John H. Sununu’s advice to Trump: Spend more time on taxes than NFL

  • FILE - In this Jan. 4, 1985 file photo, young Chris Sununu, left, sits in the governor's chair at the Statehouse in Concord, N.H. with his father Gov. John Sununu. Chris Sununu, 42, will be sworn in as New Hampshire's governor on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017. (Ken Williams/The Concord Monitor via AP, File) Ken Williams

  • Paul Steinhauser—

For the Monitor
Friday, September 29, 2017

John H. Sununu thinks President Donald Trump needs to be better at picking his battles.

The former three-term Republican governor of New Hampshire, who later served as chief of staff to President George H.W. Bush, told the Concord Monitor that he often wishes that Trump didn’t have such a “compulsion to tweet.”

Over the past week the President has repeatedly criticized pro-football players who are protesting against racial injustice in America by kneeling during national anthem at NFL games. Trump told a crowd of supporters at a speech last week that athletes choosing to protest should be kicked off their teams, and he tweeted about the controversy on a daily basis in the ensuing days.

“I obviously wish those little flurries inspired by a hot speech and the compulsion to tweet, I often wish those had not occurred. I would put this little flurry in that category,” Sununu said.

Sununu said he didn’t think Trump’s call for athletes to stand during the anthem was race-based. 

“I think the principal component was patriotism, love of country, make America great again, and I acknowledge the fact that his style is different than mine in trying to pluck those strings in the hearts of Americans,” Sununu added.

And while acknowledging the difference in political style between himself and the president, Sununu said Trump “may have a better reach into the breadth of the country than most people realize.”

But Sununu said he would advise the president “to be careful in where he spends his political capital. Presidents earn political capital and they spend political capital. And there are big issues and small issues and sometimes you spend a lot of capital on a small issue that you shouldn’t have spent it on, perhaps a little bit like this NFL situation.”

“I would just suggest to him that he pay a little bit more attention to the balance of capital, earning and spending, and focus on spending on things like tax reform,” he added.

Even though the President can’t trumpet many major achievements in his nearly nine months in the White House, Sununu thinks he’s doing well.

“I would probably give him a much better grade than most people would because I do understand how hard that process is, and I think in spite of not having crossed the goal line yet on issues like health care and tax reform, I think they’ve gone through a significantly beneficial learning curve,” Sununu said.

“An administration is a four year term,” Sununu explained. “Yes, there are important things we would have loved to have happened early, but I think the process can and will play itself out, especially on tax reform and infrastructure, which I think are two crucial issues which he is focused on that are important to growth in the country.”

Sununu spoke with the Monitor on the eve of his address to a major New Hampshire GOP gathering. The RED Summit is being held days after the party narrowly lost a state House of Representatives special election in a district that is heavily Republican.

The victory was the Democrats fifth in seven special legislative elections this year and the third time they’ve flipped a GOP held seat.

Asked about the defeats, Sununu said “I’m not one to say that special elections don’t matter. They do matter.”

One seat the Republicans gained last election was for the corner office in the State House, which Sununu’s son Chris won last November.

The elder Sununu was effusive in his opinion of the job his son is doing.

“As far as the governor, I actually think he’s done a great job, and that’s not just a proud parent talking,”  Sununu said. “He was left a mess. People don’t understand what a mess he was left, from the chaos at the state hospital, to a budgeting structure that had become murky and masked, he’s made it transparent. I think he’s done a great job on bringing the state back on track,” he added.

Sununu said he sees his son Chris quite often.

“We’re a very close family. Nancy and I have five of our kids and 13 of our grandkids within five or ten minutes, and the governor is one of those, with his three children. We see each other once, twice, sometimes three times a week,” the former governor said.

He added that when they get together, the current governor will talk shop every once in a while, and “he’ll let me know about something he’s tried to make a decision on and I might volunteer a suggestion here or there.”

But Sununu says that he doesn’t offer his son advice unless prompted.

“The only advice that’s really ever taken is advice is advice that’s asked for so on things on where I think advice might be useful, I really wait for him to ask and when he needs to he does.”