There needs to be new ground rules for the way Gov. Rick Scott handles questions from news reporters.
The current practice is an embarrassment for everyone involved.
Like nearly every other politician, Scott doesn't give straight answers to tough questions.
He's not alone in answering a hard question by changing the subject. But his technique is downright awful.
You could pluck a random village council member from any one-stoplight town in Florida, and he or she would demonstrate a greater sophistication than Scott in giving non-answer answers to reporters' questions.
Scott's method of obfuscation is woefully lacking in grace. Which is embarrassing for Florida.
By the time politicians reach the governor level, they ought to be able to non-answer a question in a way that's artful enough to fool the reporter into thinking the question was actually processed and responded to in a thoughtful manner, even if it wasn't.
But Scott's technique in doing this is almost non-human. First of all, while the question is asked, Scott's face undergoes a frightening transformation.
His eyes bulge and an his mouth opens into what starts as a smile, but morphs into an unintentional impression of that Weekly World News character, Bat Boy.
Scott's advisers must have told him to just smile his way through his non-answers. But I'm guessing they never read the Weekly World News.
Then when it's time for Scott to answer, it becomes clear that he has already been fed a single response on the issue. No matter how the question is asked, only one response comes out.
Just about everybody else in elected office has developed a repertoire of several different ways to non-answer a question. These usually start with, "I'm glad you asked me that question," or, "That's a great question."
But Scott's running on simple circuitry.
It's as if somebody has programmed one line into a box implanted in his back, like one of those pull-string dolls. And then the moment the tough question is asked, somebody behind him pulls the string.
And like the doll, it's impossible to get anything out that hasn't been pre-loaded. So it doesn't matter how many ways reporters find to rephrase the question. The same line spews out mechanically each time.
A recent example of this happened this month when the Scott campaign invited a bunch of uniformed police officers to stand behind the governor for a campaign event in Tampa.
Some of the officers later said they thought they were summoned to the event to provide security, not to stand behind Scott for a photo op for his campaign.
It's illegal for public employees to participate in political events during working hours.
Reporters later tried to ask Scott about whether he knew that he was using on-duty officers for his campaign event. But all they got was the Bat Boy impersonation and the same scripted non-answer in response to the four attempts made in asking the question.
"I'm very proud last week, the police chiefs endorsed me," Scott's answer began. "I'm very proud that 40 sheriffs endorsed me. I'm very proud of all of the support of law enforcement."
It's that way for all tough questions. Just one scripted non-answer delivered as many times as the question is re-asked.
It has gotten so bad that Scott is now getting questions about the way he answers questions.
"Why do you think you have a reputation for not answering questions?" a reporter asked him this week.
"I answer questions. I have the opportunity to talk to the media a lot," Scott answered. "I love traveling the state. I talk to people all over the state. It's an exciting time to be in Florida."
It's not a very exciting time for reporters who have to put up with a pull-string governor at the other end of their questions.
And it's not doing Scott any favors either.
His lackluster performance in answering questions went national this week, when CNN's Anderson Cooper showed a clip of Scott in action as part of Cooper's "Ridiculist" segment.
"It doesn't really work," Cooper said of Scott's method. "It just insults everybody's intelligence."
So I have a solution.
Scott needs to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination on all questions asked by reporters.
He's got some practice doing this. So he'll probably come off more genuine.
And after listening to Scott plead the fifth a few times, reporters will realize there's no sense wasting their time with follow-up questions.
It will be so much more dignified that way -- and just as informative.
Frank Cerabino, writes for The Palm Beach Post. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.