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Former President Obama to speak at Sen. McCain’s funeral

Free Press wire reports | 8/30/2018, 6 a.m.
Former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush will deliver eulogies Saturday at the funeral of U.S. Sen. John McCain, ...
U.S. Sen. John McCain listens as he’s introduced at an October 2008 campaign rally in Fayetteville, N.C., during his run for president against then-Sen. Barack Obama. Photo by Reuters Brian Sydner/Reuters

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President Barack Obama

Former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush will deliver eulogies Saturday at the funeral of U.S. Sen. John McCain, a former prisoner of war during Vietnam and six-term Republican senator from Arizona whose reputation as a maverick is causing a stir even after his death.

Sen. McCain, 81, had been suffering from brain cancer since July 2017 and had not been at the U.S. Capitol this year. He died on Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018, at his ranch in Arizona with his wife, Cindy, and other family members at his bedside.

Described as affable and cantankerous, the decorated war hero and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee frequently battled with President Trump over policy and practices, including his critical late-night vote on July 27, 2017, blocking President Trump’s attempt to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. By voting against President Trump, Sen. McCain saved health care for millions of people.

Two White House officials said Sen. McCain’s family had asked before his death that the president not attend the funeral services.

Instead, Sen. McCain asked the two men who defeated him in his two unsuccessful bids for the White House to speak at his funeral service at Washington National Cathedral.

President Obama and his vice presidential running mate, U.S. Sen. Joseph Biden, beat Sen. McCain and his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, in the historic presidential election in 2008. In 2000, Sen. McCain lost a combative GOP presidential nomination contest to the eventual winner, President George W. Bush.

“These were bitter contests, both of them,” said U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and “to ask them to speak at your funeral — and for them to be honored at the opportunity — that tells you all you need to know.”

Following funeral events in Arizona, including a service on Thursday at which former Vice President Biden is to speak, Sen. McCain’s body will be flown to Washington, where he will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda on Friday with a formal ceremony and time for the public to pay respects.

On Saturday, the procession will pass the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and head to the funeral at Washington National Cathedral. A private funeral is planned for Sunday at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

Flags at the White House flew at half-staff on Sunday, but on Monday morning, President Trump ordered them to be raised, touching off a hailstorm of criticism from veterans groups, lawmakers from both political parties and the public, who felt the president’s actions were disrespectful.

President Trump glowered in public and was near silent for two days before relenting under pressure Monday by tersely recognizing Sen. McCain’s “service to our country” and re-lowering the White House flag.

Before President Trump’s Monday afternoon statement, his only commentary on Sen. McCain’s death had been a perfunctory tweet last Saturday. Just a few weeks ago, the president signed into law a defense bill named in honor of the senator without a single mention of his name.