself with a lot of people who were very close to Senator McCain. The vice president talks glowingly of his first codel to Baghdad was with Senator McCain; John Kelly, who's been very close to McCain for a long time. McCain celebrated Jim Mattis' selection as secretary of defense.
And I think, during the transition, when we reached out to Mike Pompeo to be CIA director, he was actually traveling with John McCain to that NATO conference you were talking about at Nova Scotia. So there's a lot of people around the president who have been very close to John McCain. I think this is an opportunity this week to really celebrate his life.
TAPPER: And in fact John Bolton recalled, when I interviewed him a few months ago, that, when his nomination to be U.N. ambassador was held up by Democrats during the Bush years, John McCain was offering emotional and rhetorical support for him.
I do want to ask about what a lot of people think is missing in Washington, which is this bipartisan spirit, which is this notion that decency and character and agreeing with people -- agreeing with people's characters and respect even if you disagree with them on policy. Has that died with John McCain?
CICILLINE: I hope not. I hope John McCain's life and the legacy that he leaves will be a reminder to all of us of the ability to be -- you know, that you can be a passionate advocate; you can fight for health care; you can fight to raise family incomes; you can fight for legislation that will create good-paying jobs, and you can disagree about how you might achieve those objectives, but you can disagree without making the person who you're having the disagreement with your enemy. John McCain showed that in his life, the ability to work across the aisle to get things done for the American people.
So I hope, rather than dying with John McCain, it will be a reminder to all of us that the American people expect us to work together in a bipartisan way to get things done and to do what's best for our country and try to put your party or your own position second to what's best for the country.
And so I think people will see that John McCain's life epitomized that and he's going to be celebrated and honored and remembered for the great American hero he is, and hopefully it will encourage others to recognize that that's the right path, to do what's right for the country, not your political party, to be able to argue forcefully and passionately but not be disagreeable.
TAPPER: Amanda, where does his loss leave the Republican Party, do you think?
CARPENTER: Well, I'm going to say, like a lot of people, I've been looking at the photos of people on the Straight Talk Express and John McCain just having such a good time. And I've looked at them and wondered why does this -- that seem like a happier time?
And one of the reasons is because no one's looking at their phone.
CARPENTER: They're looking at each other; they're interacting. And in one of John McCain's last speeches, he plead with people to stop looking -- listening to the "bombastic loudmouths on the radio, TV and Internet, and to hell with them." And so maybe for one day, to hell with them, put down your phones and talk to and connect with one another.
TAPPER: That's a good memory for all of us.
CNN's special coverage of the life and legacy of John McCain will continue throughout the day, including the CNN premiere of the documentary "John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls," That's tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern. I'll have a few final thoughts on John McCain next and how he's leaving us when Washington may need him more than ever. Thanks for watching.
TAPPER: Welcome back. Senator John McCain began his 1999 memoir "Faith of my Fathers" by noting, quote, "I have spent much of my life choosing my own attitude, often carelessly, often for no better reason than to indulge in conceit. In those instances my acts of self- determination were mistakes, some of which did no lasting harm and serve now only to embarrass and occasionally amuse the only man who recalls them. Others I deeply regret," unquote. There are pages and pages of McCain regrets, and despite our eulogies
of the man today, he would be the one to bring them up if he were here now. Unlike other politicians who never admit error or even imperfection, McCain was all too aware of his and was usually the first to raise them. And yet there was always, with the senator standing there defiant, the reality of his past, of what he did as a prisoner of war.
As David Foster Wallace wrote in his April 2000 Rolling Stone magazine profile of McCain, quote, "The fact is that John McCain is a genuine hero of the only kind Vietnam now has to offer, a hero not because of what he did but because of what he suffered voluntarily for a code. This gives him the moral authority both to utter lines about causes beyond self-interest and to expect us, even in this age of spin and lawyerly cunning, to believe he means them."
McCain spent a lifetime aspiring to show that he meant it. And as we say goodbye to Senator McCain this week, many of us feel as if we have lost something other than just a man. Now, that may be not only because he tried to encourage us all to serve a cause greater than ourselves; it may be because he never stopped trying to be a better man. He never stopped trying to become the man he wanted to be.
"We're all afraid of something," McCain wrote in his book "Why Courage Matters." "Don't let the sensation of fear convince you that you're too weak to have courage. Fear is the opportunity for courage, not proof of cowardice. No one is born a coward. We were meant to love and we were meant to have the courage for it. So be brave. The rest is easy."
We're in an era right now of lies and indecency, of tribalism and nastiness, and in this era we lost someone who tried -- tried to embody the opposite of those vicious impulses. His loss leaves a chasm in the public square.
Our thoughts today are especially with the senator's mother Roberta, his wife Cindy, his children Doug, Andy, Sydney, Meghan, Jack, Jimmy and Bridget. God bless you all.
CNN coverage of the life and legacy of Senator McCain continues. Thanks for watching.