In her first interview since her husband’s death, Cindy McCain, wife of Sen. John McCain, said the country needs civility in its political discourse and a strong leader in the White House — not “a negative Nancy.”
Her husband, she said, would have been “distraught” over the country’s growing partisanship. She also said she hopes President Trump would learn from the midterm elections, which saw a Democratic takeover of the House and the ouster of several Republicans in districts Trump won in 2016.
“I think he’s questioning himself right now as to where he goes, what he’s doing. I think maybe the things that have occurred, especially with this election, maybe take him back to basics. I hope it does,” she said. “It’s very humbling to lose.”
McCain’s interview with John Dickerson comes nearly three months after her husband died at 81 of glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. The senator, a Vietnam War hero and a 2008 Republican presidential candidate, had for years been an outspoken critic of Trump and the Trumpian style of politics.
He wrote in his memoir that a “reality show facsimile of toughness” seems to matter more to Trump than the nation’s values.
Trump had been vocal in his dislike of McCain, infamously mocking the senator for being captured and imprisoned during the Vietnam War. Trump also believed McCain was out to undermine his administration’s agenda and grew angrier at the Arizona Republican last year, after McCain voted against a bill that would have repealed the Affordable Care Act.
Following McCain’s death, Trump refused to issue a statement praising the senator’s years of service. Instead, he wrote a short tweet in which he expressed his condolences while avoiding saying anything about McCain.
Cindy McCain said it had been difficult for her to hear Trump disparage her husband.
“My personal feeling is that he is now the president of the United States; I respect the office, I respect what this means for the country,” she said. “Our families have had their differences, and I’ll leave it at that.”
While McCain avoided any strong rebuke of the president, her daughter did not.
Speaking in front of about 3,000 people at her father’s funeral at Washington National Cathedral in August, Meghan McCain delivered a raw denunciation of Trump and his campaign slogan.
“The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again, because America was always great,” Meghan McCain said as attendees applauded. “We mourn the passing of American greatness, the real thing. Not the cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice he gave so willingly, nor the opportunistic appropriation of those who lived lives of comfort and privilege.”
Cindy McCain said on CBS she did not know what her daughter was going to say in her speech.
But, she said: “Meghan is certainly entitled to and speaks her mind just like her father did.”
The McCain family did not invite Trump to any of the celebrations of the senator’s life, while the senator’s onetime political rivals — former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush — were asked to deliver eulogies.
The snub was thought by some to be John McCain’s final rebuke of Trump.
Not so, Cindy McCain said.
“John never spoke about anything like that,” she said. “That was never — not his intention, and anyone who says that is wrong . . . It had nothing to do with the president."
She did not, however, explain why the president was not invited.