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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with James E. Holshouser Jr., June 4, 1998. Interview C-0328-4. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

The need for honest staffers who will tell a governor the truth

Holshouser discusses "yes men or yes women," people unwilling to disagree with or deliver bad news to politicians. He believes that every politician needs staffers who will tell him or her the truth.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with James E. Holshouser Jr., June 4, 1998. Interview C-0328-4. 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

Some people argue that governors and other people in high positions of responsibility sometimes make it difficult, maybe unintentionally, to find out the things that are going wrong in the administration because they surround themselves with people who are loyal but want to be loyal want to make the job as, not necessarily as easy, but as doable as possible. Others argue that that is a recipe for disaster. If you don't have someone in the administration who will tell the governor that either he is doing something that may not be intentionally undesirable or someone else in the administration in his name are doing that, that you inevitably run the risk of having to look on. Can you talk about that dilemma?
I have seen that from both sides as a state chairman. I use to sit in meetings with other state chairmen from the south and other parts of the county, Republicans. With a Republican in the White House we would say you ought to do this, you ought to do this. Everybody would go in and everybody, either out of in awe of the Oval Office or the person with the presidency, gets cold feet. Or maybe they don't want to be the bearer of bad tidings so to speak. I told our staff, I told the cabinet early on that we couldn't afford yes men or yes women because we have them too. We had a disadvantage in not having a lot of experience but we also had an advantage in that we had all sort of fought the war together and there was a sense of a team and there wasn't much, there was tremendous respect for me as governor but there was a fair amount of disrespect for me as a person that was really good. And the staff would give me a pretty hard time occasionally about something or another. And I told them that we couldn't afford to screw up. Which is what would happen if any of them were afraid to bring something bad. Now I think that worked fine where the staff was concerned. I didn't think the same thing always worked where people coming in from some small mountain county who hadn't seen you while. He has known you and worked with you. He is still so thrilled that we have got a Republican governor. He doesn't want to tell you something. So it is a little hard no matter what you do to assure that people tell you what you need to hear all of the time.
Did you have any cases during your administration where you would find out about something and thought, well why didn't somebody tell me about that?
Not a lot, not a lot. I am thinking it has been almost twenty five years now and times tends to blur these things. If I went back and looked at the newspaper clippings, I would probably find something.
But nothing after twenty five years still bothers you that somebody didn't tell you at the time.
That is right.