Washington pays tribute to McCain, Trump absent

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Cindy McCain, wife of late US Senator John McCain, pays his respects to the flag-draped casket inside the US Capitol Rotunda in Washington, US, August 31, 2018. (Reuters)
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Meghan McCain walks from the casket of her father, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, as he lies in state at the US Capitol Rotunda in Washington, Friday, Aug. 31, 2018. (AP)
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Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a ceremony for Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, as he lies in state in the Rotunda of the US Capitol, Friday, Aug. 31, 2018, in Washington. (Reuters)
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Cindy McCain, wife of, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, pauses as her husband’s casket as he lies in state in the Rotunda of the US Capitol, Friday, Aug. 31, 2018, in Washington. (AP)
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US Vice President Mike Pence confers with Cindy McCain during ceremonies honoring the late US Senator John McCain in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, DC on Friday, August 31, 2018. (AFP)
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US Senators Chuck Schumer and Mitch Mcconnell walk after viewing the flag-draped casket during ceremonies honoring Senator McCain inside the US Capitol Rotunda in Washington, US, August 31, 2018. (Reuters)
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Speaker of the House Paul Ryan speaks as Roberta McCain, mother of late US Senator John McCain, looks on as his body lies in state inside the US Capitol Rotunda in Washington, US, August 31, 2018. (Reuters)
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Roberta McCain, mother of the late US Senator John McCain, sits in front of her son’s casket as he lies in state in the US Capitol Rotunda in Washington, DC, August 31, 2018. (AFP)
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Jimmy McCain, son of Sen. John McCain, pauses at his father’s casket during ceremonies honoring McCain at the US Capitol Rotunda in Washington, Friday, Aug. 31, 2018. (AP)
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An Honor Guard brings the casket containing the body of late US Senator John McCain to lie in state inside the US Capitol Rotunda in Washington, US, August 31, 2018. (Reuters)
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A joint service military casket team carries in the flag-draped casket of the late-Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) during a ceremony in his honor at the Rotunda of the US Capitol, August 31, 2018 in Washington, DC. (AFP)
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The flag-draped casket of Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, is carried by joint service members into the US Capitol, Friday, August 31, 2018 in Washington. (AP)
Updated 31 August 2018

Washington pays tribute to McCain, Trump absent

  • Americans paid their final respects to the national icon as he lay in state in the US Capitol
  • McCain’s widow, his 7 children and his 106-year-old mother joined Congress members, state governors, diplomats and other dignitaries

WASHINGTON: A bitterly divided US Congress came together on Friday to commemorate the late Senator John McCain, remembering him as a tenacious fighter for his ideals who never lost his sense of humor or his ability to inspire others.
Leaders from both parties gathered in the US Capitol Rotunda on Friday to honor McCain on the third of five days of memorial celebrations in Arizona and Washington for the Vietnam War hero and two-time Republican presidential candidate.
President Donald Trump was missing from the ceremony, a result of the animosity between the two men that lingered even after the Arizona senator’s death on Saturday from brain cancer.
Trump will also miss Saturday’s service at the Washington National Cathedral, where former President Barack Obama, the Democrat who defeated McCain in 2008, and Republican President George W. Bush, who beat McCain in the 2000 Republican presidential primary, will pay tribute to McCain.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who often fought with McCain over issues such as campaign finance reform and Obama’s health care overhaul, praised him as a “generational leader” in the Senate.
“He would fight tooth and nail for his vision of the common good. Depending on the issue, you knew John would either be your staunchest ally or your most stubborn opponent,” McConnell said.
“At any moment, he might be preparing an eloquent reflection on human liberty or a devastating joke, served up with his signature cackle and that John McCain glint in his eye,” he said.

Friday’s events in the Capitol also will feature remarks by fellow Republicans Vice President Mike Pence and House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, marking McCain’s 35-year career in Congress.
After the ceremony, the public will pass through the Rotunda for six hours to pay their respects to McCain by filing past his coffin, which was brought into the Rotunda and placed atop a pine board catafalque originally constructed in 1865 for President Abraham Lincoln’s casket.
Trump will travel to one of his private golf clubs on Friday for a campaign fundraiser.
Sitting American presidents traditionally “serve as a source of solace and comfort” for the country at times of loss and tragedy, Princeton University historian Julian Zelizer said.
But the Trump-McCain relationship left little room for that.
In 2015, not long after Trump kicked off his presidential campaign, McCain condemned his hard-line rhetoric on illegal immigration, accusing Trump of “firing up the crazies.”
Trump hit back, saying of McCain’s 5-1/2 years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam: “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” Trump received five deferments that got him out of military service.
More recently, McCain accused Trump of kowtowing to Russian President Vladimir Putin at a July summit in Helsinki. It was, McCain said, “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”
Trump in turn delayed issuing any statement after McCain’s death. At one point, the US flag atop the White House that had been at half-staff was raised back up, then lowered again after Trump drew fire from Congress and veterans.
“The president’s actions in the first day of (McCain’s) death were so petty,” Zelizer said.
More broadly, Zelizer noted that many Republicans, including some in Arizona, had grown frustrated with McCain’s moderate stances on some issues, reflecting the changing nature of the Republican Party that Trump has seized upon.
Despite these tensions, most leaders from both parties in coming days will show they can rise above the political fray to recognize the passing of a respected colleague.
McCain was involved in planning the events around his funeral. He made it clear to family and friends that he wanted Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden, Bush and Obama to speak, but that Trump was not welcome.
The pallbearers at Saturday’s cathedral service will include Biden and liberal actor and activist Warren Beatty, alongside former Senator Phil Gramm and ex-Defense Secretary William Cohen, both Republicans.


