American Greatness contributor, Erik Root, was interviewed by Rose Tennent of Rose Unplugged on AM 1250 The Answer in Pittsburgh to discuss his recent piece for “Good Taste Returns to the White House this Christmas.” The audio and a transcript of that interview are posted below.
Rose: Welcome back to the show. This is Rose on Unplugged. We’ve got a guest joining us this morning because I read what he had to say about Christmas at the White House this year, and I really liked it, and I thought, you know what? I’m definitely asking him on because remember, I want to just sprinkle a little bit of Christmas into this week because I think that’s important. So he is a writer for American Greatness. He’s also a scholar at the Grassroots Institute. His website is A-M-G, well, I should say, A-M-Greatness, amgreatness.com. Please welcome to the show, Erik Root. Good morning, Erik, how are you?
Erik Root: Good morning. Thank you very much for having me on. It’s quite a deal to be following, not only a former Oakland Raider, I heard his Christmas greeting. But it’s really tough to follow Andrew McCarthy, so …
Rose: Oh, he is-
Erik Root: … thank you very much for having me on.
Rose: You’re welcome. Andrew McCarthy is probably one of the brightest minds out there today. He really is. He’s a regular on this show. We just, we love him so much, we really do. Yeah. How about that Steeler game last night. Did you watch that? [crosstalk 00:01:39] with the Steeler game.
Erik Root: I did not watch it, though I understand that it was a wild one.
Rose: Oh, my God.
Erik Root: Pulled it out. I am originally from Los Angeles.
Rose: So you don’t care about this.
Erik Root: I am, I know I’m going to probably turn off about half the audience right now, but I’ve always been a Raider fan, so.
Rose: That’s alright. We like you.
Erik Root: What can I say?
Rose: Well, it was nice talking to you, Erik, have a great day. No, get rid of him. So listen, I love what you wrote. You had an article in American Greatness, and again, it’s amgreatness.com, and it was titled “Good Taste Returns to the White House This Christmas” and Erik, I have to tell you, when I saw the video of what the decorations look like at the White House, I posted it and I said, with great taste and elegance, just like FLOTUS, the White House has been decorated. And here you wrote this story, we are on the same page.
I thought it was so tastefully done, so beautifully done, it was just, it really- But the press, though, had a picture of this poorly lit area that was … it made it look like they were making so much fun of her decorations, and that’s really quite unfair because it really was quite beautiful, isn’t it?
Erik Root: Yeah, now, I think that the way that, now, this is, it’s mostly Melania, right?
Rose: Of course.
Erik Root: Melania is the one who took this over as most First Ladies do, and then she had certain parameters with which she wanted all the rooms and the outside of the White House as well, to follow a certain decorum. I think that the theme for this year was traditional. A traditional Christmas, which is quite a departure from everything beforehand, so when there was a lot of people in the press who, especially that hallway where they have these white limbs, if you will, that sort of arch up over the hallway so you’re walking underneath it, and it’s all lit up and all white and pretty … in some ways it looks like you’re walking through a forest of trees that has lost all its leaves, during the fall.
Rose: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Sure.
Erik Root: They, I think that some of them, I don’t remember, which one, but one of the, what I would call, so the “fake news” organizations called it something that resembled “The Shining.”
Rose: That’s such a [inaudible 00:04:08] yeah.
Erik Root: That’s just because, I think, that’s just because they, in some ways, or at least in some segments, especially in the press that we’ve lost a sense of tradition, a sense of elegance, a sense of style.
Erik Root: Anything that is edgy, to them, they love.
Erik Root: Melania and the Trumps are very classical in their tastes. Not just for Christmas. I mean, you can look anywhere. Mar-a-Lago is the southern White House. Even where he lives in the Trump Tower, I mean, there’s a sense of class in terms of traditional décor about the entire family. I think that for sure, they’re making a statement this year compared to what happened, especially the last eight years in the White House.
Rose: Erik, I liked what you did in your article. You made a comparison between style and fashion. I thought you made an excellent point, and it really does, it really does explain the differences between this White House and some of the ones previous to this White House, the decorations.
Erik Root: Right, well there’s, I think I mentioned Adam, Adam Flusser, who is a men’s style author, and let me put it this way to give everyone a visual. If you … there’s a difference in the way that we dress. There are some people who dress like trendy, and now, that’s fashion. Fashion changes.
Erik Root: It’s not necessarily elegant. It’s fit and hip with the times. But I would hasten to guess that anybody who looked at, say, Frank Sinatra, or Dean Martin, or Fred Astaire in particular, and looked at those old pictures and they dressed. Those guys never go out of style. It’s always something elegant about the way that they put themselves together. The same thing is true, I think …
Rose: That’s interesting, yeah.
Erik Root: … in the way that we decorate our homes. Or decorate the White House, or even build our homes. There’s a sense of proportion, order, that transcends the times. I don’t think whether the way, whether you look at Frank Sinatra or whether you even look at the decorations that Melania put together in the White House, these things are beautiful to us, I think, because they are timeless …
Rose: Well said.
Erik Root: … in what they convey, and what they are trying to represent.
Rose: Beautifully said. I thought that was so well said, Erik. I really appreciated that because I think a lot of us can really, we understand that. We really do. Because many times, as women we make choices based on what’s trendy versus what’s stylish and traditional, and that will get us through. We pick a couple of trendy items but then at the same time, there are many items that are staples in our closet, so I thought that was well said.
