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Joe Biden gives emotional tribute to John McCain

Joe Biden touches his face while crying standing at podium before McCain's casket covered in American flag
Former Vice President Joe Biden before Sen. John McCain's casket. Photo: Matt York-Pool/Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden gave an emotional tribute to Sen. John McCain at his service in North Phoenix Baptist Church on Thursday, referring to him as a "gentle giant" who fought for civility in politics, even when certain sides disagreed.

Key quote: Biden emphasized that, for McCain, politics were not most important — it was the underlying values that mattered. He "could not stand the abuse of power wherever he saw it, in whatever form, in whatever country,” Biden said.

An anecdote from Biden:

  • "[McCain would] come over on the Democratic side and we'd sit…It was in '96 and we were about to adjourn for what we call the [Senate lunch] caucuses...and we both went into our caucus and coincidentally we were approached by our caucus leaders..." Biden said.
  • "'Joe it doesn’t look good you sitting next to John all the time," Biden recalled being told. "Same thing was said to John."
  • "That’s when things began to change for worse in America in the Senate...It was always appropriate to challenge another senator’s judgement…never appropriate to challenge their motive. When you challenge their motive...it's impossible to reach consensus. It began to go downhill from there..."
QuoteThe last day John [was] on the Senate floor, what was he fighting to do? He was fighting to restore what we call regular order. To start to treat one another again like we used to."
— Joe Biden
Cindy McCain in all black at funeral
Cindy McCain, with son, Jack, arriving for the memorial service. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
"I think it’s something more intangible...I think it’s because they knew John believed so deeply and impassionately in the soul of America that he made it easier for them to have confidence and faith in America."
Meghan McCain and husband walk to funeral in black.
Meghan McCain and her husband walk to the funeral. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
"He didn’t believe that America's fate rested on heroes…Heroes didn’t run this country, ordinary people given half a chance are capable of doing extraordinary things."
Joe Biden points and looks sad
Former Vice President Joe Biden. Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images
"John was a hero. His character, courage, honor, and integrity. His optimism. That’s what made John special. It made John a giant among all of us."
Joe Biden uses tissue to wipe eyes.
Former Vice President Joe Biden wipes tears away at Sen. John McCain's funeral service in Arizona. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
"His belief — and it was deep — that Americans can do anything, withstand anything, achieve anything, was both unflagging and utterly reassuring."
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