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Life and Legacy of John McCain; Pope Not Responding to Calls for Resignation; John McCain Champion for Military. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired August 27, 2018 - 09:30   ET

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


[09:30:00] DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The way he was. The more he made fun, the more he loved because that was his humor. He was cracking jokes all the time. And it was -- it was a way, I think, he either realized consciously or subconsciously to kind of temper the other moments that his passion got the best of him.

But even when those happened, he was -- he was usually really quick to apologize because what this says about the man is that he was -- he felt feelings very, very hard. And most of those feelings were on the subject of what he could do for the country. And it sounds so trite, it almost sounds cliche, and, you know, it was the slogan, as Reed knows, of 2008, country first, but with him it really, really was more than a slogan. It is how he lived his life from the day he was born to -- and to the five and a half years he was in a prisoner of war camp in Vietnam to his whole political life.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: And touching on 2008, Reed, you know, we keep going back to that moment where he corrected a woman in the audience. You know, no ma'am, no ma'am, he's a good family man and talking about then candidate Barack Obama. In that moment, and in the moments that followed, I mean what was the discussion with Senator McCain about that moment? Did he see it in the moment as an important point in his -- not only his career, in his life, as many others do now?

REED GALEN, FORMER DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER FOR MCCAIN 2018: Well, you know, I think the thing about those types of moments is they are so organic. Although there was a very -- you know, there is an awareness that that type of rumor was going around or that kind of talk was going around about then Senator Obama, certainly Senator McCain couldn't have possibly have known that that question was going to come up. But I think those are the moments that I think made John McCain so real to so many people, whether or not it was that moment at that town hall meeting or the previous year when, you know, he was on the stage with eight or ten of the other Republican, you know, aspirants and a young woman whose husband had been killed in Iraq, you know, stood up to ask a question. He came out from behind the lectern. He went down into the crowd to talk to her, to engage her personally. Those are things you can't script and only someone like John McCain really could have understood that moment, you know, instinctually and really made, you know, an impact on those people to whom he was speaking and so far beyond.

BASH: And if I may add to that, one of the reasons it was his instinct is because of his own experience. It wasn't just a sort of the code of honor and duty that he has had been taught by his father, an admiral, his grandfather, an admiral, but also what he went through himself in his 2000 campaign. He and his family were smeared by fellow Republicans, particularly in South Carolina. It was incredibly ugly. And he came out of that not only at the time pretty disenchanted with people in his party, but more importantly promising that he would never run a campaign like that and that he would try to avoid that kind of campaigning. And what you saw and what Reed was talking about in those moments were part of his attempt to keep that promise.

HILL: And also -- and that lays out, too, we know some of the things that were most dear to Senator McCain. We had someone report -- some reporting from our own Jamie Gangel, when it comes to the relationship between Senator McCain and President Trump, that what bothered him the most were not necessarily the comments that then candidate Trump made about how he feels about his heroes, but it was the way that Donald Trump, the candidate, went after that gold star family. And, Reed, that that was a breaking point for him in terms of the way he looked at this president. And that's what really bothered him, Reed.

GALEN: No, I think so. Absolutely. Look, as Dana mentioned, this is someone who spent five and a half years in conditions that most of us couldn't possibly begin to imagine. You know, had friends, colleagues, you know, his own grandfather passed away, you know, four days after World War II ended. And so he was someone who very well understood and personally understood what that loss was like. And to him it was just simply unconscionable, unconscionable that the potential leader of the free world and the current commander in chief would so just base -- you know, in such a base manner insult those people because they had taken him on.

If you're going to stand in public life, as John McCain probably knew better than anybody, you will suffer the slings and arrows that the American people have for you. And that is part of the bargain you make with the American people. And certainly Senator McCain just couldn't understand why anybody who wanted to lead the American people would ever make a comment like that.

BASH: Well said.

HILL: There was -- there was also an interesting moment that I read about over the weekend, Tim Kaine talking about how when he had to go back to work, it was John McCain who came up to him and said, listen, the two of us are really the only two people here who get what it's like. And so now that you're back here, here's my advice to you, put your head down and go to work.

[09:35:05] And, Dana, in that moment, you know, you see there's the reaching across the aisle. There's the, hey, we've got this thing together. But what's most important is, we're here to do a job. And, Dana, that was so important to Senator McCain.

BASH: And the humanity of that. The fact that Senator McCain got that there aren't a lot of people on this earth who understand the intensity of being on a presidential ticket and then losing and coming back to do your day job. The day job being a pretty good one, a United States senator, but there's a culture shock. There's kind of a coming back to -- from the orbit to earth feeling. And the fact that he understood that he was pretty in that -- in that small club of people who understood that and he went to Tim Kaine and talked to him about it unsolicited says something about bipartisanship, but I think more about the decency and humanity of John McCain.