Let’s take a look at the Obama Christmas trees over the years, and one of the things that was missing in terms of part of the decoration, that is now visible again, front and center at this White House.
Erik Root: Well, it’s funny, I’ve got those pulled up right now. One of the most, I have to say, the most hideous …
Erik Root: … [inaudible 00:07:49] way to put it, was the state dining room. I think it was in 2016 the Obamas put together a couple of trees. I believe I mentioned them in the article. It’s interesting the way they decorated. The trees that I’m thinking of in particular, and you can see them if you Google this, is they took the trees in and put … they look like cakes. It’s like they changed the trees to such a way to make them something other than …
Rose: A tree.
Erik Root: … a Christmas tree. They have these three, almost like three tables to bustle up the tree, and on the tables they have all sorts of ornaments. It’s very cluttered. Then there’s one particular picture, I think it’s on one of the news websites, has a picture of the state dining room under the Obama years, and there’s two trees flanking a fireplace. The fireplace is very minimally adorned, unlike if you look at the way Melania has done everything, she has garlands flowing over the mantles, down to the floor, wrapped around. It’s very ornate but simple.
In the Obama 2016 one, they, it’s almost like they seek to change nature itself. They changed the trees into something that they’re not, and then they clutter everything up with just a bunch of stuff so you don’t, you really can’t focus on the ornaments themselves.
In contrast, what Melania and the White House did this year is they certainly adorned the trees with ornaments and what not, but the trees are trees. I mean, there is nothing on them that suggests that they’re anything but a tree, and they attempt to beautify that tree with appropriate but not overdone ornamentation, if that makes sense.
Rose: It does. I loved it. It was elegant, in my mind. It was just beauty. It was beauty. You’re right, when they had the white limbs in the one area with the white lights on it, one of the things I love about wintertime in Pennsylvania, is after a snow, all the leafless limbs of the trees are sparkling with that white snow on them, and it is the most beautiful picture. It is the most beautiful picture.
Erik Root: Yeah.
Rose: So I get that. Yeah.
Erik Root: There’s a sense in everything that they’ve done, whether it’s the Grand Foyer, or that part of the, I think it’s the east one, one with the east cross, eastern hall, hallways, where it’s very … there’s elegance and simplicity, right? There’s … you can describe beauty much better if you do it in a non-busy, appropriate way. Not sparse, in a way that everything’s adorned, but you can … it’s not busy, if you will.
What they did in that hallway with those limbs and also in the Grand Foyer where they have trees with, it looks like there’s snow around them, is they have given a sense of solemnity, so just exactly what you were saying. There’s something about a snowfall, and everything’s quiet.
Rose: Yes. I always love that.
Erik Root: You’re usually lost in your thoughts, and that could be contemplative of the time of the year.
Erik Root: Christ and well, whatever religious tradition you might have in that regard, or it could be about anything. I think there’s something about the Trump White House in terms of how they decorated, that encourages a sense of reflection, not only maybe about the season and why we do this holiday, why we still celebrate this holiday.
Rose: Erik, one of the things, ’cause we only have a couple of minutes, there are two things that you pointed out that this White House does have a … they do display the crèche, which we haven’t seen for a while there, and it is, I’m sorry, but that is Christmas. Even Donald Trump’s address, Christmas address, during the lighting of the Christmas tree, it was so full of the reason for the season, it was so beautiful. It was so … and you suggest that part of this friendlier demeanor and the décor, may have to do with Melania’s background and where she comes from.
Erik Root: Yeah, I think that, I mean, we don’t … I’m not sure if we really know what she is, but if she, I mean in terms of her faith. What I mean by that is this. She’s probably Orthodox. I’m not sure.
Rose: You don’t know, that’s right.
Erik Root: At least, has some understanding of the Eastern Orthodoxy, which is the eastern side of the entire west, the entire Christendom, and the western side of course, would be Catholicism. I think that in particular, the way she adorned the White House, and this was her, this was her doing, putting the wreaths at the center of every single window on the White House, which I’m not sure has ever been done.
Rose: Oh, that’s so beautiful. I love it.
Erik Root: Maybe, never had it been done in a very long time. Represents, the wreath represents the circle of the unending Christian faith, and the red bows have a particular …
Rose: Everlasting life.
Erik Root: … representation of everlasting life, and there’ a reflection there on Christ in the shedding of the blood, of course. Placing those on every single window outside the White House is so elegant in its simplicity, that it conveys a powerful meaning. [inaudible 00:13:49]
Rose: Yes, yes. Very symbolic. Yes. Good point. Erik, we really appreciate you. It was a fun article and it was nice to really take a look at how it was decorated this year, the White House, and what some of those decorations might mean. Erik Root, with American Greatness. You can check him out at amgreatness.com. Have you got a Twitter account, Erik?
Erik Root: Oh, that’s the one thing I do not have. I don’t have a Twitter account but I always follow Donald Trump’s.
Rose: We do too. It’s up on my screen every single morning I come in, so I can see what he had to say today. Well, Erik, we wish you a very Merry Christmas, a wonderful holiday season, and thank you so much. Keep up the good work.
Erik Root: Thank you very much. Merry Christmas to you.
Rose: Take care, hon. Thank you. We’ll be back with more Rose Unplugged right after this.