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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Megan Mccain to Pay Tribute to Her Father; Ceremonies Honouring John Mccain to Begin Shortly; Cindy Mccain to Lay Wreath at Vietnam Veterans Memorial; Mccain Family Arriving at U.S. Capitol; Mccain Motorcade on Way to Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Aired 8-9a ET
Aired September 1, 2018 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: CNN's special coverage of Senator John McCain's memorial service with Wolf Blitzer and Dana Bash begins right now.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Inside the U.S. Capitol, a Senate powerhouse lies in state. Soon we'll witness John McCain's final journey from the halls of Congress to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, where there will be a wreath laying honoring his wartime sacrifice and his heroism.
Then it's on to the Washington National Cathedral, where family, friends and two former U.S. Presidents will celebrate his truly remarkable life. We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington, with CNN's special coverage of the funeral of John McCain.
My colleague Dana Bash is just outside Washington National Cathedral. Dana, this is a goodbye that Senator McCain wanted; he planned all of this before his death.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He sure did, Wolf, every word, every song, every speaker has meaning. Especially the eulogies we will hear today from former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush. McCain personally asked each of them to speak as a show of bipartisanship and civility that he felt was needed right now. He made that abundantly clear.
Other prominent speakers include McCain's daughter Megan, as well as former Senator Joe Lieberman and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. I want to get to Ryan Nobles who is also here at the Cathedral as mourners are arriving. And Ryan, I can see the very long line of people who are waiting to get in. Describe the scene.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Dana. This line started forming early this morning around 6:30. Keep in mind, these are all invited guests, handpicked by Senator McCain and his family to be in attendance at this funeral service. And this line is massive. It wraps around the block here, the Washington National Cathedral which is an enormous campus here in Washington, D.C.
This crowd is very solemn. We've seen a lot of notable dignitaries. Among them, Leon Panetta; the Former President of Mexico, Vicente Fox. Each one of these individuals will have the opportunity to go inside the National Cathedral and be there to pay their final respects to Senator McCain. And as we mentioned and we talked many times, this was a handpicked group, part of this meticulously planned funeral for Senator McCain.
BASH: Ryan, thank you so much. Here with me is CNN's Chief Political Analyst, Gloria Borger. Good morning Gloria, your thoughts right now.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning. My thoughts are that, as I look at that line of people, what's remarkable to me is it's bipartisan. There are Democrats and Republicans in that line, all of whom respected and admired and fought with Senator John McCain.
And it is clear to me that his hand is on everything. If you can speak from the grave, that's John McCain today. And what I'm so interested to hear, in addition of course to the eulogies by the two Former Presidents who defeated him, I want to hear the stories about John McCain and the way he fought with his colleagues.
That in the end, if he lost the battle, he went on to the next battle. And these are the stories that I think the American people will be very interested in hearing about this hero.
BASH: And just like the Capitol -- lying in state in the Capitol, which is saved just for select few, the most respected Americans, same can be said for having an event, having a memorial at the National Cathedral. It really is a special, special place and a special day.
BORGER: It is.
BASH: I want to send it back to Wolf in the studio. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, Dana, we're going to have extensive live coverage of all of these important events. Jamie Gangel, you've been doing some reporting on what we might be hearing from these former Presidents.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's no accident that he picked these two men, a Republican and a Democrat, and I think undoubtedly he's going to talk about his family, about his career, his legacy.
BLITZER: You're talking about President Obama?
GANGEL: President Obama and President Bush. I think there will be funny stories that he will tell -- that they will both tell about him. But there's no question that both of these men know why John McCain asked them to be there today.
And I don't think you're going to have to read too far between the lines. It's going to be about bipartisanship, civility, respect, direct contrast to a lot of what we've been seeing. Both President Obama and President Bush have been careful not to attack President Trump by name. That doesn't mean they haven't sent messages about policy or about the mood. President Obama, in July, talked about the politics of fear. So I
think we're going to see those same themes in both these speeches, today.
