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Farewell to McCain at State Capitol; McCain to Leave State Capitol; Former Staffer Remembers John McCain; Flake Remembers John McCain. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired August 30, 2018 - 12:00   ET


[12:00:00] RYAN NOBLES, CNN ANCHOR: And at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. McCain will be laid to rest there Sunday in a private ceremony.

And thank you so much for joining me today. Our special coverage of Senator John McCain's memorial service with Wolf Blitzer and Dana Bash starts right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: You're looking at live pictures of the Arizona State Capitol. I'm Wolf Blitzer and this is live CNN special coverage, a celebration of John McCain's life.

You're looking also at live pictures right now. This is the hearse, the motorcade that will be taking -- taking the casket of Senator McCain. It will be escorted from the capitol to a Phoenix church, where his remains will be greeted by his family, his close friends, well-wishers and nearly a quarter of the U.S. Senate.

We have a team of reporters and experts standing by. We'll cover every minute of this very, very moving moment.

Our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, is in Phoenix right now. She's at the church where this remarkable ceremony will happen over the next hour or so.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, obviously it's been an emotional week already. McCain's family wept over his casket yesterday. The state's governor said Arizona without McCain is like picturing Arizona without the Grand Canyon.

And today here, where we are at the North Phoenix Baptist Church, the pews will be packed with those who knew McCain for decades, including former Vice President Joe Biden.

And McCain himself planned all of this. When McCain's casket leaves the church, the pallbearers will carry him out to Frank Sinatra's "My Way." The song's words, fitting, of course, for a life like McCain's, one that traveled down each and every highway, was marked by love and laughter and courage. And even in death, John McCain did it his way.

Here in Arizona with me, two people who covered John McCain on the campaign trail with me, particularly in 2008, Maeve Reston and Jonathan Martin.

And, Maeve, we were talking about how it's fitting to have this kind of sendoff first here in Arizona. Arizona which was as much John McCain and his essence as Washington or the military.

MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, I mean, he always said before Arizona he didn't have a home because he had traveled as a Navy brat as a child. And he said that this was the place that enchanted and claimed him. And here at his church, a church he began attending with Cindy, it was just a really special place to him, and he wanted to honor the state that he loved so much.

BASH: And, Jonathan, the fact that a quarter of the Senate --


BASH: Democrats and Republicans --

MARTIN: Oh, yes.

BASH: Are traveling here to Arizona to be here for this church service says a lot.

MARTIN: Well, John McCain was a man of the Senate. He came to Washington, first to the House in 1982, Dana, but then at his first chance, he came to the Senate to replace Barry Goldwater, speaking of Arizona legends.

BASH: And, Jonathan, I'm sorry to interrupt.

I just want to say that we're seeing Cindy McCain walking outside of -- walking outside there, getting ready for the motorcade, of course, with her children.

RESTON: Jack and Jimmy.

BASH: On one arm, Jack McCain. On the other, Jimmy McCain, her two sons.

MARTIN: Army and Navy each.


BLITZER: The family has gathered. The casket will be brought from the hearse. The motorcade has now arrived at the -- at the church. This is -- this is a moment that the family certainly will appreciate. This is going to be a very, very moving ceremony.

Nick Watt is on the scene for us right now.

Nick, tell our viewers what we can anticipate.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you say, Wolf, right now we are seeing the family waiting for the Arizona National Guard to carry that flag-draped casket out of the Arizona State Capitol into that hearse. Then the motorcade will move through the streets of Phoenix to that Baptist church in north Phoenix where the service will begin.

Members of the public holding McCain signs, lining this route right now. You know, he's been lying in state here since yesterday. And members of the public were standing in line for more than three hours waiting to file past and pay their respects. Twenty-one people actually had to be treated for heat-related issues.

The people of this city, of this state, saying good-bye.

Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, the casket is going to be leaving the state capitol, heading over to the North Phoenix Baptist Church, where the ceremony will occur. We anticipate that will last for at least an hour, an hour and a half or so.

[12:05:09] Dana, you're there on the scene for us. You're already at the church. What are you anticipating?

BASH: Well, Wolf, first I just want to note what we're looking at right now. As Nick talked about, these are members of the Arizona National Guard. But they have a very personal connection to the McCain family.

Maeve, talk about that.

RESTON: Well, these men that we see in front of us were actually, I believe, part of Jimmy's platoon. You know, Jimmy, of course, enlisted in the Marines first and now is in the Arizona National Guard. And so these are people that he knows and he served with. And, you know, that's one of the touches that was so important to the family.

BASH: Jimmy McCain, who enlisted in the Marines, as you said, during the Iraq War, something that John McCain, who was at the front of policy and the fight over that war, never, ever talked about.


BASH: And then he left and became a member of the National Guard. And there you see his friends, as you mentioned, from his platoon.

