George W. Bush recalls John McCain’s distaste for 'bigots' and 'despots' in eulogy

Former President George W. Bush memorialized Arizona Sen. John McCain on Saturday as an honorable friend and leader who was honest, courageous and not afraid to speak out against “bigots and swaggering despots.”

“John was above all a man with a code. He lived by a set of public virtues that brought strength and purpose to his life and to his country,” the 43rd president said during a memorial service at the National Cathedral in Washington.

“He was courageous, with a courage that frightened his captors and inspired his countrymen. He was honest, no matter who it offended ― presidents were not spared,” he said, drawing laughs.

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Moments from John McCain's Washington, D.C. memorial service
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Moments from John McCain's Washington, D.C. memorial service
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 1: Cindy McCain, wife of the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., their daughter Meghan, sons Jimmy, a Marine, and Jack, a Naval officer, are seen as before the casket of the senator is brought into his funeral at the Washington National Cathedral on September 1, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 1: The casket of late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is brought is into the Washington National Cathedral for his funeral on September 1, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 1: Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and John Kerry, former senator and secretary of state, arrive for the funeral of the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., at the Washington National Cathedral on September 1, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 1: Roberta McCain, 106, the mother of of the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., talks with former Vice President Joe Biden, before the senator's funeral at the Washington National Cathedral on September 1, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 01: Honor Guards removes the casket of Senator John McCain arrives at the Washington National Cathedral for the funeral service for the late Senator John McCain, September 1, 2018 in Washington, DC. Former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush are set to deliver eulogies for McCain in front of the 2,500 invited guests. McCain will be buried on Sunday at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 1: The casket of Senator John McCain arrives at the Washington National Cathedral for the funeral service for the late Senator John McCain, September 1, 2018 in Washington, DC. Former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush are set to deliver eulogies for McCain in front of the 2,500 invited guests. McCain will be buried on Sunday at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 01: Honor Guards removes the casket of Senator John McCain arrives at the Washington National Cathedral for the funeral service for the late Senator John McCain, September 1, 2018 in Washington, DC. Former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush are set to deliver eulogies for McCain in front of the 2,500 invited guests. McCain will be buried on Sunday at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 01: Honor Guards removes the casket of Senator John McCain arrives at the Washington National Cathedral for the funeral service for the late Senator John McCain, September 1, 2018 in Washington, DC. Former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush are set to deliver eulogies for McCain in front of the 2,500 invited guests. McCain will be buried on Sunday at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 01: Honor Guards removes the casket of Senator John McCain arrives at the Washington National Cathedral for the funeral service for the late Senator John McCain, September 1, 2018 in Washington, DC. Former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush are set to deliver eulogies for McCain in front of the 2,500 invited guests. McCain will be buried on Sunday at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 01: Honor Guards removes the casket of Senator John McCain arrives at the Washington National Cathedral for the funeral service for the late Senator John McCain, September 1, 2018 in Washington, DC. Former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush are set to deliver eulogies for McCain in front of the 2,500 invited guests. McCain will be buried on Sunday at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 01: Honor Guards removes the casket of Senator John McCain arrives at the Washington National Cathedral for the funeral service for the late Senator John McCain, September 1, 2018 in Washington, DC. Former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush are set to deliver eulogies for McCain in front of the 2,500 invited guests. McCain will be buried on Sunday at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 01: Honor Guards removes the casket of Senator John McCain arrives at the Washington National Cathedral for the funeral service for the late Senator John McCain, September 1, 2018 in Washington, DC. Former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush are set to deliver eulogies for McCain in front of the 2,500 invited guests. McCain will be buried on Sunday at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 1: Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright arrives at the Washington National Cathedral for the funeral service for the late Senator John McCain, September 1, 2018 in Washington, DC. Former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush are set to deliver eulogies for McCain in front of the 2,500 invited guests. McCain will be buried on Sunday at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 1: Former Senator Bill Bradley arrives at the Washington National Cathedral for the funeral service for the late Senator John McCain, September 1, 2018 in Washington, DC. Former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush are set to deliver eulogies for McCain in front of the 2,500 invited guests. McCain will be buried on Sunday at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 1: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has his bag checked by security as he arrives at the Washington National Cathedral for the funeral service for the late Senator John McCain, September 1, 2018 in Washington, DC. Former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush are set to deliver eulogies for McCain in front of the 2,500 invited guests. McCain will be buried on Sunday at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 1: Jay Leno arrives at the Washington National Cathedral for the funeral service for the late Senator John McCain, September 1, 2018 in Washington, DC. Former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush are set to deliver eulogies for McCain in front of the 2,500 invited guests. McCain will be buried on Sunday at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 01: