Former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu blasted President Barack Obama's economic leadership Tuesday while also saying he wishes the president "would learn how to be an American."
The explosive remark came during a conference call with reporters set up by the campaign for likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, designed to highlight the frustration of small business owners during Obama's presidency and accuse his administration of "crony capitalism."
During the Republican presidential primary campaign, Sununu was an early supporter of Romney's, serving as an attack dog for the more restrained campaign.
It's a role he's continued to playing in the general election. Paraphrasing remarks Obama made at a recent campaign event, Sununu said, "[Obama] said, 'If you've got a business, you didn't build that somebody else made it happen.'"
Obama's comment was a take on a riff by Massachusetts Democratic senatorial candidate Elizabeth Warren that helped fuel her candidacy earlier this year.
"What's really scary about that is that I think he clearly believes it and he clearly has been practicing it," Sununu said. "[The Obama administration] thinks government is there to pick who should succeed and who should fail, and of course, they like to see their friends' success more than anyone else, and they have been practicing this crony capitalism of giving major, major grants of taxpayer money to people who are investors in businesses, but people who are bundlers and contributors to the Obama campaign."
After mentioning a series of energy companies—including the oft-highlighted Solyndra, which received about $500 million in federally guaranteed loans but went bankrupt—Sununu said the handouts to friends of the administration are "insulting to hardworking entrepreneurs."
"The men and women all over America who have worked hard to build these businesses, their businesses, from the ground up is how our economy became the envy of the world. It is the American way and I wish this president would learn how to be an American," Sununu said.
Later, when asked to clarify the quip, the former governor said, "What I thought I said but I guess I didn't say—the president has to learn the American formula for creating business. If I didn't give all that detail I apologize."
The Obama campaign, responding to Sununu's remarks, said "The Romney campaign has officially gone off the deep end."
"The question is what else they'll pull to avoid answering serious questions about Romney's tenure at Bain Capital and investments in foreign tax havens and offshore accounts," said Lis Smith, a campaign spokeswoman in an E-mailed release. "This meltdown and over-the-top rhetoric won't make things better—it only calls attention to how desperate they are to change the conversation."
The flap will likely blow over quickly because as Sununu himself noted the campaigns are currently mired in "the doldrum days of July on the political calendar" and most voters are tuned into their barbeques but out of politics.
Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter.