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.