AUSTIN, Texas -- President-elect Bush nominated defeated Missouri Sen. John Ashcroft to be attorney general on Friday, choosing a conservative Republican who lost his re-election bid to a dead man.
"An effective attorney general must be a person of prudent character and executive ability," Bush said. He also said there must be a commitment to "fair and firm and impartial administration of justice."
"I'm confident I found the correct person in John Ashcroft," he said.
Ashcroft, 58, was a two-term governor of Missouri before he went to the Senate in 1994. Gov. Mel Carnahan challenged him for re-election in one of the feature Senate contests of 2000, but was killed in an airplane crash in October. His name remained on the ballot, and he won. His widow, Jean, was appointed to the Senate seat.
Ashcroft said political defeat "brings more than emotion and pain, it brings perspective." With the appointment, he said, it also brought a call to renewed and noble service.
The senator, a favorite of Republican conservatives who had maneuvered against more moderate choices for the Justice Department, said he would "strive to be a guardian of liberty and equal justice." Ashcroft, an ardent foe of abortion, said the rule of law "knows no class, sees no color and bows to no creed," and that will be his guideline.
The president-elect also has selected New Jersey Gov. Christie Whitman to head the Environmental Protection Agency, according to several GOP officials.
Whitman, 54 and a Republican, championed open-space preservation in New Jersey and refused to abandon an unpopular auto emissions test designed to reduce air pollution.
Critics said that to attract businesses, she compromised water pollution protections and cut spending for state offices that prosecute environmental abuses by industry.
Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope said Whitman has a "mixed record on the environment, but on balance we believe the Sierra Club could work with her."
Bush is moving at a fast clip in filling out his administration, working against a clock that ticked through the five-week electoral deadlock in Florida.
GOP sources said Virginia Gov. James Gilmore is Bush's pick to head the Republican National Committee.
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