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Inside Politics

Funeral for Aretha Franklin; McCain Lies in State at U.S. Capitol. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired August 31, 2018 - 12:00   ET



FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Bringing people to their feet at the Greater Grace Temple there, Nashville's Faith Hill, all in celebration of Aretha Franklin.

Before Faith Hill, starting out her song saying this is for you, Aretha.

Hello, everyone. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in Detroit here, as we continue to watch this ceremony, just now getting underway. And people on their feet, fired up, celebrating the life of this home-going for the queen of soul.

During this ceremony today, during this service today, it will be a star-powered celebration of life, only fitting for a queen. Former President Bill Clinton we saw in the crowd earlier. Hillary Clinton along with him. Ariana Grande also, who will be singing during this tribute.

You're looking at pictures right now live inside the Greater Grace Temple Church.

Family members, friends, and a thousand -- thousands, rather, of fans who were unexpectedly allowed into the private ceremony, are packed inside there. There were people who were standing outside as early as yesterday, lining up, hoping that they'd get a chance to be inside.

Whoopi Goldberg is also there. Cecily Tyson. The list is long of amazing luminaries here to celebrate the impact of Aretha Franklin.

An in addition to the remarks expected from the former president, Bill Clinton, these speakers will be talking about their personal experiences, how she has made an impact, and not just on their lives, but on so many throughout this world, quite frankly.

Chaka Khan, Reverend Jesse Jackson are also among the dignitaries.

Smokey Robinson, who has spoken the last couple weeks so beautifully about their relationship going back to their childhood years. Jennifer Hudson, Stevie Wonder. I spoke earlier to Shirley Caesar, who spoke so eloquently of what it was to grow up singing with Aretha Franklin as a teenager and then being invited to the Obama White House later on to sing there at the White House. [12:05:02] Influential pastor, Bishop T.D. Jakes, was part of the

opening remarks. Let's listen in.


BISHOP T.D. JAKES: From the palaces in England singing for the queen, to popping up in the backseat of a car in the middle of a commercial, Aretha was everywhere. She was classy enough to sing on the most prominent stages in the world, but she was homegrown enough to make potato salad and fry some chicken. In a class all by herself.


WHITFIELD: A funeral fit for a queen.

Aretha Franklin's body was bought to this church in a 24-karat gold plated casket. And Franklin was seen by many close friends who had an opportunity to visit with her prior to the ceremony getting underway, arriving dressed in gold.

She has endured a series of costume changes over the last few days while her body has been laying in repose for the public to pay their respects to her.

The legendary singer who transcended so many genres died earlier this month at the age of 76 after advanced pancreatic cancer.

There have been thousands of people who have come out here at the church who have celebrated her life. If you have been anywhere close to Detroit in the last two weeks, you will see -- you will see it, it's palpable, that people have been touched by Aretha Franklin in so many different ways.

Last night, downtown Detroit was awash in pink. And at the General Motors building they had a big Jumbotron spelling out r-e-s-p-e-c-t.

CNN national correspondent Ryan Young is joining me right now.

Ryan, you have been there among the crowd. You've talked to people, what has motivated them to come out here and pay their respects at the Greater Grace Temple Church. What have folks told you?


Look, I went inside just a few minutes ago and I was walking around myself. People are in awe inside this church as the service just got going. One lady telling me, look, we knew this was going to start late. This may go all night because that's what we do sometimes. This may be like an Easter service. And you've got to understand, sometimes you've got to stretch it a little longer. And they understand with some of the powerful pastors that have come here, they believe this could go longer than what's been put out there.

But on top of that, there's a lot of people who believe Anita just -- I mean Aretha had that voice that was unbelievable, in terms of the fact that she was anointed by God. You hear that a lot in terms of the passion, in terms of the spirit of the people, and they believe in the Gospel. And so, at the end of the day, we were talking to people who were standing in line. They say, if she could endure so much, why can't I stand in line a little longer?

