Jeb Bush’s Curious Praise for John Sununu Raises Red Flags

Jeb Bush
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
Washington, DC

A New Hampshire-based tweet from prospective 2016 candidate Jeb Bush seemed harmless enough, but with two past presidents in his immediate family, associations may matter more when it comes to Jeb Bush — including who he informally claims to be taking advice from.

It didn’t take long for critics to pounce in response to the tweet.

A quick look at Sununu’s Wikipedia page and some recent history gave critics, left and right, all the ammunition they needed.

Sununu was the first White House Chief of Staff for George H. W. Bush, serving from 1989 to 1991.

Sununu is considered to have engineered Bush’s mid-term abandonment of his 1988 campaign promise of “no new taxes”.

Sununu is responsible for recommending David Souter to President George H. W. Bush for appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States.

If Bush I was the end of Reaganism for the GOP, Sununu was one of the chief architects of said end. Eventually, Bush asked him to resign, which is a nice way to say fired when you work in the White House. Sununu also isn’t thought to have done Mitt romney much good in 2012, among other things being hit with charges of racism for some of his remarks — as The Washington Post reported at the time: “Top Romney aide Sununu suggests Powell endorsed Obama because he’s black.”

Sununu was eventually forced to backtrack on that particular comment.

Update 12:15 a.m.: Sununu, in a statement released by the Romney campaign, is now backing off his assertion.

“Colin Powell is a friend, and I respect the endorsement decision he made, and I do not doubt that it was based on anything but his support of the President’s policies,” Sununu said. “Piers Morgan’s question was whether Colin Powell should leave the party, and I don’t think he should.”

Sununu angered some when he was the only governor of a U.S. state not to call for repeal of the controversial UN General Assembly Resolution 3379 (“Zionism is Racism”). He later reversed his position on this issue and supported the Republicans’ pro-Israel 1988 platform.

However valid, Sununu repeatedly left the door open for the left to pounce on Romney with the race card — and they did just that.

Here’s a bit more from the Sununu controversy highlight reel. If this is the mark of “a great man” offering great advice in Jeb Bush’s mind, he may not last very long in the coming primary.

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 became the subject of much late-night television humor over the incident. 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. In the course of one week, 45 newspapers ran editorials on Sununu, nearly all of them critical of his actions. Sununu resigned his White House post on December 4, 1991.

Sununu repaid over $47,000 to the government for the flights on the orders of White House counsel C. Boyden Gray, with the help of the Republican Party. However, the reimbursements were at commercial rates, which are about one-tenth the cost of the actual flights; one ski trip to Vail, Colorado alone had cost taxpayers $86,330.