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Official Washington, the one expressed through carefully crafted sound bites and tersely worded responses, wants nothing to do with speculating on potential Cabinet picks. But unofficial Washington, at its cocktail parties and business functions, loves nothing more than exchanging names of those who “might get the nod.” In that respect, when it comes to decoding who might be on a short list for attorney general under a George W. Bush administration, the official answer is the predictable one. “We have not speculated on possible appointments to the Cabinet,” says Bush spokesman Ray Sullivan. “We’re focused on winning on Nov. 7.” And even Bush supporters don’t want to join the game. “We prefer to keep the focus on Nov. 7,” says Bill Powers, a spokesman for the National Rifle Association, which calls for greater enforcement of existing gun laws. But below the surface, names are being named. And one name gets named more than any other for a Bush attorney general — Gov. Frank Keating of Oklahoma. “He would be very well-qualified,” says Richard Willard, a former Reagan Justice Department official who serves as an informal adviser to George Bush. “He’s the sort of person of integrity and ability and experience to lead the department.” Robert Moffit of the Heritage Foundation also is a Keating fan. “He has a deep grasp of narcotics and organized crime issues,” Moffit says. Keating, 56, has the right resume. A former FBI agent in the 1970s, he served as a Tulsa, Okla., district attorney and a member of the Oklahoma legislature. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan appointed him U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma. Keating moved on to Washington, serving first in the Treasury Department and later as an associate attorney general overseeing Justice Department components like the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. In 1989, he joined the Department of Housing and Urban Development as general counsel. He was elected governor of Oklahoma in 1994 and won praise for his leadership after the Oklahoma City bombing the following year. His second term as governor ends in 2003. Keating was believed to be on Bush’s short list for vice president and has stayed active on the campaign trail. “His only concern is helping Gov. Bush get elected,” says Keating spokesman John Cox. “That’s what he’s been focused on for months.” Cox says that Keating’s potential candidacy for AG “is really not an issue” in Oklahoma. Yet the governor expressed his interest in the job to The Daily Oklahoman during the Republican Convention. “If offered attorney general, I would be hard-pressed not to carefully consider it,” Keating said. “Any other position I would be less interested in.” Beyond Keating, departing Gov. James Gilmore of Virginia has drawn his share of attention. A former state attorney general, he shares common ground with Bush on many criminal justice issues — including the death penalty. Clint Bolick of the Institute for Justice says Keating and Gilmore are the two names he consistently hears as candidates. “The names tend to be mainstream conservatives, very bright moderates rather than adventure-makers.” But they aren’t the only names making the rounds. Others floated about include Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor, a die-hard Bush supporter; Arkansas Rep. Asa Hutchinson, one of the leaders in the impeachment effort against President Bill Clinton; former California Attorney General Dan Lungren; and even current FBI Director Louis Freeh. Absurd? Remember, Freeh is a former federal district judge appointed to the bench by none other than President George Bush.

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