Durbin, Durkin — once rivals — teaming up at McCain's funeral

Durbin, Durkin — once rivals — teaming up at McCain's funeral, Democrat Sen. Durbin with Illinois House GOP Leader Durkin : 'One of John's last request of all the politicians was to put aside tribal loyalties.'


WASHINGTON – You couldn't miss it.

John McCain's funeral on Saturday was a stinging rebuke to President Donald Trump.

I wonder what Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner were thinking from their seats in the majestic National Cathedral, the gothic masterpiece in northwest Washington.

Trump wasn't invited to join three former presidents, three former vice presidents, three former first ladies, plus countless present and ex-lawmakers, cabinet members and officials from Democratic and Republican administrations.


The tributes from former Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama — the two men who denied McCain the White House — and McCain's daughter, Meghan, contained implicit jabs at Trump.

When Meghan said, 'The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great,' the audience erupted with applause, no matter the solemn occasion.

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Meghan McCain delivers a eulogy during the funeral service for her father, Sen. John McCain at the National Cathedral. | Getty Images

In these Trump-fueled divisive times, McCain wanted his sendoff to lead by example: that's why he asked Bush and Obama to deliver eulogies.

There was no need for Meghan, Obama or Bush to use Trump's name in their salutes.

Bush said, 'He respected the dignity inherent in every life, a dignity that does not stop at borders and cannot be erased by dictators. Perhaps above all, John detested the abuse of power. He could not abide bigots and swaggering despots.'

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Former President George W. Bush leaves the podium after speaking during the funeral service for Sen. John McCain. | Getty Images

Obama reflected, 'So much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse, can seem small and mean and petty, trafficking in bombast and insult, in phony controversies and manufactured outrage. It's a politics that pretends to be brave and tough, but in fact is born of fear.

'John called on us to be bigger than that. He called on us to be better than that,' Obama said.

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Former President Barack Obama speaks at the funeral service for Sen. John McCain. | Getty Images

And that's why Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, and Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, made a point of teaming up together for McCain's funeral.

You may recall that in 2002, Durkin challenged Durbin for his Senate seat. McCain came to Illinois to stump for Durkin, who helmed Illinois during his 2000 presidential bid. (Durkin oversaw McCain's Illinois White House drive again in 2008.)

Durbin and Durkin.

Partisan leaders.

Durbin is the number two Democrat in the Senate.

Durkin is the top Republican in the Illinois House.

One in Washington. The other in Springfield.

Once rivals.

Now friends.

They are believers in the need to make government work.

And they are both confronted with the polarizing politics of the moment — Durkin with Gov. Bruce Rauner and Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, and Durbin with the acid politics of Trump.

We talked before the service started, way up in the south transept balcony, overlooking the ground floor of the Cathedral.

Durbin and Durkin dined together Friday night at Filomena Ristorante in Georgetown.

Said Durkin, they 'just went over some old times from our campaigns, but also mainly our memories of John McCain . . .

' . . . What was important is that like John McCain said, you got to move away from the political differences of the party. And that's what Senator Durbin and I have lived; and we've become friends since we ran against each other many years ago.

'And that's how John McCain would want it – that we act in a civil way.

' . . . He preached against this divisiveness that is increased year after year with the parties. And I don't take, I don't subscribe to that philosophy, that this is bloodsport.'


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Said Durbin, 'One of John's last requests of all the politicians was to put aside tribal loyalties.

'And Jim and I coming here together today. I think is an effort to continue in that spirit.'

As for McCain's legacy, Durbin said, it is for 'political figures of both parties at all levels — take the lesson to be civil.'

Though they differed on many issues — McCain, for all his reputation as a maverick, was a conservative Republican who opposed much of Obama's agenda — Durbin and McCain forged sustained alliances, most notably on immigration reform.

Said Durbin, 'You got to roll with the punches with John McCain. He had a volcanic temper and this embracing friendship.'

Will McCain's death lead to an enduring change in this political environment? I wish I could say McCain's death is a turning point, but I can't yet.

Said Obama about the relationship he forged with McCain after their 2008 contest, 'When all was said and done, we were on the same team.'

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