The Need to Know (NTK) Network talked to John Sununu, a former New Hampshire governor and chief of staff to President George H.W. Bush, on politics, perspective, Priebus, and more.
Young political observers may think everything happening in Washington these days is both unprecedented and chaotic, but John Sununu has perspective.
Sununu, 77, has been involved in Republican politics for more than four decades. He was the governor of New Hampshire for six years and served as President George H.W. Bush’s chief of staff from 1989 through 1991.
The Need to Know (NTK) Network talked to him about politics then, politics today, Trump’s Washington, and what Chief of Staff Reince Priebus needs to be thinking about throughout his tenure.
When asked if politics today is worse or better than he was governor and chief of staff, Sununu offered an alternative take.
“Politics today is different than it was 30 years ago,” Sununu said. “I don’t think anyone can give you an honest answer of whether it’s better or worse, but it is different.”
Sununu explained: “Politics is driven to be different today by virtue of technology, and smart politicians over the years have been the leaders of discovering that aspect of technology.”
He cited President Trump’s mastery of the “personalized component of social media,” adding: “Donald Trump speaks to 50 to 60 million people every morning” via his Twitter account.
NTK Network asked Sununu to tell readers something they don’t know about George H.W. Bush. Sununu defended the 41st president’s conservative record.
“I actually think President Bush was one of the most conservative Republican presidents this country has ever had,” Sununu said. “And in a way, even more so than the icon Ronald Reagan.”
Sununu cited the elder Bush’s combination of “free-enterprise” and “small-government” Republicanism.
Turning back to present day, NTK Network asked about an ‘anti-Washington’ sentiment sweeping throughout the country in the age of Donald Trump. Sununu said it’s more complicated than that.
“Yeah there’s an anti-Washington component to it,” he said. “But what Trump did differently than people who have just been talking about this anti-Washington component is flipped it around 180.”
What does that mean? There’s “a pro-America component,” Sununu said. He compared Trump’s “pro-America” rhetoric to Ronald Reagan’s anti-communism, pro-America message of the ’80s.
As a chief of staff in one of the most stressful buildings in Washington, NTK Network figured Sununu would have some valuable advice for current and future chiefs of staff.
“I have been trying to explain to my friends in the White House,” Sununu began, “that they really have to understand the magnifying-glass effect of everything that happens there.”
In other words, the small stuff matters.
“What appears to be not important, or trivial, really has to be tended to early when it’s an acorn,” Sununu said, “or else it grows into a giant oak tree that’s hard to deal with.”
ACROSS THE AISLE
When asked about a Democrat he admires, Sununu paused, smiled, and talked about his work with Democratic governors when he led New Hampshire. That included Bill Clinton.
“As much as folks think Bill Clinton is the enemy today, when he was a governor in Arkansas, he was actually a pretty conservative governor,” Sununu said.
“So,” he concluded, “I can admire things that Democrats have done, while still feeling uncomfortable with a lot of things they have done as well.”
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