Starting Point

Fmr. Gov. John Sununu: Donald Trump is wrong, and we should be talking about the jobs problem in the U.S.

In a heated exchange with "Starting Point" anchor Soledad O'Brien, fmr. New Hampshire Governor John Sununu lamented the ongoing coverage of the 'birther' issue and emphatically stated that "Donald Trump is wrong" on the issue of where President Obama was born.

"Why is CNN so fixated on this? Why don't we talk about the jobs issue in this country?" Sununu asks Soledad. "Mitt Romney has made it clear - Mitt Romney has made has clear that he believes that President Obama was born in the U.S."

Later in the interview, Soledad presses Sununu to put the controversy to rest by disavowing birther claims.

"How come someone doesn't say, 'Donald Trump is wrong?' We're going to tell Donald Trump he is wrong," Soledad asks.

"Donald Trump is wrong. The president is born in the United States," He says.

Read more from the conversation in the transcript below.

Gov. Sununu also talked about the struggling U.S. economy, and says it all comes down to job creation.

 

INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT

O'BRIEN: Well, joining us this morning, Mitt Romney's surrogate, former governor of New Hampshire, John Sununu.

Nice to see you, sir. Thanks for being with us. Walk me through it. Why -

JOHN SUNUNU (R), FORMER NEW HAMPSHIRE GOVERNOR: Thank you very much. It's good to be here.

O'BRIEN: Thank you. Appreciate that.

Why the birther thing? I mean, I'm going to make an assumption that -

SUNUNU: I don't know. Why is CNN - why is CNN so fixated on this? Why don't we talk about the jobs issue in this country?

O'BRIEN: Sure. We'll get to that in a moment but let's start with this.

SUNUNU: And disastrous - and it's CNN that wants to bring it up. I don't want to bring it up. Mitt Romney has made it clear - Mitt Romney has made has clear that he believes that President Obama was born in the U.S. You had Donald Trump on last night. And now you are asking the question this morning. It's CNN's fixation.

O'BRIEN: Sir, you don't think it's a valid question of someone posing as a supporter/surrogate at a high level? Donald Trump isn't your random supporter. He's a high level big funder. He's talking about millions of dollars he's thinking about donating.

You don't think that that's a big deal that person consistently talks about the fact that the president of the United States is not a citizen of the country?

SUNUNU: I think it's as equivalent an issue as Bill Maher who gave a million dollars to President Obama talking with such a foul mouth about women. But that's - you can't pick your supporters in this country. The fact is that this country has a jobs problem and supporters of the president, like CNN, keep wanting to talk about other issues.

O'BRIEN: What's interesting, every time you ask anyone a hard question they say you must be supporting?

SUNUNU: This isn't a hard question. This is an easy question. Mitt Romney has made it clear he believes the president of the United States was born in the United States. Now we can talk about the big issues in this country.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask a follow-up question. We'll get to jobs in a second.

(CROSSTALK)

SUNUNU: Twenty-four million unemployed, and 24 million people underemployed.

O'BRIEN: I agree with you on that front. We'll get to that in one second.

Before we get to that, I want to ask you why does Mitt Romney not go further? For example, as I'm sure you have seen many times, when John McCain was posed a question by a woman who asked him a question, not only did he say here's my position. He said to her, let me correct you. So, I'll play that clip for you.

SUNUNU: Aren't you embarrassed to be speaking directly from the Obama speaking points that they distributed yesterday? Aren't you embarrassed to sound exactly like the Obama spokesman talking about John McCain? This is ridiculous.

O'BRIEN: This is a clip we played before that ran many times.

SUNUNU: You should be embarrassed.

O'BRIEN: It's a conversation that's been had.

SUNUNU: Come on. Let's talk jobs. Let's talk jobs.

O'BRIEN: Is that because you don't want to talk about the fact that a major fund-raiser is a birther?

SUNUNU: It's not an issue. There is nobody in the Romney campaign that believes that the president was not born in the United States.

O'BRIEN: So then how come someone doesn't say, Donald Trump is wrong? We're going to tell Donald Trump he is wrong.

SUNUNU: Donald Trump is wrong. The president is born in the United States.

O'BRIEN: That may be the first time.

SUNUNU: No, it isn't, ma'am. It's just because you don't read enough that you don't understand. Let's go to the issues.

O'BRIEN: There's no need to get into personal attacks. We can move on.

SUNUNU: I'm not getting into personal attacks. I'm talking about the fact that you have a fixation.

