CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA - Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush is calling for a broad military buildup and says the U.S. armed forces have been left ill-prepared to defeat the Islamic State, blamed for the Paris attacks that killed at least 129 people and wounded hundreds more.
The son and brother of former presidents is projecting himself as a potential commander-in-chief able to handle such challenges, as his presidential bid tries to gain traction in a primary campaign likely to be shaken up after the Paris attacks.
“The brutal savagery is a reminder of what is at stake in this election,” Bush says in excerpts of a speech he plans to deliver Wednesday at The Military College of South Carolina, known as The Citadel.
“We are choosing the leader of the free world,” he said, according to passages provided to The Associated Press in advance. “And if these attacks remind us of anything, it's that we are living in serious times that require serious leadership.”
Bush, a year ago viewed as the likely front-runner, has failed to move to the top tier of Republican White House hopefuls in a field where political outsiders Donald Trump and Ben Carson and charismatic young lawmakers Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have eclipsed him. The state-by-state primary contest starts in February.
Bush has long faulted President Barack Obama's administration, and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton - the leading Democratic presidential candidate - for allowing wholesale federal spending cuts prompted by the 2013 budget reconciliation after Congress and the president were unable to craft more strategic cuts.
The cuts affected military and non-military spending alike, at a time when conflicts in Syria and Iraq “spiraled out of control as President Obama and Hillary Clinton failed to act,” Bush said in a speech Tuesday.
Wednesday's speech, which had been scheduled before Friday's deadly attacks, initially was to be more focused on Pentagon policy and equipment procurement reform. But the attacks prompted a quick shift in focus.
Bush's campaign Tuesday released a broad outline of his proposal, to restore the cuts and set goals to build up the military in several areas.
Many echoed points he has made over the past six months as a candidate, such as providing military training and support for allies in Eastern Europe and the Baltic region, where Russia has been applying pressure.
But Bush hinted Tuesday that the Paris attacks could change the focus for choosing the next commander in chief.
Bush also appears to be anticipating criticism that he would wage war in Iraq, as his father and brother did when they were president.
“I think it's important for the next president, whoever he or she may be, to learn from the lessons of the past and use those lessons to focus on the future,” Bush told an audience of more than 300 at Coastal Carolina University on Tuesday.
On Thursday in New York, Clinton will deliver an address outlining her strategy for defeating the Islamic State group as well as her overall plan for fighting radical jihadism.