Commenting on Trump policy without taking a stand

Don’t try this at home.

I have a weekly analysis spot on KQV News Radio in Pittsburgh, where I examine Middle East news, events, and issues. In the latest one, host Bruce Sakalik asked me to comment on President Trump’s order temporarily stopping citizens of seven mostly Islamic nations from entering the United States.

Here’s the problem.

Of course I have strong views on the issue as a matter of principle. But as an old-fashioned journalist, even as an analyst–I don’t think it’s my role to expound my views on the radio, or anywhere else in public. I believe it’s destructive to my actual role, which is to bring new thinking into the conversation about Mideast issues. For that to happen, I have to maintain credibility with my listeners/readers. If I take a stand for or against one of Trump’s policies, I lose half my audience forever, and the other part listens with half an ear, nodding, agreeing and forgetting. Forever. There is no going back from that.

A friend who has been reading my articles for many years observed a while back, “I don’t know whether you are Right or Left.” Correct. I’m not ideological in my writing. I’m actually ambidextrous, but that’s a whole other issue.

A journalist who takes a public stand on a political issue in public loses his credibility. I don’t do it, never have, never will. I have never marched in a demonstration or signed a petition. Never have, never will. I have, indeed, moved to Israel, and I am, indeed, an Orthodox Jew, but as you can see from my posts here and my reporting for the last 45 years, those facts don’t dictate my writing, either. I’ve written that this approach is vital to the future of journalism and the future of democracy.

So here’s my analysis of how the Mideast is reacting to the Trump ban. You be the judge of whether I succeeded.

And while I have your attention, here’s the latest from Nancy Youssef at the Pentagon–where they’re trying damage control.

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