BLITZER: We'll study, I'm sure, every word of these two former Presidents. You used to work for President Obama, David Axelrod, tell us about their relationship, Senator McCain and President Obama, but what we can expect to hear from the former Presidents today.
DAVID AXELROD, FORMER OBAMA SENIOR ADVISER: Well, as colleagues in the Senate, they tangled as John McCain did with friends and foes in the Senate. But there was a real respect between them and obviously there were moments in that campaign when John McCain, particularly at the end of the campaign, when John McCain stood up to someone in his own crowd and defended Barack Obama. There were those moments when you said this guy's is genuine.
BLITZER: Do you think we'll hear of that today from the former President?
AXELROD: I think he will mention that.
BLITZER: You heard what Jamie's reporting.
AXELROD: I think he'll talk about that, but I think he'll also talk about what it meant to -- this invitation itself, what the invitation itself said about John McCain. So I think he'll talk about the character of the man.
But the very act of asking two former opponents to come and speak really spoke to how John McCain approached politics, that he didn't personalize his differences with people. And he appreciated people who cared about the country, even when they disagreed.
BLITZER: And do you think there will be some messages, as Jamie is reporting, to what the current political environment in Washington is right now? It clearly is not very good.
AXELROD: I don't expect really overt messages. But let's face it, just the presence of these two men on the podium and the absence of the President of the United States, the current President of the United States, is a message in and of itself.
BLITZER: We are standing by for the motorcade to arrive at the U.S. Capitol. Just ahead of the funeral service, including what is sure to be a very emotional tribute by Senator McCain's daughter, Megan. Our special coverage continues in just a moment.
TEXT: JOHN MCCAIN, SENATOR, ARIZONA: I would not trade a day of my life, in good or bad times, for the best day of anyone else's.
BASH: We're back at the Washington National Cathedral where Senator John McCain will be remembered today by two former Presidents, the two people who kept him from the highest office in the land, and also by his daughters who loved him so much.
Megan McCain has spoken openly, very publicly, about her struggle with her father's illness. And now in his death, listen to her talk with former Vice President Joe Biden, when he appeared on the show she co- hosts "The View."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MEGAN MCCAIN, JOHN MCCAIN'S DAUGHTER: I couldn't get through your book, I tried. Your son, Beau, had the same cancer that my father was diagnosed with six months ago.
JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES: There's a lot of hope there.
MEGAN MCCAIN: I think about Beau almost every day and I was told, sorry, that this doesn't get easier. But do you cultivate the tools to work with this and live with this? I know you and your family have been through tragedy that I couldn't conceive of.
BIDEN: Well, look, look, look--
MEGAN MCCAIN: What would you tell people? It's not about me, it's about everyone.
BIDEN: No, it is about everyone. But look, one of the things that gave Beau courage, my word, was John. Your dad, you may remember, you were a little kid, your dad took care of my Beau. Your dad, when he was a melee (ph) worker with me became friends with Beau, and Beau talked about your dad's courage, not about illness, but about his courage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: And Gloria Borger is with me. That was such a human moment. It's a memorable moment for so many reasons. Not just because of the illness, but it also is a reminder that the nation is mourning, but he's got a family, a daughter who you just saw and six other children and grandchildren, not to mention his widow, for whom this is so personal.
BORGER: And look, glioblastoma is effectively a death sentence and everybody knows it. Nobody more than Joe Biden, whose son died of the same thing, and I also might point out that Ted Kennedy, one of John McCain's best friends, who if he were alive today, I bet, he'd be speaking, also died of the same thing.
But the point is that John McCain was able to comfort Joe Biden in his time of grief. And it's very clear from all that we have learned that Joe Biden was able to comfort John McCain in the same way, making a trip to Sedona to talk to him.
BASH: And we heard such beautiful words from Joe Biden--
BASH: --of his service in Arizona. Today it's Megan McCain's turn, and she's been emotional, understandably though.
