Former presidents lead tributes to John McCain

Former US presidents from across the political divide led tributes to Senator John McCain after his death on Saturday at the age of 81.

The Republican Senator passed away with wife Cindy and family by his side at his home in Hidden Valley, Arizona on Saturday afternoon, a day after it was announced he would not seek further treatment for glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer.

Hours after the death of her husband, Mrs McCain wrote: "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."

Although a lifelong Republican, Mr McCain was held in high esteem by political rivals from both sides of the aisle, a rare feat in the increasingly bipartisan world of Washington.

Yet the former naval aviator will also be remembered for being a thorn in the side of President Donald Trump, who horrified many when he stated Mr McCain was not a war hero, despite being captured, tortured and held for five years in a Vietnam prisoner of war camp.

McCain was one of Mr Trump’s most vociferous critics throughout his campaign and presidency. 

Tributes also came from political leaders around the world, including Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron.

Prime Minister Theresa May said: "John McCain was a great statesman, who embodied the idea of service over self. It was an honour to call him a friend of the UK. My deepest sympathies go to his family, and the American people."

Members of the Honor Guard stand guard in front of A.L. Moore-Grimshaw Mortuaries Bethany Church where memorials for late U.S. Senator John McCain have been set up in Phoenix, ArizonaCredit:

The six-term senator will become one of only a handful of people to lie in state at the Capitol Rotunda, a gesture reserved for the country’s most eminent citizens.

After the funeral his body will be buried at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland from where he graduated in 1958.

The White House lowered the American flag to half mast on Saturday and Mr Trump was one of the first to send his sympathies to his family.

"My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!" he tweeted.

Mr McCain made two failed runs at the presidency during his political career, most recently in 2008 when he won the Republican nomination teaming up with Sarah Palin but eventually losing out to Mr Obama.

During a town hall meeting, he memorably challenged an audience member who referred to his opponent as an ‘Arab’, implying he was untrustworthy and not an American. 

“No ma’am,” the father of seven told her. “He’s a decent family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what this campaign is all about.”

John McCain | Death of a US political great

The governor of Arizona said he does not plan to announce whom he will appoint to replace McCain in the US Senate until after his burial.

State law requires the governor to name an appointee of the same political party who will serve until the next general election in 2020.

McCain’s wife, Cindy, has been touted as a possible replacement. McCain’s death brings to 50 the number of Republican-held seats in the 100-member US Senate, with Democrats controlling 49.

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