Interview with Professor Mary McHugh

Nora Whouley

On October 7 I had the privilege of sitting with Professor Mary McHugh from the Political Science Department for an interview. Professor McHugh teaches courses in U.S. Politics, including Congress and the Legislative Process, American Political Thought, and Political Parties and Interest Groups.

I asked her questions about her experiences and how different presidents have impacted her views and opinions. I decided to interview Professor McHugh because she knows about U.S. presidents whether she lived during their time in office or not.

I was very pleased with the answers I received from Mary McHugh. I think these answers can help people who are stuck in deciding who to vote for or in deciding who is a better candidate. Mary McHugh gave me great detail and there are history lessons within these answers. I was able to close my laptop that day and leave in a great mood. And thank you, Mary McHugh, for your time and allowing these great lessons and answers to be in the Monument.

Where are you from and has that impacted your views on politics?

I am originally from Hopedale Massachusetts, which is a small town in Worcester County. And yes, I do think that growing up in Massachusetts has impacted my view on politics. Massachusetts is a much more liberal state than other states in the country. And I think that talking to other people around the country about my viewpoints are different than other people around the country. My father was a social studies teacher so I grew up looking at politics and looking at elections and sometimes understanding all that at the same times.

 Who was the first president you voted for who won and why were they your pick?

The first president I voted for that won was Bill Clinton in 1992.  He was my pick because I had a lot of hope that when he was running he was younger, he seemed to have better ideas, the Bush Administration hadn’t done a great job at that point. He was somebody that I thought could lead us to the future.

Who was your favorite president why? It can be someone you voted for or did not vote for.

My favorite president is Abraham Lincoln. In graduate school I did a whole class on Lincoln and so looking at his thoughtfulness in terms of how he made decisions, looking at his understanding of the country, what the constitution was going to do, and how he was able to I mean, Doris Kearns Goodwin wrote the book Team of Rivals, that showed how he was someone that was governing with an eye towards keeping the country together, not being-he didn’t have to be the key person. He didn’t have to be the out-front leader. He was willing to work with people to try and accomplish his goals, and looking at some of his speeches and looking at some of his letters that he wrote, I’ve been impressed by all of that. That’s really why he’s one of my favorites.

Out of all the presidents who served in office before 1970, who would you say made the most difference in America?

I could probably go back and look at periods of time, and you’re a history person, but I think probably the most recent one would be Franklin Delano Roosevelt. I think Roosevelt kind of of parallel rules to today in terms of looking at his- he took office in a very parlous time. He took office when fascism was on the rise in Europe. The country was- even in the United States was- we can see some elements of fascism. He was able to turn the economy, he was able to convince the American republic that the federal government should be involved more than it was after Hoover’s administration. He was able to lead us into war, he was able to change us to a military economy, military complex and factories, he was able to do a lot. And I do think he had the most impact creating the social welfare system, creating the social welfare net, I think he had one of the biggest impacts in probably the last hundred years.

Do you think flaws are something that should be ignored in order for citizens to commit to voting for their candidate?

I think flaws should be considered. I think character is an important part of what the president does. The constitution gives us our article to, which tells us, the president can’t do this, the president can’t do that, the president can’t do this, the president needs help with congress sometimes. We have had 43 presidents that have had that same toolbox to work with. I think outside the constitution or the informal powers the president has is what makes them the most significant. Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson had the same exact power. Franklin Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover had the same amount of power in terms of the constitution. It’s how they were able to lead, it’s how they were able to persuade, how they were able to talk to the public, talk to congress, I think a lot of that has to do with character. So I think that people’s flaws are important. I do not expect our presidents to be perfect either. I think everybody’s flawed. I think it’s how they deal with their flaws that’s the important part. So I look at today’s election, and both of them are not perfect candidates, but I don’t think we’ve ever had a perfect candidate. Maybe Washington, but Washington had his flaws. So I do think that flaws are important to consider, but I’m not going to penalize someone if they’re a flawed person.  As long as they can show me how they can lead us.

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