Today is a crazy day. For some, it’s a day of excitement and celebration. For others, it’s a day of fear and resentment. It seems America is split down the middle and the results of this election have been tearing friends and family apart. There’s riots in the streets of D.C.; my news feed is once again flooded with negativity. I find myself somewhere in the middle of all this. I feel sympathy for those who are afraid while also feeling irritated with the overreactions; I feel happy for those who feel they have a brighter future ahead but also frustration with the insensitivity. I don’t consider myself to be educated enough on politics to necessarily have any decent opinions, but I find the global reaction of our election fascinating. In light of everything, I decided I’d get the opinion of someone thoroughly educated in government and politics. Ladies and gentlemen, an interview with my father, Eric Roth.
Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
A: Sure. My name is Eric Roth, I’m Caroline’s father, I’m 51 years old and a retired military officer. Pretty much my background is I went to West Point for undergraduate, got a civil engineering degree, then served in the army for about five years as a combat engineer. Then I went to law school at the University of Virginia. After graduating, I went into the airforce as a judge advocate general and spent 18 years in the airforce. I spent a lot of time leading legal offices, prosecuting criminals in the airforce, and working in the field of international relations. I am currently a professor at Colorado Mountain College and teach the history of U.S. foreign policy. In my last job I was the deputy legal advisor to the chairman of joint chief of staff.
Q: So in layman’s terms, you advised to Obama’s legal advisor?
Q: So, without going into too much detail, what was it like working in the pentagon? What kind of things did you work on?
A: It was pretty interesting. Basically, if you read the news paper every morning and you see an article that’s dealing with the military (like CNN, NYT, etc.), then most likely, I was working on that. I dealt with drone strikes, sexual assaults, detainees at Guantanamo Bay, LGBT issues, high profile criminals, stuff like that.
Q: Did you feel like the news accurately represented things you worked on?
A: Sometimes the news got it right, sometimes it would get the facts wrong, sometimes the spin would seem right, and sometimes it would seem grossly inaccurate from my personal knowledge of the subject.
Q: Is there a way as a civilian to differentiate what’s real and what’s not?
A: Well, I think you just have to make sure you obtain your news from a lot of different news sources. Specifically, if you obtain your news from a left leaning news source, you should also be obtaining it from a right leaning and vice versa. A lot of times on issues where there’s a lot of information out there and it’s not classified, then you could eventually probably synthesize the correct fact pattern and analysis. Now if it’s something that’s highly classified, then it’s hard to say.
Q: So there’s no way to know what’s real and what’s not for sure?
A: Yeah, but to tell you the truth that’s no different than when you see a news article on some crime that’s taken place anywhere in society. It’s going to be skewed by the perspective of the reporter. So, when news first comes out, facts and details aren’t as clear.
Q: Cool. Alright, so that brings us to today! Today is a crazy day where we have a new POTUS and it’s obviously been making headlines. What have been your thoughts on this election? Has it been crazier than past elections?
A: I think each year the elections seem to get more and more crazy in the sense that there’s such diversified and galvanized opinions at polar opposites on every candidate, but I think that’s probably due to the proliferation of social media, Facebook, and talk shows where as at one point the majority of Americans just got their news from maybe one hour news programs and news papers.
Q: Do you think it’s better that people are getting more information now and do you think people are becoming enlightened? Or do you think people in power might be taking advantage of this?
A: I think for a level minded person who is able to digest vast amounts of news, it keeps them better informed. However, most people don’t have much time to digest the news or don’t have the educational or political background to understand all the subjects, so I think it refers more to sensationalism. So, I think there’s a real possibility here that people divert more to sensationalism and emotions to form their opinions in politics and become highly galvanized in those opinions and become very opinionated about it and I think in some ways that may serve as a detractor because it doesn’t lead to rational discourse, it just leads to emotional opinions people have based on very little critical analysis of the facts behind those opinions.
Q: Ok, so obviously people have been freaking out about Donald Trump. They think the environment is screwed, people are going to be deported; basically that he’s just generally a bad person and unqualified to be running the country. What are your thoughts on what makes a good president?
A: Well I think what makes a president great is a couple different areas. One, it’s whether or not that president is able to stand on the bully pulpit and galvanize public opinion and push the public towards a certain area. Two, I think the president has to be a good leader and has to pick good cabinet members who can actually effectuate the policies. And three, the president has to bring together democrats and republicans and people of all different opinions and come to some sort of a result as opposed to grid lock.
Q: So, what do you think the United States needs to work on the most? More specifically, what do you think is the biggest problem facing America today?
A: For the average American, economics, or the pocketbook, is what most voters care about. The rich have gotten far richer and the middle class has shrunk. We need to get to an America where the middle class makes up the vast majority and wields most of the power. I think now there’s a large group of elites on the top making a lot of money and there’s large groups of people who aren’t making money and those two groups wield disproportionate power over the middle class.
Q: I see. So, who is someone in government, past or present, that you feel was good for America?
A: Teddy Roosevelt because he was so all encompassing, whether it was protecting the environment by establishing national parks, or with the “speak softly and carry a big stick” which reflected American power and American might so that America was a respected country. Also, the fact that he looked out for the little guy while also looking out for big business interests so that America could expand. He just hit everyone. He was a very wealthy person but he connected with the common man,
Q: Awesome. So to wrap up, is there give one piece of advice to people that are fearful about the Trump presidency?
A: I would say to not become so emotional about it. Politics is all about moving the needle but there’s great inertia within politics. So if a left leaning president comes into power, they may talk about a lot of left leaning ideas but will only be able to move the needle a little bit to the left if they’re effective. I think the key is just look at the president, give them a chance, and see what he or she accomplishes and see where it goes. Don’t worry that the needle will be pushed too much to the left or right. They may be able to push it a little if they’re effective but if they’re truly effective they’ll be able to push the needle forward on a lot of issues that aren’t necessarily left or right. Issues like economic prosperity and defense for the vast majority of Americans. Those to me are the most important issues; keep the pocketbook safe and keep the home safe. These aren’t necessarily democratic or republican issues. These are issues right in the middle and if the president can succeed a little on these issues, one shouldn’t get too worried about the left or right. If you look at the history of presidents of the United States, you’ll see that the needles swings back and forth from the democrats to the republicans. America pretty much stays in the center.