Yesterday afternoon, as much of the nation was still learning about the tragic mass-shooting in Oregon, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush said on Twitter, “Praying for Umpqua Community College, the victims, and families impacted by this senseless tragedy.”
It was simple and unobjectionable. Today, however, the former governor adopted a slightly different tone.
At a South Carolina event, a questioner suggested there might be less violence, such as the murders in Oregon, if only we started merging religion and public schools. Bush responded:
“We’re in a difficult time in our country and I don’t think more government is necessarily the answer to this. I think we need to reconnect ourselves with everybody else.“It’s very sad to see, but I resist the notion, and I did, I had this challenge as governor, ‘cause, we had, look, stuff happens. There’s always a crisis. And the impulse is always to do something, and it’s not necessarily the right thing to do.”
I suspect different audiences will have competing reactions to comments like these. For some, it was a callous way to describe senseless violence that causes mass casualties. For others, it was more of a convenient excuse to ignore efforts to combat gun violence. Perhaps it was a little of both. [Update: See below.]
After the event, Bush spoke with reporters, one of whom asked whether his comments were a mistake. “No,” he responded, “that wasn’t a mistake. I said exactly what I said. Explain to me what I said wrong.”
When the reporter noted his use of the phrase “stuff happens” in describing a massacre, Bush, obviously annoyed, quickly added, “Things happen. ‘Things.’ Is that better?”
Oddly enough, Jeb’s phrasing was similar to Donald Trump’s response to the Oregon slayings. “You’re going to have these things happen and it’s a horrible thing to behold, horrible,” Trump said on MSNBC this morning. “It’s not politically correct to say, but you’re going to have difficulty and that will be for the next million years, there’s going to be difficulty, and people are going to slip through the cracks.”
It would appear that two of the leading Republican presidential candidates, responding to yet another mass-shooting, believe that the response should be (a) to ignore proposals to prevent gun violence; and (b) to do nothing at all to prevent future crises.
Update: I spoke this afternoon to a Bush campaign official who emphasized that the presidential candidate was referring to crises in general, not the murders in Oregon specifically.
In the post-event Q&A, a reporter said, “Governor, you were talking about your challenges as governor you said that sometimes ‘stuff happens’ and that there is an impulse to do something….” Bush responded, “Yea, not related to Oregon. Just clarity here. Let’s make sure we don’t allow this to get out of control. There are all sorts of things that happen in life. Tragedies unfold. Look, just read the papers, and you see a child dies in a pool, is drowned, and parents want to pass a law to do something. And you got to be careful that you want to solve the problem. If there is a problem, a defect in the law, fine, then we did that all the time. But sometime you’re imposing solutions to problems that doesn’t fix the problem and takes away people’s liberty and rights and that’s the point I was trying to make.”