Q: When Eagleton’s mental illness was discovered why was it so crippling to his life within politics?
The fact that he underwent shock treatments more than once raised questions about his mental condition. There was a misconception about shock treatments that frightened some voters.
Q: With holding interviews with over 85 people, what was it like to become so immersed in the history of somebody else’s life so personally?
That is what a biographer does or should do although you can't completely understand a person. You do find out a lot about him or her that you sometimes don't expect. That is what makes it so interesting.
Q: Who was the most interesting interviewee you encountered when doing research to find out about Eagleton’s life and why?
Joe Biden was interesting because he is vice president and knew Eagleton well. He was also well prepared for the interview. Eagleton's wife Barbara also was interesting because she knew him the best over time. Their courtship stories added to the story of a younger Eagleton.
Q: What has been your favorite place that you have traveled to?
Boston. I made many trips there in my study of John F. Kennedy. I fell in love with the city and its restaurants and its culture.
Q: What was your favorite book in college?
The writings of Francis Parkman. I also enjoyed biographies back then.
Q: What has been your favorite book/subject to teach as a professor?
I loved teaching the New Deal and events leading up to the civil war and the 1960s perhaps because they involved my three favorite presidents--Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and Kennedy. When I taught a graduate course on the Nature of Biography, my three favorite biographies were Benjamin Thomas's Abraham Lincoln, C. Vann Woodward's Tom Watson: Agrarian Rebel, and James MacGregor Burns's Franklin Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox. These are now dated, but they are classics.
Q: What are hobbies/interest you have outside of your profession?
I am an avid but mediocre golfer.