Bill Clinton's latest comments on the race for the Democratic nomination were widely interpreted as a criticism directly aimed at Bernie Sanders, who minced few words when given a chance to respond.
“I do understand—obviously—he’s trying to do his best to get his wife to win the nomination,” Sanders told Bloomberg's With All Due Respect. “But we should not be making silly remarks.”
At a rally for Hillary Clinton in Palm Beach on Monday, Bill Clinton never mentioned the Vermont senator by name. But he said the Tea Party succeeded at the ballot box by deciding to “just tell people what they want to hear,” before quickly adding that Democrats have also began “rewarding people who tell us things we know they can't do because it pushes our hot button.”
Sanders, who won the New Hampshire primary by a large margin and is gaining on Hillary Clinton in early polling of the next contest in Nevada, rejected the comparison between the Tea Party and the rise of his candidacy during an exchange with Mark Halperin, the co-managing editor of Bloomberg Politics.
“Is there a comparison?” Halperin asked.
“No,” Sanders shot back. “There’s no comparison.”
Halperin followed up: “Just on the question, and we've discussed this with you before this, on the skepticism that you are telling people things that they want to hear.”
Sanders’ voice intensified. “Yeah, I am telling people what they want to hear! People want jobs. They want health care. They want educational opportunities for their kids. They want to deal with climate change. They want the wealthiest people to pay their fair share of taxes. Yeah, that’s what I’m telling people. And on every one of those issues, that is exactly what the American people want.”
Later in the interview, Sanders addressed the increasingly fierce rhetoric between the two campaigns, laying the blame clearly on the other side.
“Would you like the sort of personal nature of it to be ratcheted down? And if so, what can you do to contribute to that?” Halperin asked.
“Well, we have tried. I mean, it does get me very annoyed,” Sanders replied. “I have gotten people on television angry. How can you president? You’re not beating up on Secretary Clinton enough! I’ve chosen not to do that. I’ve chosen to focus on the real issues. Then I get attacked by Secretary—somebody in her campaign. ‘He’s running one of the most negative campaigns in the world!’ You know, that is very, very annoying. But we will do our best.”
Asked about law professors and prominent judges whom he might consider appointing to the Supreme Court, Sanders spoke only about a single current justice.
“I think Ruth Bader Ginsburg has proven to have a very admirable record as a Supreme Court justice,” he said.
While Sanders said he’s no “great fan of litmus tests,” he added that if he is called on to fill a vacancy on the high court like the one President Barack Obama now faces following Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, he would want his nominee to “be loud and clear that he or she will vote to overturn Citizens United,” the 2010 Supreme Court decision that lifted spending caps by outside organizations.
“What we are seeing in this campaign are people like the Koch brothers, Wall Street, and other billionaires buying elections,” he said. “If we allow them to buy elections, then everything else doesn’t matter cause you don’t have a democracy.”
To watch the full interview, watch With All Due Respect at 5 p.m. Eastern time on Bloomberg Television and 6 p.m. on MSNBC.