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Obama honours John McCain at funeral, denounces ‘mean and petty’ politics

WATCH: John McCain funeral: Barack Obama recalls senator defending him during 2008 presidential campaign.

Former U.S. president Barack Obama honoured John McCain at his funeral Saturday, denouncing “mean and petty” public discourse.

READ MORE: Former presidents, family describe John McCain’s death as ‘passing of American greatness’

“So much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse can seem small and mean and petty, tracking in bombast and insult and phony controversies and manufactured outrage,” Obama said in his 20-minute speech. “It’s a politics that pretends to be brave and tough but in fact is born in fear. John called on us to be bigger than that. He called on us to be better than that.”

Obama defeated the Arizona six-term senator in the 2008 presidential race. Although once his rival and the two contrasted on many views, Obama praised McCain’s ability to bridge differences and focus on the common good.

“I never saw John treat anyone differently because of their race, religion or gender,” Obama said. “While John and I disagreed on all kinds of foreign policy issues, we stood together on America’s role as the one indispensable nation.

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“When all was said and done, we were on the same team.”

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WATCH: John McCain funeral: Barack Obama recalls senator’s ‘mischievous streak’ in tribute

John McCain funeral: Barack Obama recalls senator’s ‘mischievous streak’ in tribute
John McCain funeral: Barack Obama recalls senator’s ‘mischievous streak’ in tribute

Obama referred to one incident during the 2008 campaign when a woman said she didn’t trust him because he was “an Arab,” at which point McCain interjected and said, “No, ma’am. He’s a decent family man.”

“I’m certain that in those moments … he saw himself as defending America’s character, not just mine, where he considered it the imperative of every citizen that loves this country to treat all people fairly,” Obama said. “[McCain had] an ability to see past differences in search of common ground.”

McCain had served in the Vietnam War as a pilot and spent more than five years as a prisoner of war, where he was tortured and gave up an offer to be released, because another prisoner had been there longer.

READ MORE: Meghan McCain calls for unity in impassioned eulogy for father; ‘America was always great’

“He had been to hell and back, yet somehow never lost his energy or optimism or his zest for life,” Obama said.

Obama commented on McCain’s sense of mischief, joking “What better way to get a last laugh than have George [W. Bush] and I say nice things about him to a national audience?”
In all, “[McCain] made us better presidents, just as he made the senate better, just as he made this country better,” Obama said.