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. twm

    So putz! And your idea of an American is? I believe Hawaii is one of the 50 United States and has been so since 1959

    July 17, 2012 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  2. So_Simple_Simon

    If republicans drop their pants and bend over, democrates call it compromising.

    What do you call it when democrates can't spell compromise?

    Time to take on these demcrates at their own game. Let them take it up the shorts for the team.

    Romney 2012.... Republican House and Senate 2012....

    Winning for America.

    New government program, free airline tickets for anyone who wants to leave and live in China or Cuba. Any takers?

    Nanna nana hey hey good bye!

    July 17, 2012 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  3. Horse Badorties

    Here's how Sununu demonstrated his Americanism:

    As White House Chief of Staff, Sununu reportedly took personal trips, for skiing and other purposes, and classified them as official, for purposes such as conservation or promoting the Thousand Points of Light. The Washington Post wrote that Sununu's jets "took him to fat-cat Republican fund-raisers, ski lodges, golf resorts and even his dentist in Boston." Sununu had paid the government only $892 for his more than $615,000 worth of military jet travel. Sununu said that his use of the jets was necessary because he had to be near a telephone at all times for reasons of national security. Sununu worsened the situation shortly afterwards when, after leaking rumors of financial difficulties in his family, he traveled to a rare stamp auction at Christie's auction house in New York City from Washington in a government limousine, spending $5,000 on rare stamps. Sununu then sent the car and driver back to Washington unoccupied while he returned on a corporate jet.

    July 17, 2012 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    "This is just consistent with the entire storyline about Obama being "other", "not like us", which is why the birther issue still hasn't gone away."


    July 17, 2012 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  5. lib

    I use to have a little respect for republicans but since McCain and his party bought Sarah Palin into the spotlight, the party went into the gutter. The republicans have shown their true racist color. Mr. Sunnunu should apologize to EVERY American especially those people who have fought in the military to make this country safe. He does not belong in this country. To believe that mitt and all the GOP starting with Mitch McConnel on down are trying to be in charge of this country is scary.Anybody voting for this party needs to take a real long hard look at themselves.

    July 17, 2012 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  6. Tookurjobs

    This guy has a face for radio.

    July 17, 2012 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  7. Sniffit

    "This guy has a face for radio."

    Either that or for a hungry bath salts abuser.

    July 17, 2012 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  8. Richard T.

    Yes be "more American." Follow the GOP ideal of avoiding taxes at the expense of everyone else and having multiple over-shore bank and dusiness account (Romney and Haliburton ring a bell?) and avoid the draft or military service (Romney family and DickCheney). Afterall military service is for those less fortunate persons.

    Now that is what it is to be a American supporting the GOPers.

    July 17, 2012 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  9. Dave

    Obama can start by halting his outsourcing of jobs:

    After receiving a $500 million stimulus loan guarantee, Fisker Automotive is producing their $100,000 luxury electric sports car in Finland. (“Car Company Gets U.S. Loan, Builds Cars in Finland,” ABC News, 10/20/11)
    Nearly Half of President Obama’s $2.4 billion devoted to advanced vehicle batteries went to foreign companies in places like Russia, China, South Korea and France. (“Obama Sends Stimulus Aid to Foreign Firms,” Washington Times, 8/6/09)
    Sempra Energy was awarded a $337-million loan guarantee to supply panels for a solar power plant in Arizona. However, the company purchased its solar panels from the Chinese solar giant Suntech. (“Sempra Gets $337 Million Guarantee for Arizona Solar Project,” Bloomberg News, 9/28/11)
    Two South Korean companies – LG Chem and Dow Kokam – were given $303 million to produce car batteries in the U.S., but then brought in foreign workers. Local unions have criticized the company for filling jobs with foreign workers. (“Unions Say Foreign Workers Taking Stimulus Jobs,” CBS News, 4/13/12)
    “An April 2010 study by the Energy Department found that 60 percent of the 40 largest wind farms then financed by the stimulus relied on foreign manufacturers for their central components, including turbines.” (“Obama’s Record on Outsourcing Draws Criticism from the Left,” The Washington Post, 7/9/12)
    California-based Tezo Systems lost its bid for a ‘stimulus’-funded grant to install television monitors on California buses to a New Zealand company. (“Santa Clarita Rejects Protest, New Zealand Company Keeps Stimulus Contract,” NBC4 Los Angeles, 5/16/12)
    A federal investigation found that “at least $7 million in federal stimulus money intended to provide jobs to unemployed Oregonians instead paid wages to 254 foreign workers.” (“Federal Stimulus Money for Oregon Jobs Hired Foreign Workers,” The Oregonian, 10/20/12)

    July 17, 2012 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  10. Michael Bethards

    Typical Republican WEASEL!! Our Candidate Is Aloser, So Let's Let The Crazy Statements And Accusations Fly!!

    July 17, 2012 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  11. So_Simple_Simon

    When Obama shows his real birth certificate, school records, and list of all his illegal relatives in America, then we can discuss Romney's tax records.

    Who has more too hide?

