Beaumont, Texas (CNN) - Can Ted Cruz imagine being in the Oval Office in 2017?
He didn't say no, but he did pause to acknowledge how much heartburn that would cause the people he likes to call the Washington establishment.
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"I think you'd probably have to - to buy some Alka Seltzer for an awful lot of people in Washington, if - if 2017 occurred and that happened," Cruz said with a chuckle.
Cruz's light hearted response quickly turned serious – since he was responding to a question about Ukraine – what he would do if he were in commander-in-chief and Kiev was burning.
"Let me answer it this way. Whoever is president in 2017, I very much hope Kiev is not still on fire. What is happening in Ukraine right now is both incredibly heartening and incredibly tragic," Cruz told CNN in an exclusive interview.
"It is heartening to see thousands upon thousands of protesters standing up for freedom, standing up braving the brutal cold; standing up facing violent opposition, facing kidnapping, facing torture, facing murder; and standing up because they want to stand with the West. They want to stand with America. They want to stand with Europe."
Cruz also advocated sanctions as a tool for the U.S. now.
"We should be imposing sanctions on the government officials in Ukraine right now who are oppressing, who are torturing the protesters," said Cruz.
He also pushed for a free trade agreement with Ukraine to help them develop energy infrastructure, "so that they don't have to rely on Russia for gas and be blackmailed, but instead, we can export our abundant resources here to them."
"That's the sort of positive foreign policy that protects our interests that the United States ought to be producing under President Obama and Secretary Kerry and Secretary Clinton before him," said Cruz.
Cruz doesn't stand with Rand – on making issue of Bill Clinton as a "predator"
Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a potential Cruz rival for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, has been making an issue of Bill Clinton's affair while president in the 1990's with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, calling the former president a "predator" for taking advantage of a 20 year old intern.
But Cruz didn't follow Paul's lead on that line of attack.
"I'm a lot less concerned with Bill Clinton's escapades decades ago than I am with - with Hillary Clinton's, uh, consistently wrong record when it comes to foreign policy, when it comes to domestic policy," said Cruz.
Instead he took the opportunity to assail Hillary Clinton, who is seriously considering another bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.
"The people who are getting hammered under the Obama economy, they're young people, they're Hispanics, they're African-Americans, they're single moms. And throughout her tenure, Hillary Clinton has embraced the same far left agenda before ObamaCare, there was HillaryCare. And that agenda hurts people who are struggling," said Cruz.
With Ted Cruz, there is none of the usual feigning or pretending about his presidential ambitions. He openly nods, and smiles, when asked about the subject.
Still, Cruz may not be coy about having presidential ambitions, but he is – dare we say – a traditional politician – on the question of when he'd make it official.
"You know, my focus and - and you've heard this before - is on the Senate," said Cruz, pointing to the debt ceiling fight last week he waged against his own party in the Senate.
We asked if that was part of your 2016 campaign,.
"No, that was part of doing the job I promised Texans I would do," said Cruz.