Clinton told the crowd the GOP does a “good job” of going after them, but suggested he and his wife have been the target of so many Republican attacks because the GOP is afraid of them.
“I know the Republicans have been mean to her and they say terrible things. You gotta respect ‘em — they’re good at this. They delegitimize the people they don’t like. They aren’t in the habit of attacking people they’re not scared of.”
“They try to sucker punch the rest of us into nominating people they think they can really devour if they get a hold of them,” Clinton said, in an apparent reference to Hillary Clinton’s rival, Bernie Sanders.
Clinton, speaking outside at the Rheault Farm in front of a large barn and a silo with a giant American flag draped over it, called out the “road rage” he sees in both parties.
“You got all these people today who feel disempowered, and it is a source of the road rage you see in both parties’ primaries,” he said. “And you know, look, I don’t like a lot of the things that are said in that Republican primary. At least the fights we’ve had have been real in the Democratic primary.”
Clinton acknowledged the anxiety and anger present in the electoral climate, but urged the crowd not to let that dominate their decision-making.
“When you feel that you’ve lost control over your economic life, and then your social order is upended, that leads people to very high levels of anxiety and great vulnerability to anger,” Clinton said.
“And a lot of the anger is well justified — except I have learned in my long life that I almost never make a good decision when I’m mad,” Clinton said. “And even if you got a reason to feel resentful, if you act on it, you nearly always do the wrong thing.”
The former president also reflected on the time he spent touring damage from the devastating floods in Grand Forks, North Dakota, while he was president in 1997.
“Why does there have to be a natural disaster before we can treat each other as human beings? And our political opponents as opponents, not enemies?” he said.
Clinton’s appearance in North Dakota was the second of three campaign events on behalf of his wife on Friday. The state holds its caucuses on June 7.
This story originally appeared on NBCNews.com.