BASH: Really emotional. She's going to have to try to get it together. Everybody's going to give her a lot of leeway to have a human moment. But I can't imagine the pressure she's probably putting on herself to pay tribute in this kind of setting, in this kind of way, with her father--
BORGER: You know in many ways, she has spoken about this, her mother has spoken about this. They went on "The View" together after their father was criticized by the President and said, "Enough, we need to stop this." And no matter how much you plan for something like this, Dana, I think still the moment is difficult and she is obviously so close to her father, spent so much time during his last month in Sedona with him.
And he was so proud of her. He was so proud of her on "The View" and everything else that she's accomplished, and so obviously this is difficult, but it's so much from the heart.
BASH: And I just want to point out, what we're seeing now, former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, with her husband Mark Kelly. Congresswoman from Arizona, who obviously--
BASH: --served with Senator McCain in Congress and now is here to pay her respects as well.
BORGER: I think there are so many people that we're watching walk in, who served with him and who are no longer in Congress, but with whom he has kept in touch; people that he admired and people he fought with.
I mean, you know from covering the Hill and I know from covering the Hill way before you, that when you got in a fight with John McCain, it was not easy, and he was tough. He was a tough adversary, but when it was over, it was over and then he moved on to the next thing.
BASH: Yes, very quickly.
BORGER: Very quickly.
BASH: Always moving. Somebody, one of his friends described him as a shark, never stopped moving.
BORGER: Never stopped, including his staff, described him the same way.
BORGER: Hard to keep up.
BASH: Exactly. Stand by. Gloria, coming up, as mourners arrive for the funeral service, we'll hear from Senator McCain in his own words as he knew that death was near, he chose to celebrate his life. Stay with us.
TEXT: MCCAIN: It's been quite a ride... I made a small place for myself in the story of America and the history of my times.
BLITZER: We're getting live pictures from Capitol Hill right now. Momentarily, a motorcade will arrive with a hearse. The hearse will await below those stairs. Military honor guard will take the casket of Senator McCain, which has been lying in state at the Capitol Rotunda over these past 24 hours or so, they will then go from the U.S. Capitol, down Pennsylvania Avenue over to here.
This is live pictures at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., where Cindy McCain and other family members will lead the motorcade, go to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and lay a wreath in memory of those who served, those who died, this was a very, very special place for Senator McCain.
We're watching as friends and colleagues also make their way over to the National Cathedral, they've been waiting in line. This is an extremely emotional moment. So many of these people feel very fortunate that they had a chance to come and pay their tribute to this remarkable man who served his country with so much love. Listen to Senator McCain reading an excerpt from his book "The Restless Wave."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: The world is a fine place and worth fighting for, and I hate very much to leave it, spoke my hero Robert Jordan in "For Whom the Bell Tolls." And I do too, I hate to leave it, but I don't have a complaint, not one.
It's been quite a ride. I've known great passions, seen amazing wonders, fought in a war and helped make peace. I've lived very well and I have been deprived of all comforts. I have been as lonely as a person can be and I've enjoyed the company of heroes. I've suffered the deepest despair and experienced the highest exultation.
I made a small place for myself in the story of America and the history of my times. What an ingrate I would be to curse the fate that concludes the blessed life I've led. I prefer to give thanks to those blessings and my love to the people who blessed me with theirs. The bell tolls for me, I knew it would. So I tried as best I could to stay apart of the main.
I hope those who mourn my passing, and even those who don't, will celebrate as I celebrate a happy life lived in perfect service to a country, made of ideals, whose continued success is the hope of the world, and I wish all of you great adventurers, good company and lives as lucky as mine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Such powerful words in his last book from Senator McCain. Governor Jan Brewer is with us. Former Governor of Arizona. Governor, you obviously spent a lot of time with Senator McCain. You knew him well, your thoughts.
JAN BREWER, FORMER GOVERNOR, ARIZONA: This man is such an American hero and a patriot and had so much courage, and he believed in fighting for what he believed in, but he would always listen.
It's just watching the eulogies and people that have spoken about him, it just brings back so many memories of what kind of man John McCain really truly was. He fought like the devil when he wanted something; the passion was uncontrollable.
But you know he respected everybody for their right to fight hard for what they believed in, and it's a mournful time in Arizona and around the world. People today will hear eulogies, in my opinion, again, that will reflect that amazing life of his. And it is an American funeral that we're going to see today, bringing together every one of people that have knew him from all walks of life and that are going to be able to reflect what a great person he really truly was.
BLITZER: Certainly was. A lot of people are going to be holding back those tears throughout this mourning. Maeve Reston, you've spent a lot of time with Senator McCain covering him over these years.
MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, I think it's just so interesting, we've talked about the overlays of bipartisanship in the service, but there's also so many personal touches. I did a long interview with John McCain about his faith.
And he wanted this final service to reassure his friends he really believed in God's grace and that he had apologized for his mistakes and rectified them. And you'll see touches about it throughout the service, also the poem, "Requiem" that his son Jimmy will read. He taught it to Jimmy, he read it at his father's funeral, it brings the tradition full circle.
BLITZER: Jeff Zeleny, you spent a lot of time with him as well?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I did and I'm struck by as we're about to see him leave the Capitol there. He is indeed the last or the second to last Vietnam veteran Senator. There's only one U.S. senator now who has served in Vietnam. This is not only a passing of John McCain, it's a passing of time, a generational passing of time.
So what we're about to witness today was scripted, as we've said, word by word from Senator McCain and those invitations to his former rivals. They were both taken by surprise, back in April, when they got those phone calls from Senator McCain. He has other friends who are much closer to him in the Cathedral.
That wasn't the point. The point was to have Barack Obama and George W. Bush speak for him to make this larger message today.
BLITZER: We're standing by to see the McCain family for the first time today and a tribute to the Senator's wartime heroism with the wreath- laying ceremony over the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Our special coverage continues right after this. TEXT: MCCAIN: It is your character and your character alone that will
make your life happy or unhappy. And you choose it.
BLITZER: Welcome back. We are looking at live pictures from Capitol Hill. Momentarily, the casket carrying Senator John McCain will be brought down those steps of Capitol Hill, a U.S. military armed forces what they call Body Bearers Honor Guard will carry the casket to a hearse.
The motorcade will then head over to the U.S. Vietnam Veterans Memorial, not too far away. Suzanne Malveaux is up on Capitol Hill. Suzanne, momentarily, we will have pictures of the family, live pictures of the family, as they await the arrival of that casket.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, we are actually at the East plaza here at the U.S. Capitol. Right behind us is where Senator McCain lies in state. And he has been watched a vigil an honor guard over his body overnight, rotating out every 20 minutes.
The hearse that will carry his body to the ceremony later this morning is actually here and is at the bottom of the steps. We expect momentarily that the McCain
family will be arriving here that they will watch the ceremony. It is an official ceremony carrying the casket down those 365 steps of the Capitol back into the hearse and then on to that ceremony later this morning. It was drizzling. It was a little bit of rain. God's tears, if you will. But now that has cleared up. Wolf?
BLITZER: Thank you, Suzanne. And that motorcade from Capitol Hill with the hearse and the motorcade and the casket of Senator McCain will head over to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Once again, Cindy McCain and other family members will leave the motorcade and they will head over and pay tribute with a wreath-laying ceremony.
Tom Foreman is over there at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Tom, set the scene for us.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's a short distance from here to the Capitol, but it is a world away in the sense that this is not invited dignitaries, these are not the important people of Washington or the world. But this is the one place today, except for the procession itself, where normal citizens can pay their respects.
