Hillary Clinton called Sen. John McCain a “warrior-patriot” in an interview that aired Sunday on CNN, saying she saw in the Republican senator from Arizona “a patriot regardless of party.”
When Clinton, a former Democratic senator from New York, first started traveling with McCain, she told CNN’s Dana Bash, “I saw someone who revered the values of our country, and he is always thinking about America’s place in history and America’s place in the world. And I saw his passion and his love, his love of his family, his love of our country, his love of the friends that he has made over the years, and he was a patriot regardless of party,” Clinton said. “He is a patriot, and I am honored that he is also my friend.”
McCain died Saturday at the age of 81, one day after his family announced that he decided to stop treatment for the brain cancer he had been battling for more than a year. He had spent his final months in his home state of Arizona and out of public life.
Clinton, who became secretary of state under McCain’s rival, Barack Obama, in the 2008 presidential race, told Bash that she thought about McCain’s 2008 presidential election concession speech when she had to give her own in 2016 after a shocking defeat by President Donald Trump. In the 2008 speech, McCain urged his supporters to join him in working with then-President-elect to bridge differences in a spirit of goodwill.
“I thought that it was such a tribute to who he is as a man and as a political leader,” Clinton said, adding that she, too, tried to reach out to her supporters, especially young women, to keep them from being discouraged.
“And so I tried to speak in a way that would create the same sort of reaction – even from people who were incredibly upset about what happened … and I did want to give the President-elect all the opportunity in the world to transition from being a partisan and whipping up the feelings, the anger, the resentment, the fears of the people who supported him, to being a President for all the people,” Clinton said. “That’s what John McCain would have done had he won.”
Clinton recalled the years working and traveling alongside her Republican colleague, telling Bash that she was initially “a little surprised” when he first approached her to travel together.
“He liked to try out different colleagues to see whether they were good traveling companions,” Clinton said.
When McCain inquired about traveling, Clinton said she “immediately said, ‘sure.’”
“During those long, long flights, we had a lot of time to talk. We talked about the unfairness that sometimes infects our politics,” Clinton recalled. “If you were his friend, he would stand up for you, he would defend you. He didn’t like the personal attacks that went along with politics that became increasingly common.”