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So few women get Cabinet posts that when one does it's this aspect of her selection that gets the most attention.

That's the way it is with the nomination the past weekend of Elizabeth Hanford Dole as the next U.S. Secretary of Labor.Just as Mrs. Dole was the first woman in the Reagan Cabinet when she became Secretary of Transportation in 1983, so she is to become the first woman in the Bush Cabinet with the Labor nomination.

But anyone who thinks her repeated selection for such top posts is only a token effort to please women voters or merely a sop to her politically powerful husband, Senate minority leader Robert Dole, just doesn't know Elizabeth Dole. The new nomination is simply a recognition of talent and achievement.

Here is a woman who is easily among the most capable and politically astute public servants in Washington. The respect she has won can be traced to her sharp mind and firm decisiveness. Yet her charm and relentless cheerfulness have helped make her not only highly visible, but also highly popular. No wonder her distinguished career has involved service to every President since Lyndon Johnson.

At the Department of Transportation, Mrs. Dole pushed for mandatory seat belt laws, tighter security screening at airports, and more sophisticated anti-collision devices for airliners.

Before becoming Secretary of Transportation, she served as a member of the Federal Trade Commission, a director of public liaison in the White House, and executive director of the Commission on Consumer Interests.

With such a wealth of Washington experience, Mrs. Dole should do well as Secretary of Labor, a big job that demands firm, perceptive leadership. The new secretary should do particularly well if she keeps in mind that it's her job to work for the best interest of all American workers, not just the shrinking minority that happens to belong to unions.