Bernie Sanders Saying He "Likes" & "Respects" Hillary Clinton Is So Incredibly Refreshing To Hear

In an interview with CNN on Sunday, Vermont senator and 2016 hopeful Bernie Sanders dropped jaws when he did the one thing a presidential candidate is never supposed to do: play nice. The self-proclaimed democratic-socialist has been hot on Hillary Clinton's heels since he announced his candidacy back at the end of April, calling out the former Secretary of State on what he perceived were hypocritical stances on topics such as campaign finance and her silence on on the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement. But on Sunday, Sanders blew his competitors out of the water by telling State of the Union's Brianna Keilar that Sanders actually liked Clinton and that the two could still debate over heated political issues without losing respect for one another.

Asked whether he was prepared to go after an establishment character like Clinton, Sanders replied, "I've known Hillary Clinton for 25 years [and] maybe I shouldn't say this: I like Hillary Clinton. I respect Hillary Clinton." Sanders explained that he had "never run a negative political ad" in his life and that he wasn't prepared to so do this time around either.

It was a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stale political climate of fear-mongering and personal overreach on both sides of the aisle. Adding that he still intended to spar with Clinton on the issues, Sanders also issued a plea to the press that would be covering their interactions over the next year.

"Will the media, among others, allow us to have a civil debate on civil issues," Sanders asked, "or is the only way to get media attention by ripping apart someone else? I certainly hope that's not the case."

Unfair media portrayals of the two politicians' relationship outside the White House circuit certainly aren't out of the question. In an interview with MSNBC in April, host Thomas Roberts hinted that perhaps Sanders believed Clinton wasn't really "out for the little guy." In response, Sanders impartially quipped, "You don't know, and I don't know, and the American people don't know," leaving the door open for Clinton to explain herself in future meetings.

Since Texas Sen. Ted Cruz officially opened up the 2016 field in March, the political scene has been flooded with a wave of indirect and passive-aggressive attacks lobbed from one camp to the next, each candidate seemingly hoping to take the spotlight off of his or herself by contemporaneously stepping under it.

From Cruz's attacks on fellow GOP candidates at the South Carolina Freedom Summit on May 9 (Cruz told audience members that none of the other Republicans running against him cared as much about religious liberty while simultaneously insisting that he was "taking the high road" by "not [making] personal attacks") to former HP CEO Carly Fiorina's barbs against Clinton in January (Fiorina claimed, "Unlike [Clinton], I have actually accomplished something"), Sanders comments hint that the formerly-Independent congressman turned Democratic candidate is sick of misleading info-graphics and the idea that all rivals must automatically be enemies.

"I don't believe in ugly 30-second ads," Sanders clarified to CNN on Sunday, after commenting on policy differences between himself and Clinton. "I believe in serious debates on serious issues."

Sander's latest clarification isn't the first time he's come out in favor of playing nice either: in an interview with the Los Angeles Times in March, he said:

I don’t run against Hillary Clinton. I run on the most important issues facing America. I state my views. And if Hillary Clinton runs, I’m sure she will state her views. And if she runs and if I run, there will be a contrast of views. ... I don’t believe in trashing my opponents. I’ve never run a negative ad in my life. I believe in talking about issues, sometimes fighting for the media to talk about the issues, but that’s what I do, and the people will decide.

Sanders might be the only one directly asking for a good, clean fight rather than the muck-covered circus that we've come to know as "politics as usual." But if Democrats are looking to win in 2016, they'd do well to take a lesson from him — because the only thing that will withstand the onslaught of attacks being casually thrown in their direction is a united front with brutally honest politicians like Sanders at the helm.