Smugness at all-time high? Told ya so

Friday, January 16, 2009

In spite of the Biblical injunction "Be not wise in thy own conceit," mankind faces an epidemic of smugness.

Over the years, smugness has ranged from the close-minded presumptuousness of "If God had wanted man to fly, he would've given him wings" to the comically vindictive spinster who stipulated all-female pallbearers at her funeral because "if no man would take me out while I was alive, they're not taking me out when I'm dead."

Smugness infects the Monday morning quarterbacks who chortle, "Everybody went bonkers over the Y2K crisis, and not a thing went wrong." No, nothing went wrong because companies and institutions spent years getting their computers ready for the changeover, doofus.

I was afraid fisticuffs would erupt when one of my late father's friends made the populist comment "Huh, you never hear of an insurance company going broke" and my father (who had previously worked in insurance for seven years) had the audacity to contradict him.

Lots of people "know" that we invaded Iraq 100 percent for the oil. Or that we invaded it 100 percent to finish the job that president Bush's daddy left unfinished. Or that we invaded Iraq 100 percent to benefit Halliburton. I wouldn't be too smug about those math skills.

Even as Bush prepares to leave the White House, there are still diehards who "know" (a) the Supreme Court "gave" him the presidency and (b) the U.S. would've been guaranteed international adulation, a pristine environment, and a booming economy if only Al Gore had been inaugurated.

Yes, a lot of people harbor an idealized image of Prince Albert as the proverbial "one I should have married." Would Gore have been a better husband/president? I don't know. And neither do you.

Half the electorate had misgivings about Bush in 2000, but I don't recall anyone accurately predicting Gitmo or "Mission Accomplished" or the fumbled handling of the Hurricane Katrina response. No one can accurately say what Al Gore would've done in an alternate universe where he actually got sworn in.

You could memorize Gore's voting record and interrogate those who best understand his personality and still not predict with 100 percent accuracy how he would react in any given situation. (Although, given Gore's refusal to acknowledge the glaring scientific errors in his documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," one could guess that he would be at least as bullheaded as Bush.)

We have no way of knowing if Gore could've juggled all the responsibilities of the office blindfolded, or if he would've gotten sidetracked and bogged down with one or two pet projects, such as global warming or music labeling.

Who knows how good Gore's advisers would have been? Who knows how many of Gore's appointees would have embarrassed him with some scandal? Who knows exactly how idealism and pragmatism would balance out when push came to shove in a Gore presidency? Only God knows, and (according to the guy in the second paragraph) he's too busy punishing Orville and Wilbur Wright to care.

Even if the passion for rehashing the 2000 election fades, there will still be fodder for the smug. There will always be people who know absolutely everything there is to know about the cops and unions and preachers and Yankees and Mexicans andů

Too bad smugness is never a lame duck. Smugness: the "no term limits" personality trait.

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