WASHINGTON - Senator Barack Obama won an endorsement yesterday from the powerful Teamsters union, critical labor support for the Democratic senator with contests looming in Ohio, Texas, and Pennsylvania.
"There was very, very strong support for him" among the union's members, said James P. Hoffa, president of the 1.4 million-member union, who announced the backing after meeting with Obama in Texas.
Hoffa said the Teamsters have 80,000 members in Pennsylvania, which votes April 22, and 60,000 in Ohio and 17,000 in Texas, which vote March 4. The Teamsters plan to have members and their families from around the country work for Obama, Hoffa said.
Ohio and Pennsylvania have some of the nation's largest numbers of union workers, with more than 15 percent of the workforce unionized in Pennsylvania and more than 14 percent in Ohio.
McCain, in a victory speech Tuesday night and again yesterday, criticized Obama for saying last summer that, if elected, he might order unilateral military strikes in Pakistan against Al Qaeda.
"There's ways of working with leaders of other countries, and the one thing you don't want to do is embarrass them," McCain told reporters. "So I announce tomorrow, by the way, I don't care what the Pakistani government and people feel, I'm going to go bomb Pakistan. That's just not the kind of way to conduct foreign policy and national security policy."
In a conference call with reporters, Obama foreign policy adviser, Susan Rice, accused McCain of "misrepresenting and distorting" Obama's positions on Pakistan.
McCain voted against the bill, which would limit the CIA to using only the 19 interrogation techniques listed in the Army Field Manual. His vote was controversial because the manual prohibits waterboarding - a simulated drowning technique the senator opposes - yet McCain doesn't want the CIA bound by the manual and its prohibitions.
"I knew I would be criticized for it," McCain told reporters. "I think I can show my record is clear. I said there should be additional techniques allowed to other agencies of government as long as they were not" torture.
McCain also said he disapproves that Bush sometimes signs legislation he dislikes, then issues critical "signing statements" outlining his objections and sometimes overturning the intent of the law. "If I disagree with a law that's passed, I'll veto it," McCain said.