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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with James E. Holshouser Jr., January 31, 1998. Interview C-0328-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

The importance of character in politics

Holshouser emphasizes the importance of character in politics. He was able to enter the governor's mansion without obligations because he never gave constituents the impression that he was willing to deal. He acted on information, not obligation, he explains.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with James E. Holshouser Jr., January 31, 1998. Interview C-0328-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JACK FLEER:
Now you said that you didn't become obligated to anybody at least in part because you had so little money. As you know that is a continual concern I am sure among public leaders as well as among the public generally about obligations and campaign finance. I guess my question is how do you avoid becoming obligated?
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
Well, I think you start from ground zero that the public has the best chance of having an independent representative at whatever level they are talking about from county commission up to the White House, if they start with the right kind of person. And I think when they say and a lot of people are saying right now, and this book is being written for generations not for this month, that you can separate private character from public character, I am not sure that you can do that at all. Your overall characters is who you are. I found that in the legislature. We didn't have any where near the kind of situations that you do now. You went to a lot of dinners and receptions the first month and the first six weeks that you were there and then they were over. Co ops would do a thing, truckers had their thing. They had their room at the Sir Walter the whole session they were there, then moved out to the Velvet Cloak or the Hilton or someplace along the way. But I always viewed that I could go to somebody's dinner or eat trucker's food and I didn't feel obligated to them a bit. I mean I figured it was their chance to get acquainted with us and I always viewed the lobbyists that should be a source of information. We had some bills where for instance, there was a bill that was going to let the, maybe it was Twin Trailer Bill, where the railroads could be hurt by that and truckers were for it. So you would sit down and talk to the lobbyist for the truckers and say why is this a good bill and then you would sit down and talk with the railroad people why is it a bad bill? And you pick their brains the best you could and end up making the choice yourself. Now if an office holder feels like that in order to keep getting re-elected he has got to have a certain amount of money in the till each time and the only way that you can get it is to get it from people and that he is willing to obligate himself in order to get it. Unless it is something he is only obligated himself to what his views are already, then he has done everybody a disservice, including himself. Because that means he is up there representing a view different from his own just because of financial circumstances. And it may be I am still too naive for politics I don't know. I just don't believe you have to do that.