RESTON: Although, remember on the campaign trail in 2008, how Cindy always had her phone out in the back of the bus when reporters were there talking to McCain in case Jimmy would call, always worried about him.

BASH: Right. I remember.

And, of course, there -- that is one son. His other son, Jack McCain, is right in the footsteps of his father, grandfather, great grandfather, an officer in the U.S. Navy.

BLITZER: S.E. Cupp is with us.

S.E., I know you're very close with Meghan McCain. As you're watching this ceremony, it's only just beginning right now. S.E. CUPP. CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.

BLITZER: The motorcade will leave the State Capitol and head over to the North Phoenix Baptist Church. What goes through your mind?

CUPP: Well, this is -- this is stirring. It's solemn. It's day two. There are three more days of these kinds of incredible, incredible tributes and honors of a man who was important to this country, especially important to this state. Arizona is a very special place to McCain and to his family. If you've been to their ranch, it's nestled in this gorgeous valley on this beautiful river bend. It's impossible not to realize how touched Senator McCain was by the beauty of that place. And I know in their -- in his final months, weeks, days, spending time there with his family, with Meghan, with Cindy, with his other kids in that beautiful valley was healing and was -- gave them all great peace.

BLITZER: There's going to be at least a couple dozen U.S. senators who will be attending this ceremony over at the North Phoenix Baptist Church, David Axelrod, and almost half of them will be Democrats.


Well, this is why we so mourn John McCain because he was, as Jonathan Martin said, a man of the Senate and he believed in the institution. And as firm as he was in his views, he was someone who always reached across the aisle. He had deep friendships with people across the aisle. Ted Kennedy was one of his great friends. And you hear really reverential -- really reverential stories from people on both sides of the aisle about McCain. He was truly an iconic figure in the Senate. And I think particularly at this fraught time, there's a sense of real loss in the country because of that.

BLITZER: I think his nickname as the maverick clearly takes on a significance right now.

Right now the McCain family and the senator's casket, they will be -- in fact, they are right now making their way from the State Capitol to the church. The former U.S. vice president, Joe Biden, he's already there, he will pay his tribute to his very, very close friend.

Our CNN special coverage will continue in just minutes.


[12:13:30] BASH: You're looking at live pictures from inside the North Baptist Church here in Phoenix, Arizona, where, at the top of the hour, we are going to see and hear an incredibly moving ceremony. Meticulously planned by Senator McCain himself, along with his family, to help send him off from and in the land and the state that he loved and he represented for more than three decades, Arizona.

And also, there's a live picture you're seeing of the hearse carrying Senator McCain, making its way from the State Capitol here in Phoenix where we are to the church. And I can just say, we did a drive similar to this, this morning, and

there are flags planted along the way. There are old McCain lawn signs from his campaigns planted along the way, in an organic way, to pay tribute to the senator.

And I want to bring in Jill Hazelbaker, who is here with us now live. Jill was the McCain communications director in the 2008 campaign.

Thank you so much for being here.


BASH: Your thoughts as you're watching these pictures of the hearse carrying the senator here to this church.

FRANKS: Well, it's just an incredible outpouring for an incredible American. I mean what you're seeing all over the world is people whose lives he touched and whose lives he impacted. And I think it's a wonderful remembrance of an outstanding American hero.

[12:15:04] BASH: Jonathan Martin and Maeve Reston are also here with me.

As we watch this scene, we talked a little bit about Arizona and how important Arizona is to him.


BASH: And the specific way that he planned the service that we're going to see in a short while.

RESTON: Yes, you know, I mean he -- he was, as always, impatient about getting it done. He really focused on it, spoke at great length, obviously with Cindy and Mark Salter (ph) as he chose the verses and psalms and the hymns he wanted at this funeral. And many of them are touchstones throughout his life. At the service on Saturday, his son Jimmy will read a poem, "Requiem," by Robert Louis Stevenson that McCain read at his own father's funeral. So really personal to him.

MARTIN: And it's perfect John McCain too because this is somebody whose life was marked by both the deepest reverence for duty, honor, country, for tradition, but also somebody who was deeply irreverent too.

FRANKS: And fun.

MARTIN: So to start with "Amazing Grace," that traditional hymn that's a staple of so many funerals, but then to end with Frank Sinatra's "My Way" to me is sort of quintessential McCain.

BASH: It sure is.

Jill Hazelbaker, you are, for people who can't see, you are extremely pregnant.

FRANKS: Yes. I'm ten days away.

BASH: And you're -- ten days away. You traveled here for this. But you also are wearing John McCain's bracelet, his POW bracelet.

FRANKS: Yes. Yes. So I'm ten days pregnant. And when I went to my doctor to say I needed a hall pass to get on the plane, she told another doctor in her practice about where I was going. And the doctor sent this bracelet to my home. It turns out that his mother-in-law was a nurse during the Vietnam War and wore his bracelet all these years and that he had kept it. And he asked me to wear it to the memorial service today.

