President-elect Bush on Saturday named Elizabeth H. Dole as his secretary of labor, saying she has the "experience, the stature and the ability" to cope with the challenges of America's changing work force.

Mrs. Dole, 52, former transportation secretary and the wife of Bush's bitter campaign rival, Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., is the first woman named to a full Cabinet post in the new administration, though Carla Hills, as the U.S. trade representative, will have Cabinet rank.Bush said a "dramatic change" has occurred as women enter the work force in increasing numbers, and, "In this environment, it is essential that we have a secretary of labor who understands the challenges out there, and who has the experience, the stature and the ability to deal with them effectively."

Other issues confronting the labor secretary are retraining displaced workers, ensuring better job safety, creating private-public partnerships and respecting workers' rights, the vice president said.

Bush's announcement, made the day before Christmas, means that only one Cabinet job - energy secretary - remains open. Bush said he would reveal no more appointments before next Friday, following his return from a hunting and fishing trip in Texas and Alabama.

Mrs. Dole, standing next to Bush outside the vice president's mansion, said unemployment is at a 14-year low, but people are still unable to find work.

"To promote and protect the welfare of America's working men and women, America's working families, is a challenge I accept with great enthusiasm," she said. Mrs. Dole said she would give a high priority to issues such as child care and the homeless.

Bush's selection drew praise from labor leaders as well as from key members of the Senate, which will have to confirm Mrs. Dole's nomination to succeed Ann Dore McLaughlin.

"President-elect Bush saved one of his best appointments until near the end," said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee. "She is a woman of great ability with many friends in both parties on Capitol Hill."

View Comments

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the ranking Republican on the committee, said Mrs. Dole brings to the job "a proven track record." At the Transportation Department, she pushed for safety issues, including requirements for passive restraints in automobiles.

"It looks like TV dinners for me again, but I'll still probably vote for her confirmation," Sen. Dole joked. Dole said his wife, whom he and others call "Liddy," will give "110 percent to make a difference for America."

Bush said the fact that Mrs. Dole is married to the minority leader played no role in his decision. "This appointment stands on its merits," he said. He joked that he would love to see some side benefits of the appointment, adding, "Bob and I are on good footing."

A North Carolina native and a Harvard-trained lawyer, Mrs. Dole left her post as transportation secretary to work on her husband's unsuccessful 1988 presidential campaign. After Bush seized the GOP nomination, she traveled around the country speaking on his behalf, often to evangelical groups.

Join the Conversation
Looking for comments?
Find comments in their new home! Click the buttons at the top or within the article to view them — or use the button below for quick access.