Lazy Saturday Reads: “Stuff Happens”Posted: October 3, 2015
I just can’t get past Jeb Bush’s remarks about the mass shooting in Oregon: “Stuff happens.” In context, the meaning is the same. Here’s full quote:
“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 had this challenge as governor—because 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 think what was shocking to many commentators is that Bush didn’t express any sadness or horror at the senseless murder of nine people.
The truth is that Bush was simply being honest about Republican policy–the solution to problems that affect ordinary people is not government or laws. There is nothing we can do, because laws and regulations will cause inconveniences for other people. We just have to accept that the cost of “freedom” is that people will periodically be murdered with high powered weapons, and that is the price we must pay so that people can have all the guns they want.
Here’s Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine explaining that Bush was simply stating GOP policy in frank terms:
The news media immediately initiated its gaffe sequence, reducing Bush’s response to “stuff happens” and the context to the shootings in Oregon. Omitted from the gaffication was the intermediary process in Bush’s reply, when he generalized from a particular shooting to public problems in general, which led him to his position that frequently events occur and the proper response is nothing. That idea is not always wrong, not even for liberals, and certainly not for conservatives. Those of us who favor gun control find it terribly wrong as a response to mass shootings. But, again, denying any public policy response to endemic gun violence is a completely standard position in the GOP.
So the impulse to call Bush’s response a gaffe rests instead upon the callousness of the wording — “stuff happens.” But Bush was not applying that phrase specifically to yesterday’s tragedy. He was generalizing about events — many of them, yes, tragic. He was not dismissing the scope of the tragedy in Oregon. And without that element, there is not, or should not be, anything especially troublesome aside from the fact that Bush subscribes to a party doctrine that dismisses even the most sensible and minor limits on access to deadly weaponry.
Here is the video with some commentary from The New York Daily News.
Of course Bush and his fellow GOPers don’t apply their “stuff happens” philosophy when it comes to women’s reproductive health. When it comes to anything involving women, no amount of regulation is enough for them. Women should be returned to the status they held in the 1950s and early 1960s. What about women who choose not to be married?
Hey, stuff happens. If you can’t get a decent job and you automatically get less pay than your male counterparts, that’s just the way it is. Government can’t solve your problems. What if you can’t afford to have a child or you were raped or you’re a 12-year-old girl impregnated by her stepfather or father? Tough luck. You should have the baby and be grateful for what “god” gave you. Of course we’ll still call you a slut and a whore if you aren’t married.
What if you have black or brown skin and people are prejudiced against you? What if they even attack you violently because of the color of your skin? What if they make you go to separate schools and make you drink out of separate drinking fountains? What if they won’t let you vote?
Hey, stuff happens. Laws won’t change anything.
Except that is what happened. Government leaders took action and laws changed. Women gained some rights and privileges that had been denied them right up until the 1970s. Black people were integrated into schools and “separate but equal” was replaced with equality for all. Sure it wasn’t perfect, but to the extent that changes happened, government and laws played important roles.
Of course Jeb Bush’s mistake was that he stated Republican attitudes honestly. Republicans are supposed use weasel words and vague generalities instead of coming right out and saying, “Tough luck, stuff happens.”
There is also a larger context for Jeb Bush’s words. Remember Donald Rumsfeld’s reaction to the out-of-control looting of Iraq’s precious national treasures? From CNN, April 12, 2003:
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Friday the looting in Iraq was a result of “pent-up feelings” of oppression and that it would subside as Iraqis adjusted to life without Saddam Hussein.
He also asserted the looting was not as bad as some television and newspaper reports have indicated and said there was no major crisis in Baghdad, the capital city, which lacks a central governing authority. The looting, he suggested, was “part of the price” for what the United States and Britain have called the liberation of Iraq.
“Freedom’s untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things,” Rumsfeld said. “They’re also free to live their lives and do wonderful things. And that’s what’s going to happen here.”
Looting, he added, was not uncommon for countries that experience significant social upheaval. “Stuff happens,” Rumsfeld said.
As we all know, stuff kept right on happening in Iraq and stuff is still happening there and in Afghanistan and Syria, thanks to the second Bush administration. Now Jeb! wants to be the third President Bush. Fortunately, he’s so ham-handed, incompetent, and uncharismatic that he probably won’t get that chance.
But the simple truth is that with today’s Republican Party in charge, we are not going to be able to solve problems that affect ordinary Americans. The only thing government will be permitted to do is enable giant corporations to destroy the economy and the environment and generally ensure that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
Of course many Republicans recognize that Bush hurt himself with his honesty. Here’s Ed Straker at The Daily Thinker:
In a poll with a margin of error of about 5%, Jeb Bush is polling at 4%. That means, statistically speaking, that it is possible that Jeb Bush is at zero percent in the polls. The last time I wrote this about a candidate, he ended up out of the race shortly thereafter. I hope the same does not happen to Jeb, because then the amnesty crowd will be forced to pin their hopes on Marco Rubio, who has the same sweaty nervousness giving speeches as a first-time bank robber handing a furtive note to a bank teller.
But even Politico, the website of liberal Democrats and their Republican friends, is starting to turn on Jeb, featuring an article telling of his most recent flubs.
Speaking about the massacre in Roseburg, Oregon, Jeb says, “Stuff happens.” Some conservative websites say that quote was taken out of context, but it wasn’t. Listen to it yourself. He is clearly responding to the shooting, and chose his words very badly.
Donald Trump’s comments on the Oregon mass murder were similar to Jeb Bush’s. Josh Voorhees at Slate:
On Friday morning, an unusually calm Donald Trump offered his take on what can be done to prevent the next massacre on U.S. soil: nothing.
“First of all, you have very strong laws on the books, but you’re always going to have problems,” Trump said during a telephone interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “We have millions and millions of people, we have millions and millions of sick people all over the world. It can happen all over the world and it does happen all over the world, by the way. But this is sort of unique to this country, the school shootings. And you’re going to have difficulty no matter what.”
Trump added later: “It’s not politically correct to say that, 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. What are you going to do, institutionalize everybody?”
Trump didn’t come right out and say “stuff happens,” but that’s obviously what he meant. Government can do things to help the rich, but not the rest of us. Tough luck folks. Stuff happens. More from Voorhees’ piece:
You don’t have to squint to find the irony in Trump’s comments, and not just because the GOP front-runner managed to talk about a mass shooting without ever once directly mentioning guns, aka the very weapon of choice for this particular killer—just like it was for those murderers that came before him at Columbine, Virginia Tech, Newtown, and the countless other schools that were the settings for similarly horrible violence. In that way, Trump’s not unlike the rest of his GOP rivals who, as my colleague Will Saletan notes, continue to maintain that gun violence isn’t a gun problem.
What’s so remarkable about Trump effectively throwing in the towel on this topic is that his whole campaign is predicated on the idea that he’d be able to fix all of the nation’s woes with the sheer force of his personality. Here’s a man, after all, whose heartless immigration policy is built on the premise that he’d construct a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border that would ensure that no one—and especially not would-be criminals like the one man who allegedly killed Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco—could slip through the cracks, and yet here he is suggesting that there’s nothing to be done about school shootings because ultimately there will always be people who slip through the cracks.
That’s because the “problems” Trump and the rest of today’s Republicans want to “solve” aren’t the same problems the rest of us care about.
What else is happening? Please share your thoughts and links in the comments. This is an open thread.