Governor Scott Walker was in London recently and was asked the following question:
“Are you comfortable with the idea of evolution? Do you accept it?”
Here’s how Walker replied:
“I’m going to punt on that one.”
“That’s a question a politician shouldn’t be involved in one way or the other. So I’m going to leave that up to you.”
And then finally he said, “I love the evolution on trade in Wisconsin, and I’d like to see a bigger evolution as well.”
From a political standpoint, his final ‘evolution on trade” answer was the best. By using the moderators own words, Walker was seemingly answering the question, at least at some level. And that answer could have been judged a skillful dodge.
However, the problem for Walker is that he started with “I’m going to punt on that one.” That is the equivalent of telling a reporter “You’ve caught me with my pants down and we’ve both know you’ve got me.” That is always a bad answer for a politician because the “punt” word is so quotable. When you say you are “punting” you are using emotion, action, analogy and cliche. You are guaranteeing that reporters will quote you looking foolish-never a good thing for politicians.
Walker’s other answer “That’s a question a politician shouldn’t be involved in one way or the other,” is patently absurd. Given the politics surrounding global warming, stem cell research and other science issues, it is obviously quite interesting and relevant to at least some voters what stance a politician has on foundational science issues like evolution. From a media training standpoint, it was an awful answer because it is telling the reporter that his question was somehow out of bounds. This is a media training blunder: the second you try to tell a reporter that a question is somehow not relevant and is somehow inappropriate, you have just convinced the reporter that the question is relevant, fair and now deserves headline exposure.