    Romney is rich, get over it. Go out and make your own millions. Obama did. Don't see anyone crying about that in the liberial media? What, you thought Obama was middle class? Not even close. He join the millionaires club a long time before even thinking about running for president. No one questioned him in 2008 about his taxes or where he put his money? Bet you won't find it in the Whitehouse mattresses.

    July 17, 2012 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  12. Doug from Seattle

    For those of you who may not be aware, the latest attack on our President is based on an edited version of a speech recently given by our President ala Shirley Sherrod. This edited version of the speech has been the primary focus of the Fox propaganda channel over the past 36 hours. As with the misrepresentation of the Shirley Sherrod speech, the manufactured "Fast and Furious" scandal, and so on; the truth will ultimately see the light of day!

    BTW, where are those tax returns?

    July 17, 2012 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  13. whiteamerican

    The president is "Unamerican" because he is black, cares for the middle class and poor, will not spend our money on waste less wars, would like to protect the environment and does not want big corporation to ride our backs and turn us in to a third world country where there are a few lords and the rest of us merely peasants. Reps., would say anything..especially now that they realize they have a loosing candidate. Was Independent..these crazy statements seals my vote for the Dems.

    July 17, 2012 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  14. Penn7277

    The Republican Party has done everything it can do to slow or stop the recovery for the sole purpose of defeating Barack Obama in November. Mitch McConnell has said as much. It is more important in their minds that they remain in power than to fix the economy. They do not work to forward the best interests of the American people; they work only to get themselves in power. They want to reinstate the policies that caused the whole mess in the first place: keep taxes low for the wealthy and stop or hinder regulation. For those who complain about regulation, we wouldn't need to regulate American business if those in business had not proved time and time again that they are incapable of doing the right thing. They have only themselves to blame.

    July 17, 2012 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  15. realitybites

    What that sack under his chin filled with? Ewww!!!

    July 17, 2012 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  16. Debby

    I agree with Sununu Obama is so out of touch with business people he has no clue people saved and started their buisness from the ground up vs getting a govrenment handout. Obama needs a good dose of how American buisness works.

    July 17, 2012 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  17. nmmell08

    A) Obama is a legal natural born Citizen of the US, been prooven over and over and over again. B) Do a quick google of Obama and Columbia and you will find ALumni accounts of him being a student their. C) What does illegal realtives have to do with him. Romney should release his taxes, so we can get a clear picture of what happened b/w 99 and 2002 and therfore have a better understanding of his position at Bain during that time

    July 17, 2012 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  18. Ken

    Oh Simon – you said it yourself! You are SOOOOOOO simple!

    July 17, 2012 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  19. B

    This Democratic Party is about as low as you can set. What a bunch of losers. They make me ashamed to be an Ameriscan.


    This GOP/Tea Party is about as low as you can get. What a bunch of losers. They're still a bunch of frightened racists, just like their forefathers were (only they were Democrats back then). They make me ashamed to be an American not to mention they are a pure embarassment – showing the world they are still racist cowards.

    See how your own ignorant words can be turned around, modified and used against you? LOL!
    The post was taking a leftist post's ignorant words and turning them around. You fell for it!!! as you say..LOL!!!

    July 17, 2012 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  20. Lenny Pincus

    John McCain thinks Palin would be a better president than Romney. So does most of the Republican Party–higher favoribility numbers. So keep squealing about Obama;s college grades and birth certificates. You people have the credibility of an ox.

    July 17, 2012 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  21. NotFooledByDistractions

    That comment is made even more laughable coming from a man, sununu, who was born in cuba.

    The romney camp is really desperate – their leaning on the mccarthy type tactics again. It's really pathetic.

    July 17, 2012 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  22. Mittsadimmwit

    I notice they didn't ask the president to Invest in America... they know they would lose that argument... Mitt needs to be a true american, invest in america and disavow his ties to the Cayman Islands and Dutch accounts.

    July 17, 2012 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  23. gailpatriot

    After hearing that Mr. Sununu insinuate that the sitting President of the United States is Un-American because he disagrees with financial policy, I was upset. Then on CNN an apologist for Mr. Sununu lectured Wolf Blitzer on what creates jobs "American" style and what is socialism. He postulated that the middle class does not create jobs and policy that focuses on the majority of citizens is "socialism". Did he ever take a history or economics class? By this world view, we would be all fat and happy if the feudal system with it's large population of serfs was still in place. Both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, believed that America's future was best served by a nation of small farmers and shop keepers. They seldom agreed on other facets on democracy. The American Revolution was shouldered by both the wealthy and the small shareholders. It's time that we remember our founders example of self sacrifice for a greater cause and work together for the good of our nation. There is no "American" way of politics, finance, religion, race, lifestyle. We are one because we are all Americans.

    July 17, 2012 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  24. ronb

    I wish sununu would learn how to be an HONEST man.... or shut the hell up!

    July 17, 2012 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  25. So_Simple_Simon

    It is time for the democrates to put a real man's man in the whitehouse. Hillary Clinton! Now there is someone worth standing up for. Her and Billy can fix America again.

    Hillary 2012. Don't put off to 2016 what you can do in 2012.

    Get smart Democrates.

    July 17, 2012 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
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