"I'm a Democrat. And I loved John McCain": Joe Biden laments the end of bipartisanship at memorial

The former Democratic vice president had a close friendship with the Arizona senator

By Matthew Rozsa

Published August 30, 2018 5:54PM (EDT)

Joe Biden (Getty/Frederick M. Brown)
Joe Biden (Getty/Frederick M. Brown)

"My name's Joe Biden. I'm a Democrat, and I loved John McCain."

Those words had an undeniable political resonance when they were spoken by Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday as he eulogized his former colleague, Sen. John McCain of Arizona. The reason his partisan identity was so important is that, although Biden is a liberal Democrat and McCain was a conservative Republican, the two men managed to forge a strong friendship that endured even when the two would staunchly disagree about important issues.

"I always thought of John as a brother. We had a hell of a lot of family fights," Biden told the mourners, who laughed at his quip. Their close relationship was underscored when Biden pointed out that, "I trusted John with my life. The thing that's understated the most was his optimism. That's what made John special, made him a giant among us."

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He also recalled how McCain's pugnacious nature was especially evident when he would debate on the Senate floor.

"The sheer joy that crossed his face when he was about to take the stage or the floor and start a fight. God, he loved it!" Biden exclaimed.

Biden also commented on the glioblastoma that took McCain's life, one that was also responsible for killing another mutual colleague of the two men, Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, as well as Biden's own son, Beau.

"The disease that took John's life — that took our friend Ted Kennedy's life, that took my son Beau's life — is brutal, relentless, unforgiving," Biden said. "It takes so much from those we love — and from the families who love them — that in order to survive we have to remember how they lived — not how they died."

He also had words of comfort for McCain's family.

"But, I know something else, unfortunately, from experience, that there's nothing anyone can say or do to ease the pain right now. But I pray, I pray you take some comfort knowing that because you shared John with all of us, your whole life, the world now shares with you in the ache of John's death."There are times when life can be so cruel, pain so blinding it's hard to see anything else."

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Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Bipartisanship Donald Trump Joe Biden John Mccain