And they have been gathering here for more than an hour now in this dreary wet morning to stand at a distance and respectfully watch as Cindy McCain goes forward and places a wreath at the wall, commemorating these 58,000 people who lost their lives, Americans, in the Vietnam war. John McCain, of course was a champion for veterans in all of his years after being in the war and being captive for 5.5 years.
And over the past few days, there have been many people who have come to this town and have made the point of saying they appreciate that service a great deal, even though many of them did not always agree with his politics. Clearly, here today, as she comes to honor those lost in the war, they have come to honor her and they'll be here quietly as she comes by soon. Wolf?
BLITZER: We can see the family and the motorcade. Megan McCain there and her husband. You can see they've already gathered. They're awaiting the U.S. Military Honor Guard, the Body Bearers. They will take the casket down those stairs and into the casket. The motorcade will then head over to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Our Presidential historian, Douglas Brinkley is watching all of this together with our viewers here in the United States and around the world. Give us some historic perspective.
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, we played a clip a minute ago where John McCain ostensibly said, "I have no quarrel with God." And I think that's very important, his motto really was no complaints.
That complaints are bore and a nuisance to all and it undermines the values essential to endurance. So it seems to me, we have been honoring him this past week as our symbol of national endurance and the power of the POW Story.
BLITZER: You can see here Cindy McCain there with her sons, her daughters. They are gathered, they're awaiting the arrival of the casket. Jamie, this is going to be continuing, you can see Cindy McCain already emotional, totally understandably.
GANGEL: I think what we have to remember and we saw this in Arizona, which was a very personal service, that this is a tribute to the man, the hero, the legacy, the politician, but this is his family, and it's very personal and hard for them.
RESTON: We see of course Jack there in his navy whites next to McCain's son Jimmy, who will read, "Requiem" today. Jimmy enlisted in the Marines during the Iraq war. His father always worried about him throughout that 2008 campaign. Cindy always kept her phone in front of her in case to make sure they didn't miss a call from Jimmy.
And then Cindy McCain, of course, has been over the last couple of days, the woman who has been comforting her children. You see Bridget there next to her, and Megan McCain so many times with her handkerchief in hand. She has rubbed their backs and tried to give them solace.
And in these final months, many friends said that Cindy and John McCain grew so much closer. Once again, she was 20 hours by his side, making sure he had every piece of care that he needed. They laughed, they watched movies, and of course, she has just been a stoic force in these last couple of days, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's pause and listen and watch as the casket is brought down those stairs.
(VIDEO PLAYING) The ceremonies honoring Senator McCain now under way. His widow, Cindy will lay a wreath at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. That's coming up.
Our special coverage continues in a moment.
BASH: You're looking at live pictures of the hearse carrying John McCain, the motorcade carrying his family behind him, leaving the U.S. Capitol for the very last time, the Capitol that he spent more hours in than anybody can count, serving the state of Arizona and of course the country for more than three decades.
And he leaves as the Sitting Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, a committee that he loved chairing, because it was his job to oversee the United States forces. And look at all the people, saluting him, there to see him, there to give their own personal send-off, says a lot about the way John McCain, as we've seen over the past weeks, touched people from around the world.
And I want to go to the Vietnam Memorial because that's the first stop that this motorcade is going to make in order for Cindy McCain to go there, in order to lay a wreath in honor of, not just her late husband, but all of those who served in the war that changed John McCain's life forever.
Tom Foreman is there at the Vietnam Memorial. Tom, set the scene.
FOREMAN: This really is the only place today, Dana, where the general public has a substantial part of the ceremonies and so many people as you know, have talked about their individual encounters with John McCain in various places. What we've seen here over the past couple of hours is this crowd growing here in front of the Memorial to watch this wreath laying, very quiet and very solemn.
They actually go deeper into the trees over here to the left. There are several hundreds of them here. Quite obvious, it's hard to get a good sense of it right now. But even on this dreary day, they have shown up for this one part, really what in some ways, is the citizens memorial today.
