Programming note: Watch the full interview on "The Situation Room" tonight beginning at 5 p.m. ET
(CNN) - Former President Bill Clinton told CNN's Wolf Blitzer Tuesday that it would be a "mistake" for Democrats to underestimate the Tea Party movement.
"In their purest form the Tea Partiers are saying, 'I've been let down by big business and big government. I've been let down because the big banks were bailed out but nobody helped me. And the government that bailed them out, they're doing fine, they all have a job, they make their mortgage payments, have health care, send their kids to college. I want reform in both,'" Clinton said.
The former president, though, also lashed out at the movement, saying that its founders "tend to be pretty far-right extremists whose goal is to destroy the power of government to mediate the power of corporations."
"I don't really think that is a sustainable position," he added.
Clinton also advised Democrats to make the upcoming election about the American people and not about playing "games" by waging war against the Tea Party movement and others.
"Tell them what we need to do and what you would do about it and ask them if they really think you're more likely to do it than your opponent," he said.
"I think we should play it straight."
Clinton said Americans are "scared to death" and angry – and they want to know where the country is going.
"Answer the 'throw him out after 21 months.'Say, give us two years. That will give us half as much as time as you gave them and if it's not better, throw us out," he said. "Say, 'throw us out if it's not better. Then say, let's talk about what we're going to do, who's more likely to do it.'"
But he warned that if the election is framed as a choice, "we can win." If it's a referendum, "it's not good."
Updated at 4:22 p.m. ET