HILL: The character --

BASH: Exactly.

HARLOW: Of a man who's being remembered and a life that is being celebrated.

Dana Bash, Reed Galen, appreciate you joining us. Thank you both.

GALEN: Thank you.

HILL: Pope Francis speaking out for the first time since a former archbishop called for the leader of the Catholic Church to step aside for his handling of the church sex abuse scandal.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:40:21] HILL: The pope says he will, quote, not say a single word after a former Vatican official calls for him to resign. A former archbishop claiming that he told the pontiff back in 2013 about sexual abuse allegations against an American cardinal, saying the pope failed to act. The accusation comes as the pope is wrapping up the trip to Ireland where he spoke out against the historic child abuse in the Catholic Church.

CNN's Vatican correspondent Delia Gallagher joins us now.

So, Delia, the pope being fairly clear and yet not saying a lot at the same time in that response.

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Erica, these allegations coming out in an 11-page letter on Sunday from the pope's former envoy to the United States. And we had a chance to ask the pope about them on the return flight from Ireland last night. This is what the pope said to journalists about those allegations. He said, read the statement carefully and make your own judgment. I will not say a single word on this.

So essentially the pope neither confirming nor denying. He did say, Erica, that he might speak about it at a later time. But essentially the pope's message was, he's not going to engage in the allegations contained in this letter, sort of saying to the journalists, you read it and consider the source sort of thing because of course this has been written by an archbishop who is a conservative, who have been ideologically opposed to Pope Francis, and some people are saying, well, he has an axe to grind, it's politically motivated. This is the man who set up that meeting back in 2015, if you remember, when the pope was in Washington with Kim Davis, the Kentucky law clerk who wouldn't sign same-sex marriage licenses.

So some are saying this is politically motivated. Others are saying, well, there are some easily verifiable allegations in there if the pope wanted to respond to it. So we'll have to see if these allegations gather steam or if people are satisfied, Erica, with the pope's response.

HILL: It is definitely getting a fair amount of reaction over here in the states, that's for sure.

As you mentioned, you -- this was -- the response came on the plane back to the Vatican from Ireland. How did that go this weekend? Because there was a lot being made leading up to it, especially in the light of the grand jury report that came out here in the United States and whether that would influence what the pope said or didn't say.

GALLAGHER: Right. It was a difficult trip going in. It would have been anyway because Ireland has been dealing with its own, for decades now, revelations of sex abuse. Pope Francis mentioned many times over during the trip apologies and asking for forgiveness for the church's role in sex abuse. But, of course, the people there said we've heard that before and we want action. And we've heard that in Ireland. We've heard that in the United States. We've heard that for many years now that people want to have full transparency from the Vatican on these issues. Who knew what when.

And most importantly, Erica, they want to know that there is a system in place across the board in all countries that is going to call bishops to account to justice and, of course, ensure safety for minors in the future.

Erica.

HILL: That is certainly what survivors have been telling me as well, Delia. It is time for action, they say.

Good to see you. Thank you.

One of the strongest supporters of the military and champions for intervention overseas, so who on Capitol Hill can fill the void left by the passing of Senator John McCain? We'll discuss.

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[09:48:17] HILL: John McCain was a prisoner of war for more than five years in Vietnam. John Fer, a fellow POW and McCain's cellmate for two years says even in some of the darkest moments McCain managed to inspire his fellow prisoners.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN FER, POW CELLMATE OF JOHN MCCAIN IN VIETNAM: The single most important thing that I learned from John McCain is summarized in a statement that he often made to me when we talked about military leadership. And that is, it's the mission and the men. The mission and the men. In the prison camp, it was resisting exploitation by the communist North Vietnamese and, at the same time, caring for those of us that inhabited that place. John had a great geopolitical sense about the destiny of humankind, if

you want to put it that way. And he very often spoke of those things. I think that's why he got along with people of the other party or of other points of view.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: Throughout his career, McCain was a champion and a guardian of the military. He pushed, of course, for support. He pushed for strong relationships overseas. His death leaving a foreign policy void also within the Republican Party, which is being discussed this morning.

CNN diplomatic and military analyst Rear Admiral John Kirby joins us this morning.

Always appreciate you joining us.

This does leave a bit of a void. John McCain spoke in 2017 about this country, why it's so important. I want to play a little bit of that.