For all of the dignitaries, for all of the world leaders, these are just normal people. And when I talked to some yesterday, there are people who have come from California and from New York and from the deep South and from parts all over the Midwest who came here specifically at the last moment, because they wanted to have a moment to pay their respects.
And even on this dreary, damp day, they have gathered out here simply to watch this small part where Cindy McCain pays respect to the 58,000 lives lost in the Vietnam War, American lives. And they are here to pay respect to one of the survivors who became a great champion for veterans' rights, which I can assure you that people in this crowd very much appreciate, whether or not they agree with his politics, Dana. BASH: Tom Foreman, thank you so much. And here with me are two people
who served with John McCain in the Vietnam War, who were prisoners of war with John McCain. Colonel John Fer and retired Commander Everett Alvarez, thank you all for being here.
And Colonel Fer--
JOHN FER, RETIRED COLONEL: It's our pleasure.
BASH: --you not only were a prisoner of war with John McCain, you were his cellmate for 2 of the 5.5 years that he was held captive, and actually you were as well. Can you even begin to describe what he was like in such close quarters, in such hellish conditions?
FER: No, Dana, when you see John under those conditions, you learn that there is a deep inner strength that comes from many sources of John. He was a composite, he really was, he was a composite of all the values that America embodies.
BASH: And you saw that even then, in the dreadful times?
FER: Oh, there's no question about it. There's no question about it. We had a lot of discussions about leadership and our obligations to serve America and things like that. He always said, remember it's the mission first. Who do we serve first?
And we take care of our men and women nowadays in the military. But back then it was in the context of Americans, how do we look towards making, keeping America great and under the strength of our commitment and leadership.
BASH: And I know he worked hard to keep you strong and your fellow prisoners of war. And you had reading hours and you had movie hours. And that didn't mean sitting and reading a book and watching a movie, you would entertain each other.
FER: Right, right. John was a man of depth, of reading and studying. He could talk about the great authors like Hemmingway and Steinbeck. He would often quote people like Damon Runyon and his humorous writings about people on Broadway and things like that.
But he knew history, he knew history very much and I think that his source for that was probably his family, which goes back generations. A lot of people didn't realize the generational length of his family.
BASH: And I know that you would perform around Christmas, the Christmas Carol. And not surprisingly, he played the Scrooge, right?
FER: He played Scrooge and I won't repeat it here, but there was a great amount of humorous profanity that went on. And John, as you know, he could be very--
BASH: Swore like a sailor.
FER: He could be like a warrior in his feet. BASH: And I just want to get to you, Commander Alvarez, because we've
been talking so much this week about the fact that, as a prisoner of war, he would not leave before others.
You mentioned his family. His father at the time was a four-star Admiral Commander of the very forces in Vietnam. They tried to give him early release. He said no and he specifically cited you in his book, when his captor said, what's your answer, no, thank you, why, American prisoners cannot accept parole or amnesty as special favors. We must be released in order of capture starting with Everett Alvarez.
COMMANDER EVERETT ALVAREZ JR (RETD): Right.
BASH: You were the longest--
ALVAREZ: I was the first one shot down.
BASH: So you were the first one shot down and you were the - there's only one other prisoner of war in American history who was held captive longer than you.
ALVAREZ: Right. Colonel Thompson in the South. He was captured six months before I was shot down.
BASH: What does it tell you that he wouldn't leave before you?
ALVAREZ: Well, it says a lot about John and John's character. That was a policy we had and I think every man stuck to that policy, or at least most of them followed that. It's a matter of conscience. It's a matter of character.
But to follow up what John said, Colonel Fer not McCain, what he just said about John really holds true for all the others in the sense that we all stuck together. We were a cohesive unit. We had to be. It was not a walk in the park. We had some tough times. And--
BASH: You were beaten brutally?
ALVAREZ: Oh, yes. Most of us were. And it's just a matter of sticking together, keeping ourselves going and the experience really solidifies the values. As John said, he fell in love with his country. I think that happened to most of us.
