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Graham salutes 'maverick' McCain in emotional floor speech
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) paid tribute to the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) during an emotional speech on the Senate floor on Tuesday while urging his colleagues to be more like the "maverick" senator.
"If you want to help the country, be more like John McCain. I believe there is a little John McCain in all of us and the little John McCain practiced by a lot of people can make a really great nation," Graham said from the Senate floor of his former colleague and close friend.
Graham used his floor speech, the first comments he's made on the Senate floor since McCain's death, to recount his experiences with the late senator, including visiting troops in foreign countries and McCain's failed 2008 presidential bid.
"People remember his concession speech as much as anything else," Graham said. "John said that night, 'President Obama is now my president.' So he healed the nation at a time he was hurt."
"I learned that failure and success are the different sides of the same coin. ... I have become better from my failures because it teaches us," he said.
Graham added that McCain taught him the "foundation" of what makes up a "great person."
"To those who are striving as a young person, remember John McCain. He failed a lot, but he never quit," he said. "The reason we're talking about him today and the reason I'm crying is because he was successful in spite of his failures."
Graham also used his floor speech to recount McCain's jokes, including that Arizona is the only state where "mothers tell their children you can never grow up to be president." He quipped that maybe GOP Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) could break that streak.
Senators have spent the past two days coming to the Senate floor to memorialize McCain, who died Saturday after being diagnosed with brain cancer more than a year ago.
Asked how he drafted the speech, which appeared to be largely hand written, Graham compared it to a military "action report."
"There's a lot of stuff in there that people need to remember but I just kind of wrote an outline and couldn't go much longer. I mean what killed me was the black. ...I thought I would better than I did and I apologize," Graham told reporters.
McCain's Senate desk, which Graham stood next to while he spoke, has been covered with a black cloth with white flowers placed in a vase on top.
Graham and McCain were close friends and Senate allies, aligning closely on foreign policy and issues like immigration.
Graham, during his speech, referred to himself as McCain's "political wingman, code name little jerk."
"You've all got your names and you've earned them like I did. ... [We were] lucky enough to walk in his shadow and to witness history up close, to be on the presence of a giant at a time everything around us was so small."
Graham told reporters that he spoke with Cindy McCain directly after his floor speech.