And one woman was telling me she got here yesterday around 5:00 because she heard the rumor that they were going to make it inside. And there were so many people with walkers and canes. They just wanted to be able to pay their respects. They believe this is the last time they'll be able to see someone from this generation so closely, the idea that she would be close here, she would never leave Detroit.

Detroit has had some hard times. And a lot of people are taking pride in how downtown's coming back. They want to see the rest of the city come back. But they believe Aretha was there with them. The songs, you'll think about them, "Respect," "Bridge Over Troubled Waters," you know, that is the idea here where they believe she was the gap sometimes that's helped them get through life.

And we talked to one young man who said he was thinking about committing suicide, but it was her voice that was actually able to guide her through. So there's that passion here. And there's that emotion that you cannot deny.

A lot of this people have been doing with smiles because they just wanted to be together and talk about the culture and how things have changed. Think about the idea of this. There were times that Aretha Franklin would go on tour to raise money for the civil rights movement. People have never forgotten that. And they have never forgotten the fact that she also fed the homeless in this community.

So when you stitch all that together, you have a woman who had service, but also had a lot of respect from the people in this community in a different way. She never got too Hollywood for Detroit, and that's something that you see here today.

But they're going all out, including with the shoes that everyone's talking about, all those costume changes. It's part of that diva. It's part of the queen of soul. That's what people enjoy so much.

WHITFIELD: She was glamorous, and people enjoyed that. They enjoyed the fur coat wearing, even if it were 80 or 90 degrees, the dropping it on the floor --

YOUNG: Absolutely.

WHITFIELD: You know, was quintessential Aretha Franklin. And you really underscore how she touched so many lives. Yesterday when I had an opportunity to go into the church, the first thing you're met with is the wafting beauty of roses and lilies, of all the arrangements that were sent out. And I read some of the cards coming from Barbara Streisand, saying, to a sister gone too soon, from Rod Stewart, your inspiration will last forever, from the Ray Charles Foundation, blessings and condolences, and also from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, on behalf of your family at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, we send our deepest sympathies.

[12:10:03] So, so many people touched in so many different ways. And her legacy is being celebrated today.

Ryan Young, we'll check back with you. Thank you so much.

As the program inside continues, coming up, the nation honors an American hero and a political legend and giant, Senator John McCain, as well, now lying in state at the U.S. Capitol. House Speaker Paul Ryan calling McCain, quote, one of the bravest souls our nation has ever produced.

Stay with us as we celebrate the lives of two American titans.


DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Honoring a hero. Today, we have been watching Capitol Hill. We've been watching the ceremony there for John McCain, lying in state in the Capitol Rotunda right now.

[12:15:00] You see there from earlier, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer both presenting the wreath. It's a break in protocol at the behest of John McCain himself, who wanted one final act of bipartisanship in his honor.

Dignitaries and family members gathering to remember the inspirational senator and passionate statesman with kind words, fond memories, and hopes for honoring his legacy.

Now, later today, the doors will open for the public to allow all Americans who wish to, to come and pay their final respects to a war hero and dedicated public servant, a true patriot.

Here with me to share their reporting and insights, Michael Warren of "The Weekly Standard," "Politico's" Rachael Bade, CNN's Abby Philip, and Julie Pace of "The Associated Press."

Thank you so much for being here.

And I just got a text that Cindy McCain, John McCain's widow, is still on Capitol Hill, and she's about to go with Lindsey Graham, John McCain's best friend in the Senate, the senator from South Carolina, to address Senator McCain's staff. And then they're going to go on to the Senate floor and Cindy McCain is going to visit the desk of her husband, where he spent so much time, participated in so many debates, gave so many impassioned speeches, but is now draped with a black cloth, of course, and white flowers on top of it. A very, very moving day, to say the least.

JULIE PACE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, and the image you just showed of Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell walking together, I think what has been so nice in this really difficult week for so many people in Washington and around the country is to see that those moments are still possible. Sometimes it takes something like the death of Senator McCain to put them, you know, back on the table, but we've just been in such a fractured environment here in Washington, and I think that that is sort of McCain's final wish for Washington, that we can get back to a place -- it will take a lot, but to even see those simple moments, I think that's a really wonderful legacy that he's left us with here.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And I've also been thinking a lot about the McCain family and just how difficult this whole week must be for them. Even for Cindy McCain to, at every moment, always be honoring what she knew her husband would want, honoring his memory, honoring his staff, honoring the things that he loved, and doing it in ways that have got to be difficult for her.

