Life's hectic for busy presidential candidates in 2016. You have to constantly visit TV studios to make sure you get lots of coverage, figure out what type of fast food you want your staffers to pick up so you can post pictures of it on social media, and decide which state is most likely to attract thousands of adoring fans and news cameras, so you can visit it next. With all that, who has time to come up with actual policies?
Lucky for all you busy White House hopefuls out there, Donald Trump is just like you, and knows that it's impossible to live up to unrealistic expectations like “not offending entire voting blocs” or “having coherent policy proposals.” He also knows that being a good presidential nominee is mostly about appearances, which is why he has developed this invaluable guide — a sequel to the Trump Guide to Getting Away With Saying Absolutely Anything — to looking like you know what you're talking about, even when life is crazy and you're just struggling to keep up with the polls that still show you might have a chance.
(Don't worry if you mess up now and again. The strategies below are designed to be used over and over so that no one ever suspects that you haven't even had time to do your homework — and most voters think these details are boring anyway. Just take it from Trump: He's been killing time for more than a year!)
1. Explain that your policies are so great that they must be kept secret
Sure, you've thought about how to defeat ISIS. Lots of bombing the hell out of them. Also sending troops, but not too many, or too few, or maybe none at all. What? You wanted more details? How are you supposed to defeat RADICAL ISLAMIC TERRORISM if you reveal how you want to defeat it? (Donald Trump does not appear to believe that ISIS is like Voldemort, and that if you call it by name it will appear.) Start by explaining to the press, “If I tell you right now, everyone else is going to say: ‘Wow, what a great idea.’ You're going to have 10 candidates going to use it and they're going to forget where it came from. Which is me.”
If this stalling tactic fails to work, namedrop famous dead leaders who also kept secrets — and who conveniently can't disagree with you. In your national security speeches, say things like, “My administration will not telegraph exact military plans to the enemy. I have often said that General MacArthur and General Patton would be in a state of shock if they were alive today to see the way President Obama and Hillary Clinton try to recklessly announce their every move before it happens — like they did in Iraq — so that the enemy can prepare and adapt.”
This strategy is an adaptation of the “As soon as I take office” move, which entails promising to reveal more details about how you plan to accomplish an end that seems impossible after you win the presidency. Saying that your policy is “to be determined” also works, as does saying that you will probably release it in the coming weeks. If people seem impatient, promise them that your plan will be “terrific” and “something so much better” than what exists now, and that part of your charm is your complete unpredictability and unwavering promise to make deals. Everyone loves surprises.
2. Live in the moment
When discussing terrorism, be sure to say that “it is time to put the mistakes of the past behind us, and chart a new course.” This tactic applies not only to your beliefs about the wrong paths charted by the Obama administration, but to all things that you once said that you no longer want to be associated with, like supporting the Iraq War or the intervention in Libya, wanting to punish women who get abortions, or basically anything else you have ever voiced an opinion on. Remember to emphasize that “she is the candidate of the past,” while you are “the campaign of the future.” This future includes all of the terrific policies you haven't yet unveiled, and none of the ones you have already talked about that you have also forgotten about already.
3. Act out an entire bad romantic comedy plot summary with your nonexistent policy
At first, you and your future policy don't know each other. But you promise to look into it, and maybe get to know it. You know from the start that it will go well, as you've had so many promising relationships with policies before. “I think people are going to find that I have not only the best policies, but I will have the biggest heart of anybody,” you say.
Despite that heart, you don't think much of immigration policy at first. Tell Fox News that “It's rough, tough, stuff. This is not love, it's other things going on.” You and immigration policy keep missing each other, because you'd rather propose things like walls and Muslim bans that would be so expensive or unconstitutional that they are best qualified as fanfic. Might opposites still attract? You keep the hope alive. Say on TV that you're “softening” on the subject and that your views on immigration had done a few cycles with a handful of fresh scent dryer sheets. In the end, however, you and policy will probably never meet, because [SPOILER], the policy wasn't ever there and you just got catfished.
4. Insist that they're just suggestions anyway
Still haven't had time — or the interest — in coming up with policies? Don't worry, just keep saying whatever pops into your head, adding the disclaimer that it's just a suggestion. That Muslim ban people are angry about? “Yeah. It was a suggestion,” you can tell Fox News. Continue with, “Look, anything I say right now, I'm not the president. Everything is a suggestion, no matter what you say, it's a suggestion.”
If you need a synonym, try saying that you are flexible instead. “No, I'm not softening my stance at all, but I'm always flexible on issues,” you could say on the same issue in May to the Today Show. “I am totally flexible on very, very many issues and I think you have to be that way.”
5. Skip to the good part
No one cares about the boring details of how presidential candidates will achieve anything anyway. Have you read any of Trump or Hillary Clinton's policy proposals (or suggestions)? Of course not. Instead of wasting time figuring out the nitty-gritty details of what you would do as president, you should spend your time conjuring the magical nirvana that the U.S. will become after you have enacted all of your secret, flexible, TBD suggestions.
Like Trump, you should release countless, detailed plans of how perfect the United States will be when you are elected — images of capitalistic utopia that far outpace any dreams offered by his opponents. In your convention speech say, “I have a message for all of you. The crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end. Beginning on January 20, 2017, safety will be restored.” Oh wow, that sounds fast! Even better: “I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created. The greatest.” You will stop crime in Chicago in a single week, and be the healthiest president who ever exists. “We're going to win so much — win after win after win — that you're going to be begging me: ‘Please, Mr. President, let us lose once or twice. We can't stand it any more.’ And I'm going to say: ‘No way. We're going to keep winning. We're never going to lose. We're never, ever going to lose.’”
If all other methods of distracting people fail, keep trying this one over and over again. It is Trump's favorite; as he wrote in The Art of the Deal, “A little hyperbole never hurts.”
“People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular ... It's an innocent form of exaggeration — and a very effective form of promotion.”