John Henry Sununu (born July 2, 1939) served as the 75th Governor ofNew Hampshire (1983–89) and laterWhite House Chief of Staff underPresident George H. W. Bush. He is the father of John E. Sununu, a formersenator from New Hampshire. Sununu was the chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party from 2009 to 2011.
Sununu was born in Havana, Cuba, the son of Victoria (née Dada) and John Saleh Sununu, an international film distributor. He is of Palestinian Christian and Greek descent . His father grew up in Jerusalem and his mother was born in San Salvador, El Salvador. He is a Maronite Catholic.
He earned a BS in 1961, a Master's degree in 1963, and a PhD in 1966 from MIT, all in mechanical engineering. Sununu is a member of Phi Sigma Kappafraternity.
From 1968 until 1973, he was Associate Dean of the College of Engineering at Tufts University and Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering. He served on the Advisory Board of the Technology and Policy Program at MIT from 1984 until 1989.
Sununu became New Hampshire's 75th Governor on January 6, 1983, and served three consecutive terms. He served as chairman of the Coalition of Northeastern Governors, the Republican Governors Association and, in 1987, the National Governors Association.
Sununu was the first White House Chief of Staff for George H. W. Bush, serving from 1989 to 1991. Time magazine dubbed him "Bush's Bad Cop" on the front cover on May 21, 1990.
Sununu is responsible for recommending David Souter to President George H. W. Bush for appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States, at the behest of New Hampshire senator 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 [after Robert Bork]." 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 JusticeAntonin Scalia.
Sununu holds deeply conservative economic and social views and as an engineer, he supports the expansion of nuclear energy. He is fiercely against the imposition of new taxes.
From 1963 until 1983, he served as President of JHS Engineering Company and Thermal Research Inc. In addition, he helped establish and served 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.
Sununu is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a member of the Board of Trustees for the George (H.W.) Bush Presidential Library Foundation.
He is also a member of Honorary Council of Advisors for U.S.-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce (USACC).
He is married to the former Nancy Hayes, and they have eight children, including former U.S. Senator John E. Sununu. In recent years, he moved to Hampton Falls, New Hampshire. He and his wife were subsequently elected as the town's honorary hog reeves and poundkeepers.
Sununu has met the eligibility requirements for the Mega Society, the world's most exclusive high-IQ society, which accepts only those who score in the 99.9999th percentile on IQ tests (Mensa, for example, accepts the top 2 percent).
Sununu's daughter Cathy is the president of the Portsmouth Museum of Art inPortsmouth, New Hampshire.
Sununu angered some when he was the only governor of a U.S. state not to call for repeal of the extremely 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.
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 governmentlimousine, 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 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.
The 1991 police comedy film The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear features Sununu who is played by Peter Van Norden.
Sununu's travel scandal was mentioned at least four times on Mystery Science Theater 3000, once during the fourth-season episode Monster A Go-Go, in the season 6 episode The Starfighters, in the season 8 episode The Deadly Mantis, and then again during Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie, although all were variations on the same joke: A jet is seen flying through the sky, and one of the characters, usually Tom Servo, remarks that Sununu is (frivolously) using the vehicle to travel to get a haircut or a golf game.
Sununu is featured in a "Dilbert" comic strip in which Dilbert suggests that Dogbert not start frothing at the mouth and barking whenever attractive women are near. Dogbert responds with, "That's my John Sununu impression." In 2011, The Onionran a piece attributed to Sununu in which he tries to remember what he had once been famous for.