July 17th, 2012
06:44 PM ET
11 years ago

Romney surrogate apologizes for saying Obama should 'learn how to be an American'

Irwin, Pennsylvania (CNN) – Mitt Romney's national campaign co-chair John Sununu apologized Tuesday afternoon for saying he wished President Barack Obama would "learn how to be an American" earlier in the day.

Appearing on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer," Sununu said he regretted using those words on a campaign conference call.

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"I'm apologizing for using those words," said Sununu. "I did say those words that were there and, frankly, I made a mistake."

Sununu said his point was to criticize Obama for failing as an economic leader and creating a toxic environment for businesses.

"I was making the point that in America, entrepreneurs deserve credit and there is an American formula for creating jobs," said Sununu. "I don't apologize for the idea that this president has demonstrated that he does not understand how jobs are created in America. He thinks that jobs are created by giving grants to your cronies, to your bundlers and your contributors, like he did with Solyndra."

The earlier conference call with reporters came as the Republican presidential candidate continued to battle attacks from Democrats over Romney's business career and tax returns. It also featured heated comments from a group of small business owners, one of whom likened Obama's economic policies to "socialism."

Sununu responded to the characterization in his CNN interview, saying he does not think Obama is a socialist but "he created a feeling among entrepreneurs that he's not a capitalist."

Despite the apology, Sununu continued to bash Obama's economic record.

Sununu, a former governor of New Hampshire who is known for being a reliable and colorful attack dog, criticized Obama for his so-called "cheek by jowl" relationship with donors in the initial conference call. Continuing a line of attack pursued by Romney Monday, Sununu accused Obama of steering government loans to political friends.

"He thinks that jobs are created by giving grants to your cronies, to your bundlers and your contributors, like he did with Solyndra. Like he did with Vista (ph), like he did with the wind projects that took jobs out of this country," Sununu told Blitzer. "The common denominator is that they all had owners and investors that were bundlers and contributors to his campaign."

In the call earlier, Sununu revived an attack from the 2008 campaign over Obama's relationship with convicted influence peddler Tony Rezko, and tied the president to the notorious sphere of Chicago politics.

"He comes out of that that murky world in Chicago where politician and felon has become synonymous," he said. "It is an area where Tony Rezko is a convicted felon and is in prison, and just happened to be a guy that did a smarmy real estate deal with the president, where Rezko pays top dollar and the president pays a discount and the deal is able to be done."

Sununu also charged on the call the president "has absolutely no idea how the American economy functions."

"The men and women all over America who have worked hard to build their businesses from the ground up is how our economy became the envy of the world," Sununu said. "It is the American way, and I wish this president would learn how to be an American."

Asked on the call by a reporter to clarify his comment, Sununu said he had meant to criticize Obama's understanding of the American way of doing business.

"The president has to learn the American formula for creating business," he said.

Responding to Sununu's comments, Obama's campaign declared Team Romney had "officially gone off the deep end."

"The question is what else they'll pull to avoid answering serious questions about Romney's tenure at Bain Capital and investments in foreign tax havens and offshore accounts," Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith wrote in a statement. "This meltdown and over-the-top rhetoric won't make things better – it only calls attention to how desperate they are to change the conversation."

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Filed under: 2012 • John Sununu • Mitt Romney
soundoff (580 Responses)
  1. Cyric

    Sununu means "rich people shouldn't have to pay taxes, it trickles down to the lackeys" Shut up you old worthless fool.

    July 17, 2012 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  2. Feed Your Head

    As for roads, infrastructure, well if it weren't for taxes paid by businesses and the people that work in those businesses the government wouldn't have money for infrastructure.

    Taxes for infrastructure.
    Sorry, thats socialism.

    July 17, 2012 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  3. timothy

    This all goes back to everybody in the Obama administration being 100 times more competent than their predecessors in the Bush admin. Think back to Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Rice-Wolfowitz-Libby-Addington-FEMABrown, etc. All those people were possibly the worst to ever hold their respective positions.
    GOPers will never get over how bad they were.

    July 17, 2012 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  4. victor

    I can't think of a more patriotic person than our president. Tuff on terrorism, fights for the middle class, promotes education and health care for all citizens, has always been married to the same woman is raising children with a great value system.
    Keep fighting Mr President, the tea party and hate groups that equate you to Hitler, and communism truly show their total ignorance of history. Could it be that you look different from them?

    July 17, 2012 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  5. transorbital

    Gee, John Sununu wants the President to "be an American." And I want John Sununu to go about 500 feet under the surface of the Atlantic Ocean and take a deep, deep breath.

    Why does he get his wish and I don't get mine? Not fair.

    July 17, 2012 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  6. GetReal

    The GOTP are always blowing smoke about the President's economic and jobs record, while forgetting that both fell under Bush's watch.
    They claim to be focused on jobs while voting 33 times against ACA and countless times against abortion and contraception.
    They claim that President Obama is destroying our economy, after they already did.
    They deny that he turned their disasters around and put America back on its feet.
    They are so focused upon defaming the President's character that they have no solutions.
    Get them out of Congress!

    July 17, 2012 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  7. AaronT3

    27 straight months jobs have been increasing without ANY help from the Republicans, Healthcare for ALL Americans and EVERYBODY pays no more Free loaders, Al Khadija has been decimated with 25 of the top 35 leaders brought to justice including Osama Bin Laden. What rock has John Sununu been living under or smoking?

    July 17, 2012 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  8. Tony in Maine

    Sununu is not adding anything of substance to the conversation – come to think of it, he never did. He is what he's always been. A nasty tempered bitter old man who soared well past his level of competence when he became a governor.