And that just tells you what a huge impact the senator had on people's lives.

BASH: It sure does. There's no question about it.

And, Jill, you got to know the senator. We knew him as reporters, but you knew him as a staffer.

FRANKS: With all of you on the bus.

BASH: Your -- we call you -- yes, exactly, we call you fondly McCainiacs (ph).


BASH: What's it like to be a McCainiac?

FRANKS: Well, all of us are here today and I think that tells you something about what he meant to us. You know, I first met Senator McCain in New Hampshire. It's a state that he loved for their strong libertarian streak, but also because he had beat George Bush in the state by 18 points eight -- four years earlier, eight years earlier.

MARTIN: Who's counting though?

FRANKS: Who's counting, though? And so the state had always really rewarded him. And, you know, I think about the trips we had there, the blizzards we trudged through, the time on the bus with him, and it was just a special thing to be a part of.

BASH: Everybody stand by.

We're watching, as we've been saying, the hearse carrying Senator McCain go from the Arizona -- the Phoenix Capitol to the church where we are where he will have a beautiful sendoff, a ceremony, shortly at the top of the hour.

He'll be welcomed by nearly a quarter of his former colleagues in the U.S. Senate. And our CNN special coverage will continue very shortly. We'll be right back.


[12:23:08] BASH: Looking at live pictures of John McCain's motorcade making its way from the Arizona Capitol here in Phoenix to here where we are at the North Phoenix Baptist Church.

And on the other side of the road there, cars are stopped. Sometimes that happens for security reasons, but sometimes it also happens for reverence. And there's probably a combination of both happening right there. People understand all over the state and all over the country and the world indeed what is happening today, but they're particularly feeling it very, very hard here in John McCain's beloved Arizona.

And here with me now is his colleague, his fellow senator from Arizona, Jeff Flake.

Senator, thank you so much for being with me. Appreciate it.


BASH: What goes through your mind as you're looking at those pictures?

FLAKE: Oh, it's -- they're all over the state, for example, on all the freeways, the electronic billboards have been programmed to say, you know, John McCain, rest in peace. So all around the state today people are in mourning, but also a great celebration for a life well lived. John McCain means a lot to the state.

BASH: He sure does.

And the state and just the grand scale of the memorial that he planned, along with his friends and family, of course --

FLAKE: Right.

BASH: Here in Arizona, and then, of course, what we're going to see in Washington and then at the Naval Academy.

FLAKE: Right.

BASH: What does that tell you about his legacy?

FLAKE: Well, one, we are very fortunate that he called Arizona home. You've heard it said that he never felt home until he was in Arizona. And that what I will remember more than anything is traveling around the state with John to the small towns, to, you know, the north and far south near the border, up in my own hometown of Snowflake, where he would kid me endlessly that I would never be elected were it not for my hundreds of siblings and thousands of cousins. And he had -- he's just quintessentially Arizonan.

[12:25:15] BASH: And, senator, you were with Senator McCain's family, his wife Cindy, his children last night.

FLAKE: Right.

BASH: How are they holding up?

FLAKE: You know, Cindy's a rock. She really is. You can imagine what she's been through for the past several months with the focus of the country, you know, on her and her husband and the family as well. And I think she has just handled that so well. And I just am so, so appreciative, I think all of us are, that they took such good care of him and kept him involved where he could be a voice this year, this past year, when his voice was needed more than ever.

Whenever I'd go to see him, there he was with briefing books on his lap and fully engaged in what was going on, talking to his staff and others. And so it just -- it was a wonderful celebration last night with his family.

BASH: And, senator, I know understandably the governor is not talking about his replacement until after the internment.

FLAKE: Right.

BASH: But given the fact that the senator planned everything down to Frank Sinatra being sung here and "Danny Boy" at the National Cathedral --

FLAKE: Right.

BASH: It's hard to imagine he didn't have an opinion on who would replace him. Without asking you for a name, because I know you won't give me an answer --

FLAKE: Right.

BASH: Can you tell me if he discussed that with the governor?

FLAKE: You know, I don't know. I don't know. And the governor hasn't said. This is the governor's decision. I'm sure that if John McCain had thoughts, he would have shared them. But this is up to the governor. And I'm sure he'll make the right pick.

BASH: Thank you very much for joining me. Thank you. And we're sorry for your loss and Arizona's loss.

FLAKE: We all are. This is a -- this is Arizona's loss, but it's the country's loss too. It really is.

BASH: Senator, thank you so much.

FLAKE: Thank you.

BASH: And John McCain's casket will soon arrive here at the North Phoenix Baptist Church. How the senator's children plan to honor their dad, that's next.