In the truest spirit of a global brand, Donald Trump has mastered the art of being as many things to as many people as possible. Specificity does you no good except to pin you down to something that someone may not like.
That's why even Trump's most fervent assertions -- build the wall, ban Muslims -- are surrounded by a cloud of probability, with the campaign or surrogates stating or implying that the positions will soften or change.
But Trump has a more obvious tell for when he's hedging: He'll simply say he's "looking at it."
On Thursday, Trump gave a speech in Manchester, N.H. Afterward, he was asked by a woman in the audience to replace Muslim TSA agents with veterans, suggesting that the Muslims might be identified by the "hebee-jabis" (hijabs) they wear. Trump's response?
"You know, and we are looking at that," he said. "And we are looking at that. We're looking at a lot of things."
I am in the camp of those who are skeptical that Trump's campaign had been "looking at" a policy of replacing demonstratively Muslim TSA agents with veterans. But the response served its purpose: The woman was no doubt pleased to have her idea considered and Trump, moving forward, doesn't have to do it.
It was reminiscent of another interaction in New Hampshire from last September. At that point, Trump was asked what he would do about alleged terrorist training camps dotting the American landscape. (This is not really a thing.)
"We're going to be looking at a lot of different things," Trump replied. "You know, a lot of people are saying that, and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening out there. We're going to look at that and plenty of other things."
Examples are simple to find. Note that all of these are in response to questions from the media or during a presidential debate.
- Dec. 6, on banning guns for those on the no-fly list: "Well, I'd certainly take a look at it. I would. I'm very strong into the whole thing with Second Amendment — but if you can't fly, and if you've got some really bad — I would certainly look at that very hard."
- Feb. 16, on suing Ted Cruz over his eligibility to run for president: "I already have a lawyer, we're looking at it very seriously, we're thinking about it."
- Mar. 10, asked to reply to an opponent's specific plan to cut the federal budget: "Well, I don't know if he's saying that. Look, I'm just saying very simply we have a country that I've never seen anything like it. I've been going over budgets and looking at budgets."
- May 5, on increasing the minimum wage: "I'm actually looking at that, because I'm very different from most Republicans. I mean, you have to have something that you can live on."
- May 11, on creating a commission on immigration: "I'm looking at it very strongly with Rudy Giuliani heading it."
- May 18, on the international climate change agreement: "I will be looking at that very, very seriously, and at a minimum I will be renegotiating those agreements, at a minimum. And at a maximum I may do something else."
- May 27, on whether or not he supported extending the Renewable Fuel Standard past 2022: "We will be looking at that."
That last one is perhaps the most perfect example. The ethanol at the heart of the renewable fuel standard was a big deal during the run-up to the Iowa caucuses (it's made from corn), and Trump's position was a politically popular one: Ethanol is good. When a reporter in North Dakota asked him about extending the RFS past 2022, that's a very different question. So it got a different response: It's on our radar.
Mind you, this is not a stupid way to approach politics. It implies a thorough, exhaustive campaign that's got everything on a big, luxurious table, and is poring over each idea with a classy magnifying glass. Over the short term, it allows Trump to juke the questioner and keep moving up field.
Will a President Trump actually ban Muslim TSA attendants? We're looking at that for our coverage. It's something we're looking at.
Honorable mention: This example of Trump looking at something isn't of the same variety as the examples above, but it's worth relaying.
On "Meet the Press" last November, Trump was asked if he would take back his claim that he'd seen Muslims celebrating on 9/11.
"The Washington Post also wrote about tailgate parties. We're looking for other articles and we're looking for other clips and I wouldn't be surprised if we found them, Chuck," Trump said to host Chuck Todd.
Then he added: "But for some reason, they're not that easy to come by."