Earlier this week she tweeted out a photo of his desk and used a, you know, a tearful emoticon. And it was heartbreaking because as much as that place meant a lot to John McCain, it must be very difficult to see it draped in black and for her to go through these, day after day, to touch his coffin every day, it really is something that I think this family is obviously sacrificing even more now in these final moments for the man that they loved.

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You have to wonder, the people here today listening to this memorial, if anybody is sort of taking this to heart right now, you know, with Washington being such a bitterly divided, partisan city with the ongoing -- the president attacking Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the midterm elections coming up, Republicans, you know, not pushing back on their president, even though a lot of them disagree with him. Democrats, you know, corralling around in their own corner, becoming further and further to the left as well. You have to wonder if anybody's stopping and saying, OK, McCain was the best of bipartisanship. What can we learn from him? Are we going to take this forward? And I think that is what a lot of people are wondering. I don't know if it changes anything here on Capitol Hill, but at least for a day we have that solidarity.

BASH: Yes, and I think for a moment we can put cynicism aside.

BADE: Right.

BASH: And I'm sure -- I know that you all have talked to members of Congress of both parties who right now are genuinely reflecting on what you just said, genuinely saying we have to try to do better. Whether they can achieve that is a different story. There are so many outside forces that have grown even more powerful over the years that even John McCain faced in a big way when he had to run for re-election against a fellow Republican. It was the toughest race of his life a few years ago for re-election in the Senate. But I think at least there is a sense for now that they want to try.

BADE: Right.

MICHAEL WARREN, SENIOR WRITER, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Right. And I think this is -- you're seeing this in the bipartisan laying of the wreath. A lot of focus obviously because Senator McCain is lying on state in the Capitol on his role and his life and career in Washington. But I was struck watching this. Many of the veterans in the cabinet or in Congress who stopped by the casket and saluted. Just another aspect of this incredible man's life that has been commemorated throughout this week and will obviously be commemorated when he's lied -- you know, when his body is laid to rest in Annapolis. But this is -- it is almost as if John McCain were president in the way --

BASH: Yes.

WARREN: In the full life that he led and that is bringing all of these people to commemorate that complete life before Washington and now here.

[12:20:03] BASH: He is getting the sendoff of a president. There's no question. And he tried twice. He failed twice. He was the first to remind everybody of that. But he had such an impact without reaching that highest office in the land. You're right.

And I should say, I'm not sure we're going to get a picture of it, because the rules of television cameras in the Senate chamber are very strict and limited, but I just got a text as you were speaking that Senator Lindsey Graham and Cindy McCain are making their way, in a matter of seconds, to the desk of John McCain on the Senate floor. We're going to be watching that and monitoring it.

We're going to take a quick break. Stay with us.



WHITFIELD: A moving rendition of "Natural Woman" from Ariana Grande there. She was a late add. Oh, let's listen in right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have to brush up. My 28-year-old daughter tells me, dad, you are old at 60. When I saw Ariana Grande on the program, I thought that was a new something at Taco Bell. Girl, let me give you all your respect.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did y'all enjoy this icon? She's an icon herself. Come on, make her feel loved at Greater Grace Temple, the city of (INAUDIBLE).

GRANDE: We love you, Aretha.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please receive one of the greatest voices on the urban community (ph).

WHITFIELD: All right, Pastor Ellis there, the pastor of this Greater Grace Temple, with a little bit of humor there at the end of Ariana Grande's performance there. She was a late add to this program, this star-studded program, this tribute to Aretha Franklin, particularly after her rendition of "Natural Woman" went viral after being on Jimmy Fallon's show shortly after Aretha Franklin's death.

[12:30:06] Well, let's talk about how Aretha Franklin, the woman, the music symbolizes her in so many ways. The woman, her music and what she