In an interview about his new memoir, the former secretary of state reflects on his surprising friendship with John McCain

By Sam Gillette
September 03, 2018 06:21 PM
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Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty

As Senator John McCain was laid to rest, former Secretary of State John Kerry reflected on their longtime friendship — one that thrived despite their different party affiliations.

In fact, Kerry said he respected McCain so much that he “flirted” with the idea of asking the Republican senator to serve as his running mate during his 2004 presidential bid.

“There were difficult issues to try to work out,” Kerry, 74, said on CBS’s Face the Nation while discussing his new memoir, Every Day Is Extra, out Tuesday. “We kind of flirted, but didn’t go on a date!”

The former Secretary of State and Senator first came on to the political landscape after he formally spoke out against the Vietnam War in 1971 (he’d served as a Navy lieutenant in the war). In his interview with CBS, Kerry reveals the similarities he sees between the tensions in the U.S. caused by the Vietnam War and the divisive climate today.

John Kerry
| Credit: Kerry Campaign via Getty

“The similarity is not in the cultural revolution but in the cultural divide that is being exploited, that is, in fact, limiting – if not diminishing – the capacity of our institutions to work,” he told Margaret Brennan.

In Every Day Is Extra, Kerry tracks his career from his time in the Navy and serving as a prosecutor in Massachusetts (when he took down a mob boss), to his five terms serving as senator, the challenges he faced while attempt to find peaceful solutions while secretary of state, and his bid for the presidency in 2004.

The biggest lesson Kerry says he has learned is to live a purposeful life.

President Barack Obama Delivers Eulogy to John McCain

While he reflects on these historical moments and lessons in the book, Kerry told CBS that his most important relationship was with Sen. John McCain. Together they tried to heal the country after the Vietnam War.

“I mean, John McCain and I together tried to figure out: How do we make peace in America? How do we get America to be at peace with itself over Vietnam?” he said.

According to CBS, the politicians pushed for the recovery of soldiers missing in action.

“We were privileged to be in a position to try to heal our country’s wounds,” Kerry told the outlet, “and, I think, to set an example for how people from different parties could come together and put the interests of our nation and the United States Senate front and center.”

Credit: Simon and Schuster

The politicians were also united in their criticism of President Trump. Before his death, McCain asked former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush to speak at his funeral. Trump, who has been critical of McCain in the past, did not attend.

After his death, McCain’s camp released his final letter to the country, which many viewed as a last dig at Trump.

“We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe,” McCain wrote. “We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been.”

In Kerry’s interview with CBS, he was also critical of Trump. Specifically, Kerry defended the Iran nuclear agreement, which he helped create. Trump has previously claimed it’s the “worst ever.”

“Unfortunately — and I say this sadly — more often than not, [Trump] really just doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” Kerry said, according to CBS. “He makes things up. And he’s making that up, as he has other things.”

“You work to implement our democracy by reaching out across the aisle, by building relationships, by believing in the better angels of American value system. And I think John McCain did that,” he said. “I did that, others have done that. But right now we have a culture divide that has been accentuated by political so-called leaders. And what they’re doing is they’re operating in a fact-less world.”