The Romney camp is sending Sununu out as his surrogate as the former Governor of New Hampshire and as the chief of staff for George Herbert Walker Bush. These facts are true, but the Romney people are hoping that no one will do any investigation on anything, especially not the biography of Romney's surrogates. Americans in general, and the media specifically, seem to have no short term memory.
This diary is going to examine Sununu's time in the GHW Bush administration. If you weren't paying attention, you might be surprised at what you find out.
F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said
There are no second acts in American lives.WRONG, Scott. Involve the Republican spin machine and you can have second or even third lives if you're serving the Grand Old Party well. I give you the case of John Henry Sununu, the 75th Governor of New Hampshire and White House Chief of Staff under George Herbert Walker Bush.
White House Chief of Staff. Nothing unusual here, and Sununu was one of the most faithful supporters of Bush the elder. In fact, Sununu was able to make the President he served look more compassionate and even friendly, as Time Magazine pointed out in the spring of 1990:
But sometimes a chief of staff will forget that he isn't the President, and Sununu began to abuse some of his privileges. Specifically, he used military aircraft for long personal trips and a White House limousine and driver for shorter personal trips, like a June 1991 trip from Washington DC to Manhattan primarily to go to a stamp auction.
The Romney people knew about this, and they also knew Sununu wasn't above bigotry.
From an essay by William Safire, New York Times, June 27, 1991:
on Monday, I opened The Washington Post to find an astounding sentence in a column by Rowland Evans and Robert Novak. Of the coalition against the White House chief of staff, they wrote, "Perhaps most important is Sununu's suspicion that attacks from sources that might be expected in his corner have come because he is a second-generation Lebanese-American who is not fully supportive of Israel's demands on the United States."Safire, who famously worked for Richard Nixon, knew anti-semitism when he saw it.
Now, who do you suppose is "sources that might be expected in his corner"? Which conservative columnist -- who agrees with Mr. Sununu on quotas, global warming, etc. -- denounced him last week as a pompous ass whose unethical perks-grubbing and compulsive peripateticism demonstrate a judgment chasm that endangers the Bush Presidency?
I fit that description. My ulterior motive, according to the word Mr. Sununu passes to other journalists, is to bring down a nice Lebanese-American boy whose only transgression is to resist Israel's demands.
The final desperate bleat from this exposed royalist who cannot defend his ripoff of the taxpayers is to blame Israel's supporters, and this Jew in particular, for his troubles.
The "ripoff of the taxpayers," not the antisemitism, was what did Sununu in. Safire wrote about the use of Air Force Jets for ski vacations and dentist visits, and for political jaunts on corporate Jets (Safire invoked Spiro Agnew and Sherman Adams here). Finally, in December 1991, Sununu resigned, saying he'd be a "drag" on the Bush reelection campaign. Popsy had apparently sent W to Sununu to tell him he no longer had any political support. IN DISGRACE.
In critical ways, Mr. Sununu exacerbated Mr. Bush's limitations, rather than making up for them, and whenever the spotlight swung away from foreign affairs, it became painfully apparent that this was a White House without a long-range agenda, without a communications strategy and without first-rate thinkers in many top jobs. "John Sununu and a thousand interns," went the joke among White House officials disgusted with the lack of exchange in ideas and with Mr. Sununu's need to surround himself with people who would not challenge his authority.I suppose that none of this really registered on the Romney campaign, but really, isn't this another example of ignoring character issues, as with John Bolton and (now) Richard Mourdock? It feels like the Romney camp will need a whole bunch of flea powder when this is over, but if anyone is wondering what sort of people Romney would appoint to his cabinet, here's your answer.
But while he accumulated more power than had any chief of staff since H. R. Haldeman in the Nixon years, Mr. Sununu started sowing the seeds of his own destruction early on by flouting Washington's tribal conventions.
Just as Sherman Adams and Donald T. Regan before him, he failed to realize that in the political capital, it is not so much what you have done wrong as whom you have offended and that it is not so much what you have accomplished as how you have operated.