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.


China gives Hong Kong leader ‘unwavering support’

Updated 16 December 2019

China gives Hong Kong leader ‘unwavering support’

  • The city’s leader is in Beijing for an annual visit, and is set to meet President Xi Jinping later Monday
  • The past month had seen a lull in the violence and vandalism in the city, after pro-democracy parties won a landslide in local council elections

BEIJING: China’s premier told beleaguered Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam on Monday that she had Beijing’s “unwavering support” after a huge rally earlier this month and her government’s thrashing at recent local elections.

The city has been upended by six months of massive pro-democracy protests that have seen violent battles between police and hardcore demonstrators, as well as regular transport disruption.

Protesters have called for the unpopular Lam to stand down as leader, but Li Keqiang said Beijing would give “unwavering support” to her government to maintain the “long-term prosperity and stability in Hong Kong.”

“The central government fully recognizes the efforts you and the SAR (special administrative region) government have paid,” said Li, at a meeting with Lam in the Hong Kong Hall of the imposing Great Hall of People in Beijing.

He said Lam’s government had “tried its best to maintain social stability” amid “an unprecedentedly severe and complicated situation.”

But he also called for the Hong Kong government to “step up studies of the deep-seated conflicts and problems that hinder Hong Kong’s economic and social development” in order to restore calm to the city.

“Hong Kong is yet to get out of its plight. The SAR government must continue its hard work, stop violence and subdue chaos according to laws and restore order,” Li told Lam.

The city’s leader is in Beijing for an annual visit, and is set to meet President Xi Jinping later Monday.

At the meeting with Li, she said she was grateful for the premier’s “care for Hong Kong.”

The semi-autonomous city is ruled under the “one country, two systems” principle, which gives the territory rights unseen on mainland China — rights protesters say are steadily being eroded.

The past month had seen a lull in the violence and vandalism in the city, after pro-democracy parties won a landslide in local council elections.

A week ago, around 800,000 people marched peacefully through the city’s streets, urging the government to respond to their five demands — which include an independent inquiry into the police, an amnesty for those arrested, and fully free elections.

But public anger remains as Beijing and Lam show no sign of giving further concessions despite the election success.

This weekend the relative calm was broken by clashes between black-clad pro-democracy protesters and Hong Kong police in some of the city’s shopping malls.

And earlier this week an international panel of experts hired to advise Hong Kong on the police response to protests announced they were quitting, saying the watchdog was not fit for purpose “in a society that values freedoms and rights.”