The public has "no understanding" of what Congress does and has unrealistic expectations of its members, outgoing GOP Sen. Bob Bennett (Utah) said recently.

In a wide-ranging interview with NBC News posted Monday, Bennett, whom Utah Republicans declined to renominate in May, knocked down the image of the Senate as the world's greatest debating body and said that most work is done in committee and behind closed doors. He also suggested that much of the business senators deal with is not of interest to them.

"They [members of the public] have no understanding of what we do. They expect that we spend most of our time on the Senate floor debating," he said. "The image of Webster and Calhoun and Clay changing the course of the republic with a brilliant speech is still in their minds. Particularly since the advent of television in the chamber, Senate speeches are more and more irrelevant."

Bennett said that floor speeches are meant to create "snippets to show up in the nightly news that we hope will change the attitude of the people," not influence colleagues.

Since his defeat, Bennett has given a series of interviews in which he directed criticism at the upper chamber and his own party.

Bennett reiterated Monday that he believes the GOP uses slogans too heavily and does not have a coherent set of ideas to lay out to voters in the November midterm elections. The senator has also taken aim at GOP right-wing elements who largely opposed his reelection bid.

The third-term senator relayed a story about a supporter of Mike Lee, the Tea Party-backed candidate who defeated him in the primary. The supporter reportedly said at the Utah Republican convention that he could see Lee giving influential speeches on the Senate floor about the Constitution.

That notion is laughable, Bennett said, "because he’s going to spend his time sitting in that chair listening to lobbyists and constituents and staffers telling him the details of legislation, much of which he doesn’t care about, but that he’s going to have to — at least when constituents are around — demonstrate some kind of interest in, rather than standing on the floor like an ancient prophet declaring the beauties of the Constitution and discovering that he had influenced nobody."

But the Utah senator said that energy on the right wing will likely benefit the Republicans. He said that his message was "wrong" in this electoral climate and Democrats underestimate the impact it could have on the midterms.

"I think it’s going to win back the House and could easily win back the Senate," he said.

Bennett praised several past and present senators from both parties with whom he was close and whom he respected.

He named his Banking Committee colleague, Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), with whom he drafted a bipartisan healthcare bill. He also said he had a "very close, personal relationship" with now-Vice President Joe Biden and called Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) a "worthy opponent."

The only current GOP senator Bennett praised was Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R). The Kentuckian, he says, "understands exactly what has happened to the Senate, the changes that have occurred from [former Senate GOP leader Bob] Dole to McConnell."

Bennett said that the hardest thing to accomplish in Congress today is "building a consensus ... because by the time you get [a bill] to the floor, substance is pretty well out of the equation and they’re now playing politics."

Even though he has described the current political environment as divisive, Bennett said that today's politics are not as bitter as they were in the 1970s.

"No. Because I’m old enough to remember Vietnam," he said. "I'm old enough to remember the bitterness. Well, the bitterness of Watergate."