Former President George W. Bush said at McCain’s memorial service Saturday in Washington D.C. that Sen. John McCain had made him a better president and a better man.
“For John and me, there was a personal journey, our hard-fought political history,” Bush said, according to the Washington Examiner. He beat McCain in the primary for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination.
“Back in the day, he would frustrate me, and I know he’d say the same for me. But he also made me better,” Bush continued. “In recent years we sometimes talked of that intense period like football players remembering a big game. In the process, rivalry melted away.
“In the end, I got to enjoy one of life’s great gifts, the friendship of John McCain. And I’ll miss him.”
Bush also talked about how McCain told him to “relax” prior to the final presidential debate in 2004 against John Kerry.
But, most importantly, he said that McCain will be remembered for the three words he personified: “unwavering, undimmed, unequal.”
“John has moved on. He would probably not want us to dwell on it, but we’re better for his presence among us,” Bush said. “The world is smaller for his departure and we’ll remember him how he was: unwavering, undimmed, unequal.”
Bush joined former President Barack Obama by invitation of the McCain family to address mourners at Saturday’s service. Obama was also an opponent of McCain’s for the presidency.
“So much of our politics, our policy and our public discourse can be small and mean and petty, trafficking in bombast and insults and phony controversies and manufactured outrage,” Obama said, the New York Post reported. “It pretends to be brave and tough, but in fact is born of fear.”
He said that McCain “called on us to be bigger than that” and “called on us to be better than that.”
Though the current president did not attend any of the memorial events, Vice President Mike Pence cited Trump in his comments on Friday.
“The president asked me to be here on behalf of a grateful nation to pay a debt of honor and respect to a man who served our country throughout his life in uniform and in public office and it’s my great honor to be here,” he said.
McCain had reportedly planned the memorial service in the final months of his life, which echoed the bipartisanship the senator endorsed during his career in public office.
Former Democrat Sen. Joe Lieberman emphasized this when he discussed a conversation he had with McCain about potentially joining the 2008 presidential ticket. The idea had been dismissed because of their partisan differences.
“He said, ‘That’s the point, Joe,’” Lieberman recalled. “‘You’re a Democrat, I’m a Republican. We can give our country the bipartisan leadership it needs for a change.’”
McCain will be buried Sunday at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, according to the Examiner.
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