[09:50:05] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: With all its suffering and danger, the world still looks to the example and leadership of America to become another better place. What greater cause could anyone ever serve. Thank you again for this honor. I'll treasure tit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: Admiral Kirby, you wrote an op-ed referencing that speech by McCain and America's place as a leader in the world. You wrote, McCain charged us all to continue leading and that means being willing to set aside our partisan bickering and that means being willing to set aside our fear.

With John McCain gone, what do you see as the future there?

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN DIPLOMATIC AND MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I am worried about it just because of the bitter partisanship that we see on Capitol Hill right now. But I do hope that from his death people on both sides of the aisle will pick it up and drop the fear and start to work across the aisle with one another to find real solutions to the problems that are plaguing not only us but our allies and partners around the world. This is the time for leadership -- for humble leadership. And that's what really to me John McCain represents.

I also think it requires bravery. I don't -- I guess I don't understand, Erica, all the fear out there. And I don't understand why certain people play on that fear. We have nothing to be afraid of. Yes, there's lots of challenges and threats out there, but this is still the greatest country in the world. And Senator McCain believed that her greatness was still to come if only we could be more courageous in the face of these threats and challenges and not so afraid. HILL: The amount of travel that Senator McCain did is astounding

internationally. And he would often, as we know, travel with someone from across the aisle.

KIRBY: Yes.

HILL: And he was continually going out there speaking with different leaders. Why was it so important that John McCain made that a significant portion of his job?

KIRBY: Because I think -- you know, this is a fundamental thing about being a naval officer. When you're a young naval officer, one of the things they teach you is you have to hit the deck plates. In order to understand what's going on, on your ship, you've got to be out and about with your sailors. You can't just stay in your state room and write reports. And that's the way Senator McCain, I think, led as a senator. He wanted to be on the deck plates. He wanted to talk to the troops. He wanted to talk to the commanders. He wanted to see all the missions, warts and all. All the good things we were doing and also he wanted a blunt assessment of all the bad things we were doing.

And it was just as critical to him to bring people, as you said, Erica, from across the aisle so that they could see it, too. So that his colleagues on the other side of the debate could also see the same things that he was seeing.

And it was really kind of an unbelievable statement of transparency. He wanted full transparency in everything we were doing. And just as critically -- and we forget this so much -- he wanted full transparency for the American people in what he was doing, the positions he was taking and the legislation that he was helping write.

HILL: And he would talk about it, too, you know, and Dana Bash talking about it this morning, you could always tell when John McCain went with his gut and then when he didn't. And things didn't work out the way that he thought they would. And he would talk about that. He would talk about his regrets. He would apologize for those bursts of passion as we can call them.

There's been an outpouring, not just in this country but from around the world. French President Emmanuel Macron writing, John McCain was a true American hero. He devoted his entire life to his country. His voice will be missed. Our respectful thoughts go to his beloved ones.

And we know we've heard from, of course, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, from a number of others around the world. The president tweeting his condolences this weekend. But we have learned that there was a statement that was drafted by the White House, a much lengthier statement, of course talked about John McCain's career and his service. The president decided not to release that. What are your thoughts on that decision?

KIRBY: Yes, I'm really sorry to hear that. I mean that very disappointing. And while I do think it's noteworthy and it says a lot of things about this particular president, I think we should be, like you and I have been in the last few minutes, really focusing on John McCain and what he did for this country and the service of his family. That's what really matters, not the fact that somebody had a small opinion or a small view of how to honor this great man.

HILL: If you had to pick three words to describe Senator John McCain, what are they?

KIRBY: It would be the three core values of the United States Navy, honor, courage and commitment.

HILL: Rear Admiral John Kirby, always good to speak with you. Thank you.

KIRBY: Thank you.

[09:54:31] HILL: North Korea's state run newspaper claiming the United States is running drills on invading Pyongyang and hatching a plot to unleash war against North Korea. Are the president's plans for denuclearization crumbling?

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HILL: A possible trade deal between the Trump administration and Mexico could come as early as this afternoon. The president seeming optimistic, tweeting out moments ago, a big deal looking good with Mexico. Disagreements between President Trump and outgoing Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, have posed a major hurdle to renegotiating NAFTA. The two nations, though, are now close to an agreement and that could allow the return of Canada back to the negotiating table. The talks have made significant progress on automobiles, labor costs and energy.

[09:59:41] And the Little League World Series championship game, talk about starting off with a bang yesterday. That is team Hawaii there hitting the first pitch by South Korea over the fence, home run out of the gate. Hawaii went on to win, 3-0. And emotional time for the players about the tournament because, of course, as they were playing, Hurricane Lane was approaching their home state. They said they were able to focus, though, and shut out the South Korean team for their third world series crown since 2005. Congratulations.