And I think what was remarkable about John is that he had a good sense of what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. He chose public service. He worked hard at it and he eventually became a giant among his peers.
BORGER: Commander, can you tell us a little bit what it was like when you, and both of you I guess, discussed the -- afterwards discussed the importance of what you all went through together in terms of how it impacted the rest of your years.
ALVAREZ: That's what I was referring to because we had to stick together, because we had to remain a single unit in achieving our goal. Our goal was to come home with our honor and our integrity intact. And so in that sense, John was one of us.
And he held true to his -- to these core values just like most of us did. But I think that it was important to him because having seen that as a goal and experience that, I really think he sensed a lot of frustration in the later years with all the bickering and all of the partisanship that he faced in his role as a Senator.
And I think that really affected him, motivated him. Knowing what was really possible if we could get together and move the country forward. So, in many respects I think that experience really created a lot.
BORGER: And Colonel.
FER: As time progressed over these last several days since John's passing, I thought that you needed to go back in a sense to basics. For instance, I was asked a number of times during these last few days about what I thought John's legacy was to America and I went to the classic of my old dictionary and looked for the definition of legacy.
And it's a gift, a legacy is a gift, not in the monetary sense, it's a bequest that's given to America. There's going to be a void in this country, there's a void in my heart and Ev's heart and all POWs who knew John. There's a void in our lives now.
And there'll be a void in America because we will miss John's voice. But he never gave up and he always appealed to the better judgement of Americans in his speech, his articulation of the issues. He didn't engage in ad hominem, my Latin, ad hominem attacks. He was always issue oriented. He was issue oriented.
BORGER: Did he buck you up? Do you remember a moment where you were--
FER: Oh yes.
BORGER: Many moments, I'm sure, when you were ready to give up. How did he do that?
FER: Never give up. No, no.
BORGER: OK, OK.
FER: OK, down, discouraged, complaining mostly about the terrible food, but we had an empathy towards one another. Ev has referred to that, it's an empathy that goes far deeper than just the definition of the word. It's a soul like association.
A commitment to one another. And so we never felt sorry for one another. Nobody I ever lived with, certainly Everett did and he's been there - he was there longer, complained. We never complained. We were there with seriously injured people and never complained.
BASH: And I just want to say, what we are looking at now is the hearse getting closer to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial where John McCain's widow Cindy McCain will be laying a wreath.
And this is something that we know from the agents that talked about planning this, it was so important to Senator McCain to make this stop on his way here to the National Cathedral, to pay tribute to not only the war in which he served, but to all of you and to all of his fellow veterans and to those who didn't make it home.
And as we watch this, I also want to mention that both of you are going to be pallbearers, tomorrow. Tomorrow will be Senator McCain's burial at the Naval Academy. Talk about that honor.
FER: I was very surprised when I was called and asked to be a part of it.
FER: Because there are so many more well-known people in the military and out of the military that could have been asked to be a pallbearer. And when I got Mark Salter's call, I hesitated for a bit and I said, Mark, I would be honoured, I would be honored because it did catch me kind of by surprise.
BORGER: And Commander, what about you?
ALVAREZ: I had the same reaction, but I immediately said yes. I felt - I've worked with John over the years since we came home. I was fairly close to him during the campaigns, 2000 and then again in 2008. In the interim, we had a lot of interaction with my job and with his role on the Congress.
And I thought about the conversation I had with John, a couple months prior to that, it was last winter actually, when it was the last time I talked to John and we were reminiscing. And then he said, you know Ev, he says, you and I, we have been through a lot together.
And then his voice cracked and he became emotional. And that was hard. It was hard for me because we had been through a lot together. I was always a supporting role in the campaigns and whatever I could do, but he was a fine partner (ph).
BASH: Commander, let's listen in. We see that Cindy McCain along with the Defense Secretary and the White House Chief of Staff, are walking up to the memorial.