When politicians don't answer questions

WASHINGTON - FEBRUARY 18: His Holiness The Dalai Lama walks up to the microphones to speak at the White House on February 18, 2010 in Washington, DC. The Dalai Lama spoke to reporters briefly after meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama for the first time. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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I gave a talk on the campus of SMU in Dallas last week and I got the question I always get: "Why is it so hard to get politicians to answer a question anymore?"

Well, here is why:

In this age of sophisticated information management and consultant-driven politics where everyone has a media coach and a strategy guru, it is all the vogue in public relations to tell your client, "Here are a couple of answers. No matter what you're asked, just give these answers."

Well, I hate to hurt your feelings, candidates, but you're paying good money for bad advice.

I don't give advice myself, but here is a news bulletin: Our viewers are pretty smart. When you don't answer a question, they know it, and they don't like it. They think you're slick (at best), evasive and even oily.

Bulletin number two: No one ever got elected because people thought they were evasive.

As a rule, I never ask the same question more than twice. I don't have to. A non-answer becomes an answer, and it never reflects well on the non-answerer ...

... Which brings me to bulletin number three: If you want to come on "Face the Nation" and look bad, be my guest!

Former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn was always my favorite "Face the Nation" guest because sometimes when I would invite him to be on the broadcast, he would just say, "Thanks, but I really have nothing to say this week."

Sam Nunn was not just a fine senator, he also won every political race he ever entered.

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    Bob Schieffer is a CBS News political contributor and former anchor of "Face The Nation," which he moderated for 24 years before retiring in 2015.