The Washington Post

John Sununu’s not-so-greatest hits (VIDEO)

When John H. Sununu suggested Thursday night that Colin Powell endorsed President Obama because both are African American (he later backpedaled), he stoked controversy for what seemed like the umpteenth time this election cycle.

(Mary Altaffer/AP)

Sununu, a former New Hampshire governor and White House chief of staff under President George H.W. Bush, has been one of Mitt Romney’s most active surrogates. He’s embraced the role of attack dog, lambasting Obama at every turn, from cable news interviews to conference calls with reporters. Along the way, his brash, outspoken manner has gotten him into some hot water. Here’s a look back at some Sununu comments that have turned heads this election season. 

* “I wish this president would learn how to be an American.” Sununu offered this remark during a July conference call in which he took the president’s handling of the country’s economy to task, claiming Obama had “absolutely no idea how the American economy functions.”

The remark triggered push back from Democrats, and a walk back from Sununu himself.

* He didn't want to prepare for this debate. He's lazy and disengaged." Sununu made this comment a day after the first debate between Romney and Obama. MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, who conducted the interview, gave Sununu an opportunity to clarify whether he was indeed calling the president lazy. Sununu replied, in no uncertain terms, that he was.

* “Phony as his jaunt.” After criticizing Obama for using a southern accent he suggested might be as “phony as his jaunt when he runs up and down Marine One,” Sununu elaborated on the remark in an interview with The New York Times Magazine, saying: “Every time you see him climbing up or down stairs, he elevates his arms and does this pumping, trying to look like a well-trained and trim dynamic individual. It’s something he does all the time, particularly when he’s climbing up to a podium to speak or address a crowd.”

* “Put an Obama bumper sticker on your forehead when you do this.” In a contentious interview with CNN’s Soledad O’Brien on the subject of Romney’s plan to reform Medicare, Sununu accused O’Brien of “mimicking the stuff that comes out of the White House” as he sought to undercut her counterarguments to his points. 

* “He spent his early years in Hawaii smoking something.” Sununu argued in an interview with Fox News that Obama doesn’t understand private sector job creation. He listed some points about the president's biography – including Obama’s acknowledgment in a memoir that he used marijuana in his youth – before concluding the president “has no idea" how the American system functions.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.

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