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. ghostriter

    Matter of fact, this guy's whole routine is a flashback from 2008. You know, "He's not like us, he's not a real American".

    And didn't one of Romney's overseas fundraisers just get indicted? Do you guys really wanna compare notes on who hangs out with whom?

    July 17, 2012 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  2. labman57

    Romney (and his advocates such as Mr. Sununu) judges a person's qualifications to lead based on the depth of one's wallet rather than the depth of one's wisdom. He evaluates a person's net worth based on the value of one's portfolio rather than one's value to their community.

    And unlike many self-righteous conservatives, progressives do not believe that some political parties and regions of the nation are more "pro-America" than are others, and we do not wrap ourselves in the flag and indignantly proclaim that patriotism is an attribute exclusive to those who share our ideologies.

    July 17, 2012 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |

    I think calling someone un-American just because you disagree with them politically is as about as un-American as you can get. Have you heard of free speech, the right to different views than your own? Just be someone doesn't think like you they're Un-American? I believe you are truly a chowder head.

    July 17, 2012 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  4. Martha in CF

    I would think Obama is more American than the Mittens. Does Romney believe in America when he has to put his money in another country/countries? Like someone wrote before me, If Obama had Romneys bank accounts in other countries, the redumblicans would be all over it....Stupid comments by Sununu!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    July 17, 2012 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  5. Phil knows best

    Sununu apparently doesn't realized that the "un-American" label has been over used and no longer works. His attacks on "Chicago Politics" is straight out of Rush Limbaugh playbook. As long as Willard refuses to release his tax returns from the time he was running Bain, and refuses to explain his off shore tax havens, then these old attacks are futile.

    July 17, 2012 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  6. anagram_kid

    Businesses exist because the infrastructure to create and run them exists. You can keep moving that cart in front the of the horse all you want but it won’t change the fact that unless you plan on starting a business where you alone supply all the capital, technology, infrastructure…etc. you are dependent on the work of others including services created and maintained by the gov’t at the local, state and federal level. This includes the laws that make your business and associated infrastructure possible. If you want to live in a state of nature, go ahead. I prefer a civilized and advanced culture myself.

    July 17, 2012 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  7. Rudy NYC


    Rudy NYC – taxes government collects comes from the money businesses create, if businesses don't pay taxes than the government wouldn't have tax money for the roads, fireman, police officers, etc... you are talking about. Businesses pay employees who in turn pay taxes and those taxes are collected by the government and those taxes also pay for roads, police officers, firemen, roads you are talking about. Government has money because of businesses producing money that pays employees. Get it???? I suggest you Google it.
    I don't have to google it. I know why we pay taxes. You recited the reasons very well. What you fail to realize is that the customers also pays taxes that support the infrastructure, which supports the business. What you fail to realize is that the extreme right wing wants to eliminate taxes and eliminate the infrastructure. I suggest you google it.

    July 17, 2012 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  8. Flagship, NC

    Does Romney believe in America when he has to put his money in another country/countries?!
    He not the example of a good future president!

    July 17, 2012 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  9. chuck weidemann

    Romney doesn't see RED WHITE and BLUE.....only GREEN ....why else would he be going abroad to raise money in London. I don't think Sununu is helping!!!!

    July 17, 2012 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  10. 4merRepubCT

    Shrill rabid bulldogs – mass Repub hysteria – the summer heat is really getting to them. Quite the show, with lots of time to go yet before their convention. Makes for great comedic entertainment.

    As Willy Wonka said: "the tension is killing me, I hope it lasts." Hope this carries in to the fall before the Repubs implode. It would make for a spectacular Labor Day!

    July 17, 2012 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  11. paulcat

    Ok republicans, let's say it altogether "we apologize for Sununununu remarks".

    July 17, 2012 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  12. g

    unamerican-is a group the shipped jobs over-seas to go from200% profit to5000%–republicans should go back to there patriot,christian bull-forgot not this time

    July 17, 2012 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  13. lolo

    Here we go again, round two of the same old false accusations. GOP please grow up. This is not helping you at all. It just makes me want to vote for a democrat more and I am sure that other people feel the same way except for the right wing nuts. You can have them.

    July 17, 2012 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  14. Myviewis

    anagram-kid, Rudy NYC – thank you, you just proved that neither one of you owns or runs a business and have no idea about taxes, government role in business. It's okay, just keep reading, maybe you'll learn something or better yet take President Obama's advise and go to college and get an education.

    July 17, 2012 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  15. 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.

    July 17, 2012 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  16. Tom

    First off, Sununu needs to lose at least 100 pounds. Secondly, why does Sununu feel Republicans have a monopoly on "being American" or "being patriotic"? I don't consider Mitt Romney, Barack Obama, or John Sununu to be unAmerican-simply different opinions about what best to do for the country.

    July 17, 2012 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  17. Lisa P

    “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...

    And then the multinational corporations buy the businesses we built and ship them overseas, leaving unemployed workers, empty buildings, a depleted local tax base and some newly rich ex-owners who won't have to work again a day in their lives if they play the "investment" and capitol gains tax game right. Wake up, Sununu! This is how things have been going in America for quite some time - it's not about hard work, it's about the big one-time score, cashing in and getting the hell out. And American politics has been working the same way, unfortunately. The days of building a solid foundation, expecting modest profits and thinking for the long term and the good of society went out the door some time ago - with Reagan, I'm thinking. Now it's all "show me the money!" and you're only as good (or bad) as your last deal.

    July 17, 2012 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  18. Gurgyl

    This dude lost his brain!!!

    July 17, 2012 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  19. Please Grow Up

    (singing, from the musical "1776")

    "Sit down, John!"

    July 17, 2012 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  20. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Rush Limbaugh is a comic and drug addict and Sununu must be on drugs too listening to Rush.

    July 17, 2012 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  21. American

    Interesting, coming from Sununu co-chair for Romney who is investing in other countries instead of the USA
    ...the only presidential candidate ever to do that as Newt correctly pointed out.

    July 17, 2012 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  22. anagram_kid

    Actually the context of the "I like firing people" remark is exactly why it was an issue. What he was saying that one of the benefits of capitalism is that if a service or product does not meet your satisfaction, you are welcome to look elsewhere. And that is true, with the HUGE exception of the topic he was speaking of – health insurance. That is not a ‘buyers market’ product.

    July 17, 2012 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  23. Wes B.

    ::yawn:: GOP grabbing at straws here.

    July 17, 2012 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |

    Mr. Sununu needs to learn the way to a gym.

    July 17, 2012 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  25. carly

    This is today's GOP. Racism, lies, distortions and all smoke and mirrors and no substance. Sununu is just a fat right wing fool in the Limbaugh mold.

    July 17, 2012 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
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