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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Robert W. (Bob) Scott, February 11, 1998. Interview C-0336-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Assessing the temptations of political power

Scott notes that sexual temptation is one of the gravest risks powerful politicians face. Their power attracts people who want to connect with them, and some politicians, like Bill Clinton, cannot resist the opportunity. Those who are less powerful, like staff members, might be tempted to abuse their position in smaller, but no less unethical, ways.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Robert W. (Bob) Scott, February 11, 1998. Interview C-0336-2. 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:
Based on your experience, as governor, with ethical considerations, what do you think are the greatest obstacles or temptations that people in public office have to face, to good ethical behavior?
ROBERT W. (BOB) SCOTT:
Well, there's always, if not overt, the implied opportunities for figures for money, buying influence, buy— [unclear] you could buy a decision, but most people, at least at that time, were not that rash about it. So I think that's the temptation. Obviously, in today's time, it might have been Bill Clinton's problem. The questions of moral values. And I told my class at NC State the other night, I teach a class on leadership and theories of leadership. But one of the things I said that's always around people of power and influence, you've got these groupies out there, that just like to be right next to the throne, to be able to touch the garment, to be the smiling face over the shoulder when the picture's taken or the camera's on. And men—if it's a woman office holder, I'm sure it's the same thing—men, the girls, the women let them know their favors are available. And they want to bask in the glory, you know, to be part of it. There's something about that aura of authority and power that attracts them. So one has to be aware of that, and I think a lot of how you deal with that is how you were brought up. In Bill Clinton's case, I don't know, I just know that there's a possibility, there's always that possibility, and I'm sure much more so in his situation.
JACK FLEER:
Did it concern you that you might wake up on any day of your administration and something—not necessarily the type of situation that Mr. Clinton is involved in, but some kind of ethical or moral concern, problem would emerge?
ROBERT W. (BOB) SCOTT:
No, I didn't, you know, worry about that too much. What I did worry about—well, you couldn't let it worry you, you had to go on and work, but I was afraid that I'd wake up some morning and read something in the paper about one of my staff people.
JACK FLEER:
Yeah, that's what I was meaning, that it was occurring in your administration.
ROBERT W. (BOB) SCOTT:
Yeah. Because I'm in Ashford, speaking at the opening session of the Farm Bureau Federation or some organization, and I'm going from there on down to Atlanta, Georgia, to meet with the Coastal Plains Regional Commission, and it might be three days before I get back to the office. Somebody's back there, running the shop. And that's why you need that good strong chief of staff, because you're out waving the flag and doing the public stuff, and you just hope to God somebody's back there minding the shop and doing it well. And you hope that, in the day-to-day operations of things, that some staff member is not misusing the state car, driving it home for personal reasons.
JACK FLEER:
But you did not face that. Even though it was a possibility.
ROBERT W. (BOB) SCOTT:
No, [unclear] . We had a couple of close calls. I think I told you in an earlier interview that one of my staff persons was having long parties and so forth, and he realized that he'd had too much to drink, so he called a patrol car to take him home. Well, that was better than driving and hurting somebody, sure. But because this individual worked in the governor's office, [unclear] . And should have. But my chief of staff said, "Don't you ever do that again. You just get you a taxi, and I'll pay for it if you don't have money." He realized the public's perception of what that might cause.