U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono says she definitely feels the Bern. It’s just not hot enough to douse her support for Hillary Clinton for president.

On Thursday, Hirono spoke to the Civil Beat Editorial Board about her affection for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders as well as her endorsement of Clinton, making explicitly clear where her loyalties lie in advance of Saturday’s Democratic caucus.

The first-term senator addressed a wide range of other issues, including her thoughts on Republican front-runners Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the U.S. pivot to the Asia-Pacific and a federal proposal to label genetically modified foods.

Hirono said she agrees with much of Sanders’ populist rhetoric on the campaign trail, particularly as it relates to the growing wealth disparity between the top 10 percent of earners and the rest of the U.S.

Senator Mazie Hirono editorial board. 24 march 2016.

U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono wants more attention paid to the pivot to the Pacific. She also supports Hillary Clinton for president.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

“I’m very fond of Bernie. He talks about the kinds of things that I’ve been fighting for in income inequality and economic opportunities — that a lot of us have been fighting for for a long time,” Hirono said. “(But) I am supporting Hillary. She has the experience and the battle scars that I believe our next president should have.”

Hirono pointed to a speech Clinton delivered Wednesday at Stanford University that came on the heels of terrorist attacks in Brussels, Belgium, that left 34 people dead.

Clinton used the opportunity to highlight her foreign policy credentials and bash her Republican rivals, who have suggested everything from banning Muslims from entering the country to carpet-bombing the Middle-East.

Hirono, who sits on the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence committees, called Clinton’s speech “impressive,” saying it made the presumptive Democratic nominee look both knowledgeable and presidential.

“She understands the complexities that are facing our country and the decision-making process,” Hirono said. “I could not imagine any of the other candidates giving that kind of speech and being taken seriously.”

When asked specifically about her thoughts on Cruz, Hirono guffawed before apologizing and composing herself. She said she got to know the conservative Texas senator while they served together on the Judiciary and Armed Services committees. She clearly didn’t like what she heard.

“I’m not in agreement with his very narrow ideological perspective on life and what’s good for our country,” she said.

Hirono, a Japanese-American, was particularly critical of Cruz’s recent call for increased surveillance of Muslims in the U.S. and Trump’s standing promise to keep them out of the country if elected president.

She said their words bring back memories of a dark time in the country’s history when more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans were forced into prison camps during World War II, an act that Trump has specifically refused to denounce.

“Have we not learned from what happened during the Japanese internment during World War II?” Hirono asked. “To paint an entire group of people with that brush, one would think that we would have learned not to do that. That’s racist.”

Outside of the U.S., Hirono said it’s important to keep an eye on the nuclear capabilities of both Iran and North Korea, the latter a country that some military experts believe already has the capability of hitting Hawaii with a missile.

Hirono was an early advocate for a nuclear deal with Iran, and says it’s equally important to restrict North Korea’s development of such weapons. She’s sees China as a key player in those discussions.

The senator added that the Obama administration’s pivot to Asia is an integral part of defending Hawaii and the U.S.

“Our country’s commitment to the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific is really important for national security,” Hirono said.

“The rebalance has got to be more than just rhetoric, it has to be more than just a nice-sounding acknowledgement of the importance of this part of the world. It has to manifest itself in real resources, such as more ships coming here, which we are seeing, and making sure that our troops levels are adequate for us to be prepared.”

One of the biggest threats to Hawaii’s military — which brings billions of dollars into the state — is sequestration, a budgetary practice that Hirono says needs to end.

On another battlefront, Hirono said she supports GMO labeling and last week voted against a bill that would have undermined state laws requiring such disclosure.

“I’ve been a proponent of consumer information and consumer choices ever since I was in the state Legislature,” Hirono said. “I think labeling at the national level makes sense.”

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