- The Washington Times - Friday, July 21, 2000

Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating said Thursday he was ready to do whatever Texas Gov. George W. Bush asks him, whether it's to serve as his vice presidential running mate or "serve iced tea at a reception somewhere."

Mr. Keating has been rumored to be on a short list of possible running mates for Mr. Bush, the presumptive Republican presidential candidate.

Mr. Keating, a Catholic who opposes abortion rights, is thought to be looked on favorably because of his conservative economic views as well, social reforms as well as his leadership after the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City.

No call to higher office has come yet, though. "I know you're only here to hear about marriage," Mr. Keating joked to reporters in a packed auditorium Thursday at the Heritage Foundation, which months ago asked Mr. Keating to speak on his efforts to promote marriage.

"But I have not been called by Governor Bush or by any member of his staff," Mr. Keating said.

"I'm certainly flattered that [Bush vice presidential adviser] Dick Cheney has asked me to fill out material, which I did, but I don't expect it to go anywhere," he said. But, later, he said he would "certainly" serve as vice president if asked.

"Whatever George W. Bush wants to do this is his decision and I fully support whatever his decision is. It will be right and we will win." Mr. Keating said he would support Mr. Bush "even if he chooses a pro-choice candidate."

Mr. Keating brushed aside a question about being offered a Cabinet position in a Bush administration, saying: "Could I win the lottery? Gee, I would really like that… ."

Talking about Cabinet jobs is "so premature," the two-term governor said. "We need to elect George Bush president … then we'll worry about who gets what job.

"Whatever he wants me to do, I'll do it," Mr. Keating concluded, adding that "it may be for me to serve iced tea at a reception somewhere."

Mr. Keating's purported appearance on a vice presidential short list has caused consternation among some Republicans.

Picking Mr. Keating as a running mate is a "recipe for disaster" because it would alienate "women, independents and suburban voters," Candy Straight, who raises money for pro-choice female Republican candidates, said in a statement released Wednesday.

Two years ago, she said, Mr. Keating backed a proposal to withhold Republican Party support from candidates who did not back a ban on partial-birth abortions.

Neither Mr. Bush nor Republican Party Chairman Jim Nicholson supported such a resolution, Miss Straight noted.

At Thursday's noon event, Heritage Foundation Executive Vice President Phil Truluck said they invited Mr. Keating to address the think tank back in March because of his "unique and ambitious" statewide marriage initiative.

Mr. Keating said that a study he commissioned showed that Oklahoma's problems with poverty, domestic violence, substance abuse and school failure were linked to its high divorce rate and high rate of unwed births.

In Oklahoma, it has been "easier to get out of a marriage contract than a Tupperware contract," he said.

He has since set a goal of reducing the state's divorce rate by a third by 2010 and called for a state summit to address the issue. Oklahoma is also the first state to direct $10 million of its welfare money to strengthen families and promote marriage.

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