    How's that John? – BTW – I'll match DD-214's with you if your next spew is that all those who disagree with you are unAmerican.

    July 17, 2012 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  9. bethann12

    Sununu doesn't understand how the American economy works. It's no longer about Main Street and small businesses, it's about Wall Street bankers demanding "return on shareholder value" and plundering companies, giving away American jobs to other countries like China and India, and paying the Americans left with the fewer jobs peanuts and lower benefits, if any. The system of American business has been broken by the wholesale capitulation to so-called globalization. Neither political party seems to be addressing that issue and has been ducking it for decades, or claiming that's just the way it ought to be and there's nothing they can do about it.

    July 17, 2012 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  10. Khaleeshi

    This just goes to prove that we cannot let the angry rich white guys buy this country. Disrespect for the President is unAmerican Sununu.

    Obama 2012

    July 17, 2012 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  11. Larry L

    @Ancient Texan

    THe Marxist upbringing and education of Obama is coming out, bit by bit, and we're finally getting the true picture of where he is planning to take this nation.
    The President went to the best high school in Hawaii – one still difficult to enter and offering demanding coursework. He went to Harvard. Ever heard of it? Hint... it's not in Texas. Calling the President a communist is childish and identifies you a senile "Ancient Texan". He's an African American. Get over it. This isn't the 1950s anymore.

    July 17, 2012 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  12. Derek James

    What was it that Rahm Emanuel was telling Romney that would also be good advice for the Obama campaign? Oh yeah... "Get over it!"

    July 17, 2012 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  13. humberto

    @ Hap – there is no plan, if there was Congress wouldn't have to readjust the Deficit for a budget .

    July 17, 2012 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  14. Will

    The GOP is just plain goofy! Grasping at straws!

    July 17, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  15. Nija

    The American way for any Gop'er is that wealth will trickle down to the middle class like we are waiting for crumbs. What an idiotic moroooooooooooon. Sununu

    July 17, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  16. Name anne

    So you cannot be an american if you don't know how to lie. Tell Romney to prove Obama wrong by providing tax returns for 2000, 2001, 2002 that shows source of income. the so called legal expert are not willing to speak the truth, and the media is not doing better. some people are called expert in political analysis, but cannot render expert opinion. Mr Sununu you are not more American than Obama. You need to be objective in your critisrm.

    July 17, 2012 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  17. I Like to tiE My doG To the rooF Of tHE famILY Car for FUN

    Hey SaNuNu you tired old dog... america "was yesterday"... time to hit the pasture and let younger people take care of America. This is not your great granddaddies tri-fold hat, musket toting and Indian killing land anymore! I've read about American and I want better ...and we can be, but firstly the old guard has to go.... so bye bye you old fart!

    July 17, 2012 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  18. humberto

    Thats why elected Government Officials Borrowing like that is illegal, always was.

    July 17, 2012 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  19. Anonymous

    Dixie Normous


    I would really like to see one of the anti-Obama posters provide a specific example of how his horrendous, incompetent, epic, failure as president (sorry if I missed any adjectives) has affected them personally. Tell us the life destroying thing that he and he alone caused. No Fox talking points, just a clear example of how your life has been utterly ruined by this man.
    Live utterly ruined?? No. Worse off than 4 years ago? Yes. I had a job as a contractor for the government. The obama administration pulled the plug as part of their cutbacks so I lost my job. Rather than go on unemployment, I hit the streets every day and got another job in a week. But at a 7% pay cut. Taxes increased? No. Not federal, however state increased 64%. (not until the 21 new taxes kick in for obamacare at least). However my tax burden did increase due to fewer allowances than before. According to the accountant it was new federal regulations that reduced the allowances. So, am I worse off than I was 4 years ago yes. But is my life utterly ruined, no.

    @Dixie Normous

    I'm sorry to hear you lost your job as a Government contractor. You do realize which political party has been pushing the cuts to Government spending, right? Those cuts in spending have a direct impact on Government contracts. I hope you realize that as a Government contractor, the Government created your (previous) job?

    As far as the taxes in your state, President Obama has nothing to do with that. It's a state issue.

    Please take some time and visit congress dot gov and read the bills produced and voted on in the House and Senate. It's not spin by the left or right. It's just the raw facts of what laws are actually being produced. Compare the plans. It's not light reading but really helps to separate the facts from the BS.


    July 17, 2012 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |

    The republican bafoon party is like a cancer on America that must be destroyed in Nov for good !!!

    July 17, 2012 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  21. Larry L


    Romney needs to hi back with everything and then say at the end.. I will not speak of taxes, Bain anything demanded by the opposition until Obama shows his college records, explains his associations with Rezko et al, explains how and why he has a Ct soc Sec #.
    @Ahhh... an under-educated, Medina River, conspiracy-believing, Fox News-watching, right-wing bigot. Sununu was targeting exactly that population.

    July 17, 2012 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  22. MightyMoo

    You know I read about people crying Marxist, Socialist, etc about Obama. It's like listening to the boy who cried wolf. Even if he is any of those things for real at least the country isn't going DOWN anymore but UP even though it's much slower then people may like. Be happy that it's doing that at least.

    July 17, 2012 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  23. Jason

    I want Romney to act like an American and not like a Mormon. How many Americans act like a mormon and own that many houses?

    July 17, 2012 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  24. California

    FACT: Sununu's IQ is 180.

    July 17, 2012 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  25. 1twinsfan

    For the past four years, it has amazed me that the right refers to someone running (and winning) the office of the Presidency as un-American or unpatriotic. There isn't any thing more patriotic than running for the POTUS.

    July 17, 2012 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
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