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Wake Up To Politics - August 27, 2018

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Monday, August 27, 2018. 71 days until Election Day 2018. 799 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

"He served his country": Remembering John McCain

Just after ascending to the chairmanship of the Senate Armed Services Committee in 2015, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was asked by the New York Times what he wanted the epitaph on his tombstone to read. "He served his country," McCain replied.

Again, in September 2017, just months after being diagnosed with the brain cancer that resulted in his death this weekend, McCain was asked on CNN how he wanted to be remembered. He gave a similar response: "He served his country, and not always right — made a lot of mistakes, made a lot of errors — but served his country, and I hope we could add, honorably."

John Sidney McCain III died at the age of 81 on Saturday, capping a career that included 23 years in the U.S. Navy (five and a half of which he spent as a prisoner of war in Hanoi), 35 years in the U.S. Congress, and two presidential bids. The son and grandson of admirals, his Navy service and time in captivity are legendary. He was a towering member of the Senate for more than three decades, authoring landmark legislation on campaign finance, immigration, and other issues; a champion for the U.S. military as chairman of the chamber's Armed Services panel; and a representative for America around the world, embarking on frequent trips to foreign capitals. McCain was also the Republican nominee for president in 2008, receiving 59.9 million votes but eventually losing in the general election to Barack Obama.  

News of McCain's passing was met with a flood of messages from politicians of all stripes — all remembering him just as he'd hoped, as a faithful and honorable servant of his country. Here's a roundup of some of their tributes:

  • Former President George W. Bush: "Some lives are so vivid, it is difficult to imagine them ended. Some voices are so vibrant, it is hard to think of them stilled. John McCain was a man of deep conviction and a patriot of the highest order. He was a public servant in the finest traditions of our country. And to me, he was a friend whom I'll deeply miss."
  • Former President Barack Obama: "John McCain and I were members of different generations, came from completely different backgrounds, and competed at the highest level of politics. But we shared, for all our differences, a fidelity to something higher — the ideals for which generations of Americans and immigrants alike have fought, marched, and sacrificed. We 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 Vice President Joe Biden: "John McCain will cast a long shadow. His impact on America hasn't ended. Not even close. It will go on for many years to come... America will miss John McCain. The world will miss John McCain. And I will miss him dearly."
  • House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI): "John McCain was a giant of our time—not just for the things he achieved, but for who he was and what he fought for all his life. John put principle before politics. He put country before self. He was one of the most courageous men of the century."
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC): "America and Freedom have lost one of her greatest champions. And I've lost one of my dearest friends and mentor."
  • Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME): "John was a true American hero who devoted his life to serving his country.  Courage and character were the hallmarks of his military service as well as his work in Congress... John did what he believed was right regardless of the political consequences to him personally. He would listen to good ideas whether they come from the Democratic or the Republican side of the aisle."
  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY): "As you go through life, you meet few truly great people, John McCain was one of them... Nothing will overcome the loss of Senator McCain, but so that generations remember him I will be introducing a resolution to rename the Russell [Senate office] building after him."

--- Recommended reading: Op-eds by Sen. Jeff Flake, McCain's Arizona colleague (Washington Post); Mark Salter, McCain's "alter ego" and longtime aide (Washington Post); and former Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold, the co-author of the landmark McCain-Feingold campaign finance legislation (New York Times)... the New York Times obituary chronicling his life of service...

--- Someone missing: Every living president released statements marking McCain's death — with one exception: the current occupant of the Oval Office, President Donald Trump. Trump's only message on McCain's death was a Saturday tweet sending his "deepest sympathies and respect" to the longtime lawmaker's family, without any message about McCain himself. According to the Washington Post, White House aides drafted a formal statement praising McCain and calling him a "hero," but Trump declined to release it. The president also did not issue a proclamation ordering flags at half-staff, as would be customary for a member of Congress (especially one of McCain's stature); flags at the White House were lowered over the weekend, but returned to full-staff this morning.

The two men had a complicated history: Trump savaged McCain's military service in 2015, and the Arizonan became one of his fiercest GOP critics after Trump took office. McCain also sunk Trump's first major legislative push, Obamacare repeal, with his "thumbs-down" vote that the president frequently mocks at rallies.

--- Funeral arrangements: McCain's body will lie in state in the Arizona State Capitol on Wednesday, followed by a memorial service in Phoenix on Thursday. On Friday, he will become the 31st person ever to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol rotunda. His  funeral service, expected to include eulogies from George W. Bush and Barack Obama (who both beat him in campaigns for the presidency), will take place on Saturday at Washington National Cathedral. Finally, McCain will be buried on Sunday at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

--- Replacing McCain: Gov. Doug Ducey (R-AZ) is now charged with appointing an interim senator to fill McCain's seat, who will serve until a November 2020 special election. According to the New York Times, names under consideration include Cindy McCain, the late senator's widow; former Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ); former Reps. John Shadegg (R-AZ) and Matt Salmon (R-AZ); and Ducey's chief of staff Kirk Adams.

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The Rundown

--- At a party meeting on Saturday, Democrats voted to strip superdelegates of their power in the presidential nominating process. (Politico)

--- An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released Sunday found President Trump's job approval rating remains virtually unchanged after legal developments on August 21 involving his former campaign chairman and former personal attorney. A survey conducted from August 22 through August 25 found Trump's approval rating was 44% approve and 52% disapprove; between August 18 and August 22, his approval rating stood at 46% approve and 51% disapprove. (NBC)

--- Recommended read: "What Will Mueller Do? The Answer Might Lie in a By-the-Book Past" (New York Times)

White House schedule

At 11:30am, President Trump receives his intelligence briefing. At 12:30pm, Trump has lunch with Vice President Mike Pence.

At 1:55pm, President and First Lady Trump participate in a bilateral meeting with President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and his wife Margaret Kenyatta. At 2:15pm, the two presidents will hold an expanded bilateral meeting. According to the White House, Trump and Kenyatta will discuss "ways to broaden the strategic partnership based on our shared democratic values and mutual interests" and "ways to bolster trade and investment between the two countries, while strengthening security cooperation."

At6:45pm, President and First Lady Trump host a dinner celebrating Evangelical leadership.

Congress schedule

Senate: The upper chamber meets at 4pm today. Following Leader remarks, the Senate will resume consideration of the nomination of Lynn A. Johnson to be Assistant Secretary for Family Support at the Department of Health and Human Services. Johnson currently serves as executive director of the Jefferson County Department of Human Services. The Senate will hold a cloture vote advancing Johnson's nomination at 5:30pm.

House: The lower chamber is on recess.

Supreme Court schedule

The Supreme Court is on its summer recess.

*All times Eastern