Macron backs month of Brexit talks as Johnson visits

Updated 14 min 37 sec ago

Macron backs month of Brexit talks as Johnson visits

  • Macron has rejected Johnson’s calls to scrap a key arrangement regarding Ireland
  • The EU argues the backstop is necessary to avoid the re-emergence of checkpoints in Ireland

PARIS: French leader Emmanuel Macron backed the idea of a month of further talks to find a solution to Brexit while ruling out major compromises as he met British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for talks on Thursday.
Like German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday, Macron supported allowing another 30 days to find a solution to the vexed issue of the Irish border which has bedevilled negotiations since 2017.
“We need to try to have a useful month,” Macron said alongside Johnson who insisted that solutions were “readily available” to prevent checkpoints returning in divided Ireland.
But Macron, who admitted he had a reputation as the “hardest in the gang” on Brexit, has rejected Johnson’s calls to scrap a key arrangement for Ireland negotiated between the EU and former British premier Theresa May.
At stake is the so-called “backstop,” which is a provision guaranteeing that border checks will not return between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland which is part of Britain.
Johnson considers the backstop to be “anti-democratic” and an affront to British sovereignty because it will require London to keep its regulations aligned with the EU during a transition exit period.
“The technical solutions are readily available (to avoid checkpoints) and they have been discussed at great length,” Johnson said. “You can have trusted trader schemes, you can have electronic pre-clearing.”
The EU argues the backstop is necessary to avoid the re-emergence of checkpoints which could lead to a return of fighting on the divided island where anti-British violence has claimed thousands of lives.
“I want to be very clear. In the coming month, we will not find a new withdrawal agreement that is far from the fundamentals,” Macron said at the Elysee palace in central Paris.
Since Johnson’s ascent to power last month, the chances of a “no deal” Brexit on October 31 have risen, which economists see as likely to wreak economic damage on Britain and the EU.
“The EU and member states need to take the possibility of a ‘no deal’ outcome much more seriously than before,” a senior EU official told reporters in Brussels on Thursday on condition of anonymity.
A French official said on Wednesday that this was becoming the “most likely” scenario.
The Paris visit was the second leg of Johnson’s first foreign trip as prime minister.
On Wednesday, he was in Berlin for talks with Merkel who appeared to offer a glimmer of hope by saying Britain should try to find a breakthrough to the issue over the next month.
“I want a deal,” Johnson told Macron. “I think we can get a deal and a good deal.”
He added that he had been “powerfully encouraged” by his talks with Merkel. “I admire that ‘can do’ spirit that she seemed to have.”
But many Brexit watchers see Merkel’s remarks as fitting a pattern in which she has often been more conciliatory in public about Brexit than Macron, whose abrasive remarks have caused anger in London in the past.
“There is not the width of cigarette paper between Paris and Berlin on these issues,” a senior aide to Macron said on Wednesday on condition of anonymity.
The EU official in Brussels added that the EU was “a little concerned based on what we heard yesterday (in Berlin).”
“We are waiting for new facts, workable ideas,” the official added.
Johnson, who has deployed his French language skills to charm diplomats in Paris before, has staked his leadership on withdrawing Britain from the EU by the current deadline of October 31 — “do or die.”
Some analysts see a risk of relations between Macron and Johnson becoming stormy in public, which could lead to a blame game about a “no deal” Brexit.
Johnson reportedly once called the French “turds” over their stance on Brexit during his time as foreign secretary — remarks he later said he could not recall.
But Macron pre-empted any attempt to deflect blame onto the European side during a press conference on Wednesday before Johnson’s arrival.
“It will be the responsibility of the British government, always, because firstly it was the British people that decided Brexit, and the British government has the possibility up to the last second to revoke Article 50,” he said.
Article 50 is the legal mechanism used by EU members states to withdraw from the bloc which was triggered by Britain in March 2017.
At the weekend, Macron, Merkel and Johnson will meet US President Donald Trump, a vocal supporter of both Brexit and Johnson, at a G7 summit in the French seaside resort of Biarritz.