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John McCain Warns of ‘Tribal Rivalries,’ Praises U.S. as ‘Nation of Ideals’ in Final Letter

John McCainRoad to Victory Rally with John McCain, Las Vegas, America - 03 Nov 2008

WASHINGTON — John McCain wrote a final letter that was read on Monday by his close friend and adviser Rick Davis, in which the Arizona senator and war hero expressed his love of the U.S. as a “nation of ideals” yet warned of confusing “our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment, and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe.” McCain died on Saturday after battling brain cancer. He was 81.

“We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down; when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been,” he wrote.

The words were a veiled reference to President Donald Trump, with whom McCain had a chilly relationship. Trump will not attend McCain’s memorial services later this week, Davis said, confirming speculation.

At a service planned at the National Cathedral in Washington on Saturday, two of McCain’s former rivals, former President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush, will deliver speeches, along with former Senator Joseph Lieberman, a longtime friend, and McCain’s daughter Meghan. Renee Fleming will sing “Danny Boy” at the service, Davis said.

“Fellow Americans, that association has meant more to me than any other. I lived and died a proud American. We are citizens of the world’s greatest republic, a nation of ideals, not blood and soil,” McCain wrote in his letter. “We are blessed and are a blessing to humanity when we uphold and advance those ideals at home and in the world. We have helped liberate more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history, and we have acquired great wealth and power in the progress.”

Like he did during his long career in Congress, McCain tried to bridge political divisions.

“We are 325 million opinionated, vociferous individuals,” he wrote. “We argue and compete and sometimes even vilify each other in our raucous public debates. But we have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement. If only we remember that and give each other the benefit of the presumption that we all love our country, we will get through these challenging times. We will come through them stronger than before, we always do.”

McCain was critical of Trump, and in a speech last September warned of what he called “half-baked nationalism” that the president has brought to the fore in national politics.

But he ended the letter with a note of hope.

“Do not despair of our present difficulties but believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here,” he wrote. “Americans never quit. We never surrender.”

Trump issued a tweet on Saturday in which he said that “my deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!” But he did not issue a proclamation, as he had for other prominent Americans who have died, and refused to answer questions about McCain when reporters asked at the White House on Monday.

Denise Rohan, the national commander of the American Legion, urged Trump to lower the White House flag to half staff to honor McCain and to issue a proclamation. The flag was lowered following his death on Saturday, but was raised on Monday, something that media correspondents quickly noted.

“I strongly urge you to make an appropriate presidential proclamation noting Senator McCain’s death and legacy of service to our nation, and that our nation’s flag be half-staffed through his internment,” Rohan wrote.