Jeb Bush Canceling His Charleston Visit Is A Missed Opportunity To Be A National Leader – And Other Candidates Aren't Doing Much Better

A massive manhunt is underway for the armed gunman that killed nine people — six women and three men — during Bible study at one of the nation’s oldest black churches. On Thursday morning, the Charleston police department and FBI identified the Charleston shooter as Dylann Storm Roof, a 21-year-old resident of Lexington County, South Carolina. Both the Justice Department and FBI have opened their own investigations into the shooting and local police chief Greg Mullen has already declared the shooting a hate crime, recognizing this as another in a long history of attacks on black churches. Given that history, one might imagine that those running for the country’s highest position of leadership would want to take the opportunity to say something meaningful to the black community. One would be wrong. Exhibit A: Jeb Bush.

Much of the response on social media to the shooting has been sadness and shock. Sadly, the Emanuel AME Church shooting isn’t the first time a black church or community leader has been the target of violence. It’s not even the first time incidence of racialized violence to come out of Charleston this year. So, this could be a time for presidential candidates to show that they're willing to talk about race. Instead, the candidates are literally staying away from the conversation.

Republican candidate Jeb Bush canceled his visit to Charleston following last night’s shooting at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Bush issued a brief statement on Twitter following the shooting:

Twitter was quick to point out that the former governor could have delivered his thoughts and prayers in person.

Several other Republican candidates took to Twitter to send nominal support to the community.

Hilary Clinton visited Charleston earlier this week, but her statement wasn’t very meaty, either.

Not everyone agrees that this is the time for politicians to speak up. Bobby Jindal, who is expected to announce his presidential bid later this week, had this to say during an interview on CNN’s New Day:

I'm glad they canceled their political events. If there's an opportunity, if they happen to be there and they want to go in a worship service I think that'd be appropriate, if they want to go support the community.

Certainly, it would be inappropriate — no, downright disgusting — for a candidate to use a mass shooting to score political points. But there should be a way for people seeking the country’s highest office to show compassion and awareness when something tragic happens.

Former South Carolina governor Rep. Mark Sanford (one of the few Republicans not running for President in 2016) also appeared on New Day on Thursday and managed to convey support for the community and awareness of some of the larger racial and social issues at play. "This is so out of place and that's why people are shocked, they're in disbelief," Sanford said during his interview.

We come from a strained past based on slavery existing in our state as it did in other colonies, and that's a regretful past but ultimately past is past and so I think there are a lot of people black, white and other working to make things work.

The shooting happened in his district, so he was able to speak with more authority and authentic connection to the victims. Sanford also took his message a step further by connecting the shooting to the state's turbulent racial history.