Honor Guards removes the casket of Senator John McCain arrives at the Washington National Cathedral for the funeral service for the late Senator John McCain, September 1, 2018 in Washington, DC. Former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush are set to deliver eulogies for McCain in front of the 2,500 invited guests. McCain will be buried on Sunday at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 1: Honor Guards carry the casket of Senator John McCain arrives at the Washington National Cathedral for the funeral service for the late Senator John McCain, September 1, 2018 in Washington, DC. Former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush are set to deliver eulogies for McCain in front of the 2,500 invited guests. McCain will be buried on Sunday at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 1: Honor Guards carry the casket of Senator John McCain arrives at the Washington National Cathedral for the funeral service for the late Senator John McCain, September 1, 2018 in Washington, DC. Former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush are set to deliver eulogies for McCain in front of the 2,500 invited guests. McCain will be buried on Sunday at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
Meghan McCain, daughter of US Senator John McCain, speaks during a memorial service for her father at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, DC, on September 1, 2018. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Meghan McCain, daughter of US Senator John McCain, speaks during a memorial service for her father at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, DC, on September 1, 2018. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
People attend a memorial service for US Senator John McCain at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, DC, on September 1, 2018. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Former US Senator Joe Lieberman speaks during a memorial service for US Senator John McCain at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, DC, on September 1, 2018. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Former US Senator Joe Lieberman speaks during a memorial service for US Senator John McCain at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, DC, on September 1, 2018. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 1: The casket of U.S. Sen. John McCain sits in the nave during the funeral service at the National Cathedral on September 1, 2018 in Washington, DC. The late senator died August 25 at the age of 81 after a long battle with brain cancer. McCain will be buried at his final resting place at the U.S. Naval Academy. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
(L-R) Former US President Bill Clinton, former First Lady Hillary Clinton, former Vice President Dick Cheney, Lynne Cheney and former US Vice President Al Gore attend a memorial service for US Senator John McCain at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, DC, on September 1, 2018. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Former senator Joe Lieberman speaks at the memorial service of U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) at National Cathedral in Washington, U.S., September 1, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Wattie
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 1: Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge (2nd from L) and former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (C) arrive at the Washington National Cathedral for the funeral service for the late Senator John McCain, September 1, 2018 in Washington, DC. Former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush are set to deliver eulogies for McCain in front of the 2,500 invited guests. McCain will be buried on Sunday at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Former US President George W. Bush speaks during a memorial service for US Senator John McCain at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, DC, on September 1, 2018. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Former US President George W. Bush speaks during a memorial service for US Senator John McCain at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, DC, on September 1, 2018. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 1: Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the funeral service for U.S. Sen. John McCain at the National Cathedral on September 1, 2018 in Washington, DC. The late senator died August 25 at the age of 81 after a long battle with brain cancer. McCain will be buried at his final resting place at the U.S. Naval Academy. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Former US President Barack Obama speaks during a memorial service for US Senator John McCain at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, DC, on September 1, 2018. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the memorial service of U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) at National Cathedral in Washington, U.S., September 1, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Wattie
Photographer David Hume Kennerly works at the memorial service of U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) at National Cathedral in Washington, U.S., September 1, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Wattie
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“Back in the day, he could frustrate me, and I know he’d say the same thing about me,” he said, appearing to draw a laugh from McCain’s wife, Cindy McCain. “But he also made me better.”

Former President Barack Obama echoed a similar sentiment during his own eulogy at the service, stating that McCain “made us better presidents — just as he made the Senate better. Just as he made the country better.”

President Donald Trump ― who appeared to be a target of many of the service’s eulogies ― clashed with McCain during his presidency and did not attend the service.

Bush, who successfully ran against McCain for the White House in 2000, emphasized that it was the Vietnam veteran’s loyalty to his country and respect to his fellow human being, whether it’s friend or foe, that made him so great.

“He was honorable. Always recognizing that his opponents were still patriots and human beings. He loved freedom with a passion of a man who knew its absence. He respected the dignity inherent in every life, a dignity that does not stop at borders and cannot be erased by dictators,” he said. “Perhaps above all, John detested the abuse of power. He could not abide bigots and swaggering despots; there was something deep inside of him that made him stand up for the little guy, to speak for forgotten people, in forgotten places.”

Bush concluded his speech by stating that though the senator “has moved on,” his legacy will continue.

“He would probably not want us to dwell on it, but we are better for his presence among us. The world is smaller for his departure, and we will remember him as he was: unwavering, undimmed, unequal.”

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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