Clinton Disappoints a Friend by Praising His Rival

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:28 PM EDT

( - Former President Bill Clinton publicly criticized his former Labor Secretary Wednesday and said he never encouraged Robert Reich to run for governor of Massachusetts - as Reich claimed.

Appearing with his friend (and Reich's opponent) Steve Grossman Wednesday, Clinton further shocked Democrats by failing to endorse Grossman, who was standing at his side. Instead, Clinton heaped praise on another Grossman opponent in the governor's race -- Shannon O'Brien.

According to a report in Thursday's Boston Herald, even Shannon O'Brien (the state treasurer) was surprised by the unsolicited Clinton endorsement. He called her "a very impressive woman," and he even offered to campaign for her if she wins the Democratic primary.

As for his former labor secretary, the Boston Herald quotes Clinton as telling reporters, "I like (Reich) fine, but I didn't like the implication that somehow I encouraged him into the race when you already had one guy in the race that had supported my policies, and at critical points (Reich) didn't."

According to the Boston Herald, the Grossman campaign was "aghast that Clinton would stand up at a Grossman event and speak so glowingly of a rival" (in the words of the Herald article).

Before praising O'Brien, Clinton reportedly praised Grossman as a "loyal ideological foot soldier." Said Clinton, "You know, I respect the fact that Grossman helped us when we were down and out and didn't leave us, and believed in what we were doing all the way." Grossman was a major Clinton fundraiser.