Bernie Says Don't 'Anoint' Hawkish Hillary as Nominee

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders speaking with ABC News' Jeff Zeleny on Monday (Screenshot via ABC News/Yahoo! News)

Bernie Says Don't 'Anoint' Hawkish Hillary as Nominee

Vermont senator hints again at possible 2016 challenge, says opposition to economic inequality is "a damn good platform" for presidency

Following criticism of Hillary Clinton's hawkish foreign policy remarks published Sunday, Senator Bernie Sanders said in an interview on Monday that Clinton shouldn't be presumed as the Democratic nominee for president since the U.S. political process isn't one in which "we anoint people."

Sanders also hinted at his possible willingness to challenge her for the Democratic nomination for president.

Sanders spoke in an interview with ABC's Jeff Zeleny a day after The Atlanticpublished an interview with Clinton in which she slammed Obama's foreign policy, saying "Great nations need organizing principles, and 'Don't do stupid stuff' is not an organizing principle." Sanders indicated his respect for the former Secretary of State, while at the same time cautioning against assuming that she will be the Democratic nominee before she's even announced her candidacy.

"She has accomplished a lot of positive things in her career, but I'm not quite sure that the political process is one in which we anoint people," he said.

"What is her agenda? I don't know, you don't know. She hasn't said," Sanders pointed out.

While the Vermont senator repeated the fact that he does not "wake up every morning with a burning desire to be president of the United States," he also reiterated his commitment to fight for political and economic equality as the U.S. shifts toward a form of society he fundamentally disagrees with: "an oligarchic form of society in which a handful of billionaire families control not only the economy of this country, but because of this disastrous supreme court decision Citizens United, they control the political life of this country."

"I will do everything I can to prevent that from happening," Sanders said.

In The Atlantic interview, while Clinton said the organizing principle that sets her apart from Obama's is "peace, progress and prosperity," she also trumpeted her interventionist foreign policy doctrine, saying that not supporting Syrian rebels early into the Syrian war was a foreign policy "failure" that led to the rise of ISIS in Iraq, among other comments . Since those remarks were published she has come under fire from both left-leaning progressives and more centrist Democrats, with many saying her pro-war views do little to distinguish her from her Republican pro-war counterparts.

"She basically seems to be taking positions that are very similar to the vision of America's role in the world that [in 2008] Democrats rejected," said Michael Cohen, a fellow with the progressive Century Foundation.

The often pro-Democratic Party released a statement from Ilya Sheyman, Executive Director of the organization's Political Action Committee, who said:

"Secretary Clinton, and any other person thinking about seeking the Democratic nomination in 2016, should think long and hard before embracing the same policies advocated by right-wing war hawks that got America into Iraq in the first place and helped set the stage for Iraq's troubles today. These hawkish policy stances are also threatening to undermine the peaceful international resolution of Iran's nuclear program.

More progressive critics highlighted Clinton's support of Israel as perhaps the most hawkish of all the statements she made to The Atlantic. Journalist Glenn Greenwald wrote a piece in The Intercept titled "Quiz: Who Said This? Hillary Clinton or Benjamin Netanyahu?" that showed just how closely aligned the two politicians' talking points are, and Philip Weiss, writing on his site Mondoweiss, pointed out the contradictory logic she used in the interview.

"While she twice faults Russia for occupying a neighbor state, she never refers to Israeli occupation or settlements, except to praise Netanyahu's glorious settlement freeze," wrote Weiss. "Do you wonder why there's a guerrilla resistance movement in Palestine? That's why."

While Sanders himself has disappointed many progressives in recent weeks with his support of Israel, the self-labeled democratic Socialist remains the lone prospect for a more progressive candidate to challenge Hillary for the Democratic Party's nomination.

While many of the pundits who see Hillary's nomination as inevitable have labeled the Senator's indications that he may run for president a long shot, Sanders explained in Monday's interview that he doesn't necessarily think the label 'Socialist' would be harmful once the meaning of it is actually explained to the public. "If the American people understand what goes on in countries like Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and other countries, they will say, 'Whoa, I didn't know that!'" Sanders said, pointing out that the most far-right politicians in those countries consider healthcare to be a fundamental right.

When pressed on his view that the American middle class is under attack, Sanders responded, "It's not what I believe, that 's a fact."

"You've got one family, the Walton family of WalMart owning more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of the country. You know what that is? That's called Oligarchy."

"But is that a platform to run for president?" asked Zeleny in his interview with Sanders.

"Yeah, I think it's a damn good platform," Sanders responded.

Watch the interview below:

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