WASHINGTON (CNN) — Jeb Bush says he’ll decide “in short order” if he will run for the White House in 2016 — and in a preview of what could become his campaign themes, the Republican is advocating a more active foreign policy and an overhaul of U.S. entitlement programs.
“I’m thinking about running for president, and I’ll make up my mind in short order — you know, not that far out into the future, I don’t know the exact time line,” Bush, the former Florida governor, brother of one president and son of another, said Monday night at an event hosted by the Wall Street Journal.
He said his decision on whether to seek the Republican nomination will hedge on whether he can “lift people’s spirits and not get sucked into the vortex,” and — perhaps more importantly, he said — whether “the sacrifice for my family is tolerable.”
“I don’t know if I’d be a good candidate or a bad one. I kind of know how a Republican can win,” he said.
Bush added that Republicans need to take a more positive approach in 2016, and be practical enough about the national political landscape to “lose the primary to win the general” election.
He then made a lengthy argument for a “more active and engaged foreign policy,” warning that a rebuilt military and aggressive intelligence gathering tactics are key to preventing “jihadist attacks.”
“There is a growing sense that we can’t withdraw from the world,” he said.
Bush’s position puts him at odds with more libertarian potential 2016 GOP hopefuls, like Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who have criticized the National Security Agency’s surveillance efforts.
He said intelligence tactics, the use of the military and other foreign policy issues, including free trade, could “probably become a bigger issue” in the 2016 campaign than he’d expected several months ago.
“The world is being disrupted, some in good ways and some in really bad ways, and but for us, there is no source of stability that allows that transformation to take place in a peaceful way,” Bush said.
Bush also delved into a host of domestic issues during his 45-minute discussion with Jerry Seib, the Wall Street Journal’s Washington bureau chief — on each one, eventually turning to the broader theme making the United States “young and dynamic again.”
On immigration, he argued for “an economically driven system” that would allow businesses to more easily move foreigners with the skills they need into the country. On energy, he said North America could end its reliance on overseas oil in five years with an “all-in” policy that includes oil exploration on federal lands, approving the Keystone XL pipeline, speeding up natural gas export terminal approvals and potentially allowing crude oil exports.
He argued broadly for a simplified tax code and regulatory rules, and said education requires a “radical transformation.”
“Then we could actually do the other big thing, which is not going to happen any time soon, which is entitlement reform. … No developed country in the world has achieved this, and if we do it, we’ll be young and dynamic,” he said, adding that the United States could join the ranks of rapidly developing economies like Brazil, India and China.
“I think it’ll be the means by which we see a rising income for the middle class again. Our spirits will be lifted,” he said.