Presidents and politicians honour John McCain’s life of service

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Presidents and US politicians from both parties have honoured Senator John McCain’s decades of service to his country following his death at the age of 81.

The one-time presidential candidate and war hero died on Saturday after a year-long battle with brain cancer.

President Donald Trump, who once criticised Mr McCain for being taken prisoner during the Vietnam War, said his “deepest sympathies and respect” went out to Mr McCain’s family.

On Saturday night, a black hearse accompanied by a police motorcade could be seen driving away from the ranch near Sedona, Arizona, where the Republican senator spent his final weeks.

Mr Trump’s brief Twitter statement said “hearts and prayers” are with the McCain family.

First lady Melania Trump thanked Mr McCain for his service to the nation, which included more than five years as a prisoner of war and six terms in the Senate.

Mr Trump and Mr McCain were at odds until the end.

The president, who mocked Mr McCain’s capture in Vietnam during the 2016 campaign, jabbed at the senator even after his illness for voting against Republican efforts to roll back President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Earlier this summer, Mr McCain issued a blistering statement criticising Mr Trump’s meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Former presidents, including those who blocked Mr McCain’s own White House ambitions, offered emotional tributes.

Mr Obama, who triumphed over Mr McCain in the 2008 election, said that despite their differences, Mr McCain and he shared a “fidelity to something higher – the ideals for which generations of Americans and immigrants alike have fought, marched, and sacrificed”.

Mr Obama said the two political opponents “saw our political battles, even, as a privilege, something noble, an opportunity to serve as stewards of those high ideals at home, and to advance them around the world”.

Former President George W Bush, who defeated Mr McCain for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination, called his one-time political rival “man of deep conviction and a patriot of the highest order” and a “friend whom I’ll deeply miss”.

Mr Bush was among those expected to speak at Mr McCain’s funeral.

Mr McCain was the son and grandson of admirals and followed them to the US Naval Academy.

A pilot, he was shot down over Vietnam and held as a prisoner of war for more than five years. He went on to win a seat in the House and in 1986, the Senate, where he served for the rest of his life.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called Mr McCain a “fascinating personality”.

John McCain with his wife, Cindy, at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania (Stephan Savoia/AP)

“He also had a wicked sense of humour and it made every tense moment come out better.”

Former vice president Joe Biden, who developed a friendship with Mr McCain while they served together in the Senate, said the Arizona politician will “cast a long shadow”.

“The spirit that drove him was never extinguished: we are here to commit ourselves to something bigger than ourselves,” Mr Biden said.

Mr McCain is expected to be remembered in Arizona and Washington before being buried, likely this week, at the Naval Academy Cemetery on a peninsula overlooking the Severn River.

Other plans were taking shape, too.

Senator Chuck Schumer announced that he wants to name the Senate building that housed Mr McCain’s suite of offices after the Arizona senator, who served as chairman of the Commerce Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“As you go through life, you meet few truly great people. John McCain was one of them,” Mr Schumer said.

“Maybe most of all, he was a truth teller – never afraid to speak truth to power in an era where that has become all too rare.”

Mr McCain’s wife Cindy said she was heartbroken by the death of an “incredible man”.

In a post on Twitter, she said: “My heart is broken. I am so lucky to have lived the adventure of loving this incredible man for 38 years. He passed the way he lived, on his own terms, surrounded by the people he loved, in the the place he loved best.”

Daughter Meghan McCain described her father as a “great fire who burned bright”.

She said: “We lived in his light and warmth for so very long. We know that his flame lives on, in each of us.

“His love and his care, ever present, always unfailing, took me from a girl to a woman – and he showed me what it is to be a man.”

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