September 30th, 2014
11:16 AM ET

Sen. Bernie Sanders: 'I'll be Damned' if Americans Lead ISIS Fight

Sen. Bernie Sanders, one of the Senate's leading doves, said Tuesday he doesn't want the United States leading the fight against ISIS. Instead, said the Vermont senator, who is eyeing a 2016 presidential bid, the nation should be focused on helping the middle class.

Sanders, an Independent who caucuses with Democrats, said he doesn't want to see the United States fall into another "quagmire in the Middle East," and he put the onus on Muslim countries to take on ISIS.

"I'm sitting here wondering where Saudi Arabia is, where Kuwait is, where Qatar is," Sanders said on CNN's "New Day." "I'll be damned if kids in the state of Vermont - or taxpayers in the state of Vermont - have to defend the royal Saudi family, which is worth hundreds of billions of dollars."

Saudi Arabia and Qatar are part of a five-country coalition of Middle Eastern nations that have joined the U.S. in airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, but Sanders suggested the U.S. should only be "supportive."

Sanders also joined 21 other senators earlier this month in opposing a resolution to train and arm 5,000 moderate Syrian rebels to combat ISIS.

"It cannot be won and it will not be won by the United States alone," Sanders said of the war on ISIS.

And like a candidate running for office, Sanders, who is not up for reelection this fall, quickly shifted the interview away from whether the Senate should declare war to the plight of the middle class and increasing income inequality.

"While we focus all of our attention on ISIS, the middle class in this country continues to collapse," Sanders said. "And you know what the people tell me in Vermont and around the country? Let's also start paying attention to the crises facing working families in America."

Instead of a war resolution, Sanders rattled off a list of progressive initiatives he does "want to vote on," including raising the minimum wage and creating a national jobs program.

Sanders traveled to Iowa earlier this month on what he has described as a listening tour to gauge the appetite for what would be a populist campaign for the presidency.

"I'm going around the country getting an assessment from the American people as to whether or not there would be support for a campaign that in fact takes on the Koch brothers, takes on the billionaire class," Sanders said.

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