Joe Lieberman lauds McCain’s sensitivity to Jewish observance, love of Jerusalem

In eulogy, former senator recalls Republican colleague went out of his way to observe ‘Shalom Shabbat’ with him during trips abroad

John McCain (with Joe Lieberman) visits the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City March 19, 2008. (Nati Shohat /FLASH90)
John McCain (with Joe Lieberman) visits the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City March 19, 2008. (Nati Shohat /FLASH90)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — In his eulogy for his close friend John McCain, Joe Lieberman recalled McCain’s accommodation of Lieberman’s Jewish observance and his love of Jerusalem.

Lieberman, the former Democratic senator from Connecticut, recalled traveling around the world with McCain, the Arizona Republican senator who died last week, together with Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican-South Carolina; the three focused on foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East.

Lieberman, speaking Saturday at the National Cathedral in Washington, recalled McCain suffering through Shabbat elevators in Israel, walking long distances with him on Shabbat, and forgoing Friday night festivities overseas to share a quiet meal with Lieberman — what McCain called a “Shalom Shabbat.”

Lieberman said McCain was “deriving pleasure from the fact that his funeral is on a Saturday and I had to walk here,” prompting laughter.

Lieberman, who was a Democrat and then in his last term, from 2007-2013, an Independent, recalled McCain in 2008 asking him to be his running mate. Lieberman said it was unrealistic because he remained a registered Democrat; McCain rejoined that that was the point.

The flag-draped casket of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is carried by an Armed Forces body bearer team to a hearse, Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018, at Andrews Air Force Base, MD. (AP/Alex Brandon)

Lieberman recalled a year ago when McCain with his vote scuttled a bid by Republicans to roll back health care reforms passed by President Barack Obama. Lieberman noted that McCain was reviled for that vote by Republicans.

“His vote was not really against that bill, but against the mindless partisanship that has taken control of both of our political parties,” Lieberman said.

The week of mourning for McCain has become an extended rebuke of President Donald Trump, who despised McCain — particularly for frustrating the killing of Obamacare. McCain, in turn, reviled Trump for his divisive rhetoric and his attacks on minorities.

Former Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman and wife Hadassah Lieberman pay their respects before the flag-draped casket of the late US Senator John McCain in the Rotunda of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, August 31, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / Andrew Harnik)

In arranging his own funeral before his death from brain cancer, McCain asked that his two rivals in presidential contests, President Barack Obama in 2008 and President George W. Bush in 2000, eulogize him, but pointedly did not invite Trump.

All the eulogies included references, some subtle, some not so subtle, to the contrast between McCain and Trump.

The most pointed was by McCain’s daughter, Meghan. “The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great,” she said, referring to Trump’s signature campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”

Lieberman wrapped up his eulogy, recalling how much he and McCain enjoyed talking about faith whenever they visited Jerusalem, a city McCain loved. They would sit in a hotel balcony looking over the city, and when Lieberman entered the private sector, McCain urged him to buy an apartment in Jerusalem with a view, and to reserve a room for him.

From left, former President George W. Bush, former first lady Laura Bush, former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne, and former Vice President Al Gore participate in a memorial service for Sen. John McCain at Washington Nationals Cathedral in Washington, Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Lieberman said he regretted that he was unable to do so before McCain died, but that he knew that McCain was now in a more perfect Jerusalem.

“May angels sing you to your eternal home,” Lieberman said.

McCain will be buried Sunday in Annapolis, where he graduated the Naval Academy before joining the war effort in Vietnam. The Vietnamese captured and imprisoned McCain for more than five years.

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