John McCain: Funeral invites Russian dissident, former presidents

By @chelean on
The casket containing the remains of Senator John McCain (R-AZ) is carried by honor guards at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, U.S., August 30, 2018.
The casket containing the remains of Senator John McCain (R-AZ) is carried by honor guards at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, U.S., August 30, 2018. Reuters/Joshua Roberts

John McCain’s memorial service looks like the US senator’s final dig at President Donald Trump. The war hero, who died on Aug. 25, invited in his funeral some of the people who he thought would annoy Trump, including Russian dissident Vladimir Kara-Murza and former presidents George W Bush and Barack Obama.

McCain, who had been suffering from brain tumour, planned his own funeral. Apart from family members and long-time friends, he also asked political figures whose presence has riled Trump even from before he became president.

Cindy McCain Cindy McCain waits as the casket of her husband, U.S. Senator John McCain, leaves the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S., August 30, 2018.  Reuters/Brian Snyder U.S. Senator John McCain's wife Cindy (R) and family U.S. Senator John McCain's wife Cindy (R) and family watch as an Honor Guard places the casket of Senator John McCain in a military transport plane to travel to Washington, DC in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S., August 30, 2018.  Reuters/Brian Snyder

Kara-Murza

Kara-Murza will be one of the pallbearers who will carry his coffin to the front of the Washington Cathedral on Saturday. According to Politico, McCain specifically chose Kara-Murza as a final insult to Trump, whom he had criticised for being Russian President Vladimir Putin’s constant defender. The choice was apparently aimed at sending a last message to both Trump and Putin.

Vladimir Kara-Murza Vladimir Kara-Murza arrives for an interview at the offices of Reuters in Washington, D.C., U.S. March 13, 2017.  Reuters/Aaron P. Bernstein

It wasn’t just a random pick from Trump haters as well. McCain and Kara-Murza, who had been poisoned twice for apparently criticising Putin, had been friends for years.

“I was speechless and heartbroken, close to tears at that moment,” Kara-Murza told Politico about the call from a mutual friend who sent him a personal message from McCain. The senator wanted to ask him to be a pallbearer at his funeral. “I said yes, of course, and that it would be the most heart-breaking honour that anyone could think of.”

Kara-Murza said McCain, upon learning of his cancer diagnosis, didn’t think he was going to die soon, but he would like to be prepared anyway.

Bush and Obama

McCain tried twice to become the US president, and twice he failed, thanks to Bush and Obama. McCain withdrew from the race to represent the Republican party for the 2000 US election to endorse his rival Bush instead. And in 2008, Bush returned the favour by endorsing him for president. However, the senator from Illinois, Obama, beat him by a large margin in the general election.

U.S. President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush (R) U.S. President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush (R) attend a memorial for the victims of the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombing in Dar es Salaam July 2, 2013.  Reuters/Jason Reed U.S. Republican presidential candidate John McCain (L) and U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama (R) U.S. Republican presidential candidate John McCain (L) and U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama (R) take part in their first 2008 U.S. presidential debate at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Mississippi, U.S., September 26, 2008.  Reuters/Jim Bourg/File Photo George W. Bush (R) and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain FILE PHOTO - U.S. President George W. Bush (R) and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain shake hands after a meeting at the White House in Washington March 5, 2008.  Reuters/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

But on Saturday, both men will be delivering eulogies at his funeral. McCain called both of his chief political rivals months ago to ask for a favour. The former presidents agreed. And it wasn’t because they were close friends with him. They weren’t.

It was more understandable and even expected when former vice president Joe Biden, Obama’s running mate, spoke at his memorial on Thursday. Even with their differing political leanings, the two continued to be friends. McCain did not have such an easy friendship with Obama or Bush, though.

Former Vice President Joe Biden Former Vice President Joe Biden gives a tribute during a memorial service for Senator John McCain at North Phoenix Baptist Church, Phoenix, Arizona, U.S., August 30, 2018.  Matt York/Pool via Reuters

But according to political analysts, McCain asked them for a number of reasons, including to promote unity despite differences. But one of the reasons could be that McCain wanted to stick it to Trump.

Trump, who has reportedly been banned from attending McCain’s funeral, has been insulting to the former presidents and even McCain, who he refused to call a hero because he was captured during the Vietnam war. Trump has been effectively reversing all Obama’s accomplishments during his eight years. He also stubbornly insisted Obama wasn’t born in the US to put doubt on his presidency.

With both Bush and Obama not only allowed to attend his funeral, but also deliver eulogies for him, it has been seen as another dig at Trump.

Final farewell

Earlier this week, McCain’s former campaign manager, Rick Davis, emotionally delivered the senator’s farewell statement. And as heartfelt as it was, commenters have noticed a few lines from the speech appeared to have been McCain’s final jab at Trump.

McCain will be laid to rest in the rotunda of the United States Capitol on Saturday.

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