John H. Sununu
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John Henry Sununu is an American politician who was the 75th Governor of New Hampshire 1983–1989 and later White House Chief of Staff under President George H. W. Bush. He is the father of John E. Sununu, the former United States Senator from New Hampshire, and Christopher Sununu, the current governor of New Hampshire. Sununu was the chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party from 2009 to 2011.
Sununu was born in Havana, Cuba while his parents were visiting Cuba on a business trip. He is the son of John Saleh Sununu, an international film distributor, and Victoria Sununu née Dada. His father's family came to the United States from the Middle East at the turn of the twentieth century. His ancestry is Lebanese and Palestinian from the Greek Orthodox Church community in Jerusalem and Beirut. John Saleh Sununu was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Victoria Dada was born in El Salvador; her family was a Greek Orthodox Christian family from Lebanon that settled in Central America at the turn of the twentieth century. Sununu visited Beirut, Lebanon as a child in the late 1940s. He grew up in New York City and graduated from the La Salle Military Academy on Long Island.
Sununu earned a bachelor of science degree in 1961, a master of science degree in 1963, and a Ph.D. in 1966 from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, all in mechanical engineering. He is a member of the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity.
From 1966 to 1982, he taught at Tufts University, where he was an associate professor of mechanical engineering. He was the associate dean of the University's College of Engineering from 1968 to 1973. As of 1988, Sununu retained his title and family tuition benefits from Tufts during an "extremely rare" unpaid six-year leave of absence that coincided with his governorship. He was on the Advisory Board of the Technology and Policy Program at MIT from 1984 until 1989.
A Republican, Sununu held a seat in the New Hampshire House of Representatives from 1973 to 1975.
Sununu became New Hampshire's 75th Governor on January 6, 1983, and was re-elected twice to hold the position for three consecutive terms. He was the first Arab-American Governor of New Hampshire. Sununu was chairman of the Coalition of Northeastern Governors, the Republican Governors Association and, in 1987, the National Governors Association.
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.
White House Chief of Staff
Sununu was the first White House Chief of Staff for George H. W. Bush, holding the position from 1989 to 1991. Time magazine dubbed him "Bush's Bad Cop" on the front cover on May 21, 1990.
Sununu is considered to have engineered Bush's mid-term abandonment of his 1988 campaign promise of "no new taxes". In his report Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change, Nathaniel Rich wrote that in November 1989 Sununu prevented the signing of a 67-nation commitment at the Noordwijk Climate Conference to freeze carbon dioxide emissions, with a reduction of 20 percent by 2005, and singled him out as a force starting coordinated efforts to bewilder the public on the topic of global warming and changing it from an urgent, nonpartisan and unimpeachable issue to a political one. Interviewed as to his involvement in preventing an agreement, he stated: "It couldn’t have happened, because, frankly, the leaders in the world at that time were at a stage where they were all looking how to seem like they were supporting the policy without having to make hard commitments that would cost their nations serious resources. Frankly, that’s about where we are today."
Sununu is responsible for recommending David Souter of New Hampshire to President George H. W. Bush for appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States, at the behest of his close friend, then-U.S. Senator and fellow New Hampshirite Warren Rudman. The Wall Street Journal described the events leading up to the appointment of the "liberal jurist" in a 2000 editorial, saying Rudman in his "Yankee Republican liberalism" took "pride in recounting how he sold Mr. Souter to gullible White House chief of staff John Sununu as a confirmable conservative. Then they both sold the judge to President Bush, who wanted above all else to avoid a confirmation battle ." Rudman wrote in his memoir that he had "suspected all along" that Souter would not "overturn activist liberal precedents." Sununu later said that he had "a lot of disappointment" about Souter's positions on the Court and would have preferred him to be more similar to Justice Antonin Scalia.
At the recommendation of George W. Bush, Sununu resigned his White House post on December 4, 1991. He remained at the White House as Counselor to the President until March 1, 1992.
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.
Sununu co-hosted CNN's nightly Crossfire from March 1992 until February 1998.
From 1963 until 1983, he was President of JHS Engineering Company and Thermal Research Inc. In addition, he helped establish and worked as chief engineer for Astro Dynamics Inc. from 1960 until 1965.
Sununu is President of JHS Associates, Ltd. and is a partner in Trinity International Partners, a private financial firm. He is also a member of Honorary Council of Advisors for U.S.-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce USACC.
In his report Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change, Nathaniel Rich wrote that in November 1989 Sununu prevented the signing of a 67-nation commitment to freeze carbon dioxide emissions, with a reduction of 20 percent by 2005, and singled him out as a force starting coordinated efforts to bewilder the public on the topic of global warming and changing it from an urgent, nonpartisan and unimpeachable issue to a political issue, and an increasingly intractable one.
Sununu is married to the former Nancy Hayes, and they have eight children, including former U.S. Senator John E. Sununu and Chris Sununu, formerly a member of the New Hampshire Executive Council and currently the Governor of New Hampshire. In recent years, he moved from Salem, New Hampshire to Hampton Falls, New Hampshire to be closer to relatives. He and his wife were subsequently elected as the town's honorary hog reeves and poundkeepers. The title is usually given to an unsuspecting newcomer each year.
Sununu's daughter Cathy is the president of the Portsmouth Museum of Art in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Sununu is a fluent Spanish speaker.
In 2020, the Sununu family has faced political backlash for being major shareholders in the Anglo Asian Mining plc and funding Azerbaijan's violence towards Armenia. The 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war resulted in 5,000 killed overall as of 22 October; per Russia and the peace deal brokered by the Russians ensured the Anglo Asian Mining plc and the Sununu family an opportunity to gain profits.
In popular culture
In the 1991 police comedy film The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear, Sununu is played by Peter Van Norden.
In January 1995, John Sununu made a cameo appearance on the first episode of the Delta Burke CBS sitcom, Women of the House, titled "Miss Sugarbaker Goes to Washington". In the episode, Suzanne Sugarbaker is a guest on the CNN political program, Crossfire. Michael Kinsley also appears.
In the 1996 film Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie, a clip from This Island Earth of a jet plane prompts Tom Servo to quip, "John Sununu goes for a haircut."
After the first presidential debate, on September 26, 2016, Sununu endorsed Donald Trump for President of the United States. Earlier, he had called Trump "dumb," "a loser" and "a political chameleon".