O'BRIEN: Of asking questions when someone who is clearly a birther is a representative -

SUNUNU: You did it last night.

O'BRIEN: I was sleeping last night.

SUNUNU: You opened the show today with Donald Trump.

O'BRIEN: That's what I was doing last night. I didn't do anything but sleeping last night because I go to bed early. Let's move on and talk about the economy.

SUNUNU: This country has a jobs problem and president that doesn't understand how to solve the job problem and it has a president that keeps passing laws that kill jobs in America. Let's talk about that.

O'BRIEN: All right. Let's talk about that. For example, when I talked to Andrea Saul yesterday she was telling me she believes the governor's record in the state of Massachusetts is a great example for what he'll do in this country. When you look at some of the statistics, the jobs he was able to create didn't really compare with the other job creation from around the country.

Do you think that in fact is going to be something that he's going to want to rely on?

SUNUNU: I think he will. The reason it was so tough to create additional jobs in Massachusetts is that the unemployment rate there was about 4.5 percent - 4.5 percent compared to President Obama's 8.2 percent is a superb differential.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk about the distraction happening between these conversations about birthers and getting to the economy. Have you found this conversation has distracted the governor?

SUNUNU: No. I think it's an effort by the Obama administration not to talk about the laws they passed that are strangling specific segments of the American job market. We have in New Hampshire and Massachusetts up here, a great medical device industry. The Obama administration puts a tax on it. About 43,000 jobs can leave the country.

And it just shows how dumb those policies are that you impose a tax, that jobs leave, you don't get revenue and you've lost the jobs. That kind of lack of smarts is typical of what the Obama administration has been doing.

O'BRIEN: Hang on for a second, Governor. I want to talk to Ron Brownstein for a second.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: One question here is that Governor Sununu is involved personally in negotiating an increase in taxes in 1990 as part of a balanced approach of tax increases and budget cuts to reduce the deficit. Bill Clinton then raised taxes again in 1993 gained 23 million jobs through the 1990s. Ten years after the Bush tax cuts were passed in 2001, there were fewer people working than on the day they were passed.

So, why when you look at that record, why are taxes and federal decisions on taxation the key variable in determining economic growth?

SUNUNU: Most important thing about that agreement is that there was five times as much cuts in spending as there was changes in revenue, and most of the changes in revenue were consumption taxes. So the fact is that was an inspiration to the economy to create some jobs.

The second thing -

(CROSSTALK)

SUNUNU: You asked me a question. The second thing that did was put together budgeting rules that allowed this country to move into a surplus and the marginal rate that was increased on upper earners was balanced by a reduction in what was a bubble rate, an actually higher rate for middle class taxpayers so we reduced the tax rates for middle class taxpayers even though it extended out to marginal rate for the higher income people.

The fact is that what we need in this country today is to stop abusive legislation like Dodd-Frank that is strangling the community banks, which is source of funds for small businesses to increase jobs. But this president is proud of Dodd-Frank and therefore he doesn't understand he's killing jobs with legislation that he likes to talk about.

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Governor, I have a separate question for you entirely changing gears. Margaret Hoover here.

You know, it's been reported that you were actively involved in helping to change the primary system for Republicans to proportional voting that we ended up with this time from the system last time that allowed John McCain to really lock up the nomination by February in 2008. Looking back on it having had the prolonged primary, the 20- plus debates, what many in the Republican Party think was a proportional system that led to a bit of a branding problem for the GOP, if you had to do it again, do you think we should go back to how we had it in 2008 or do you think this long system that allowed Mitt Romney to lock up the nomination just last night at the end of may, beginning of June, was a good thing?

SUNUNU: He locked it up about a month ago, Margaret. We know that.

HOOVER: Well, but the 1,144 -

SUNUNU: What happened is more states were able to participate. The base got more energized. More Republicans have been focusing on this election early and the fact is that in the long run this will be a stronger process than one in which you wrap it up in February, and then have to reenergize the base over the summer.

HOOVER: You would do it again, 2016, same thing?

SUNUNU: I think so. I think New Hampshire coming first followed by South Carolina and with Iowa participating at the front end gave everybody a chance to get a good start and the price of having that good start was to have some proportionality that allowed other states to be significant role.

O'BRIEN: Or maybe they'll wait and see how it all turns out. Governor Sununu, nice to see you as always. We love sparring with you first thing in the morning.

SUNUNU: Wakes us both up.