The more smug, the less convincing

Over the past several years, I have noticed the more smug* a politician, pundit or public official is when they push back on an issue, the less convincing they are with their argument. The tactic is used to overwhelm the interviewer in a condescending manner, making them look stupid for daring to differ or ask a question.

Our new administration and its supporters seem to be using smugness as a weapon of defense more than any other group I have witnessed. And, as I have noted before, I believe organizations take on the personality of their leader, so they are taking their cue from our President. When caught in a lie, it is never (or as close to never as possible) Trump’s fault or he will try to convince you it is not a lie.

Whether it is Spicer, Conway, Miller, Preibus, Bannon or other officials who have been interviewed, the smugness is brought out like a weapon. “How dare you ask that question or think that way?” is the manner intentionally used to belittle the interviewer.

Yet, the elephant that cannot be ignored in the room is their boss has a very hard time with the truth. During the campaign he is on record as lying about 70% of the time per fact checkers. Not ironically, the fact checkers have revealed he is lying about 70% of the time as President. And, even during his more presidential speech, he had eight or so major misstatements, not to mention the little embellishments. Sadly, this was a prepared speech which could have edited out these misstatements.

But, none of this is new. He has worked with six authors to write biographies and his most popular book, “The Art of the Deal.” In a group interview these authors have noted the man treats truth as a commodity. And, an attorney who worked with him said he lies all of the time, even about inconsequential things. This attorney was amazed at how routine the lying was, especially as he stiffed contractors – Trump would say it was due to bad service, but the frequency of stiffing folks was too common for that to be correct so many times.

So, the next time Trump or one of his spokespeople pulls out the “smug” weapon, listen even more carefully to what is being said and the opinions and questions of the interviewer. Smug does not make you right, it just means you are smug. With a 70% rate of untruthfulness, the odds are the boss is not right and should not be so smug.


*Smug is defined as:

having or showing an excessive pride in oneself or one’s achievements:
“he was feeling smug after his win”

synonyms: self-satisfied · self-congratulatory · complacent · superior ·


pleased with oneself · conceited

14 thoughts on “The more smug, the less convincing

  1. The epitome of arrogance is Sean Spicer’s comment that the folks trying to get to the bottom of this web of lies, collusion with the Kremlin, perjury by the AG should be ashamed of themselves. Wonderful article Keith and oh so true.

    • Holly, Spicer has not been the paragon of truth. From his initial foray with the press when he was sent out by the President to explain that the inauguration crowd was larger than that of other Presidents, he has been belligerent, as well as smug. It has been so bad at times to not need much caricature to be comical. I do not see him lasting too long under this President. He will either see the light and quit or will be fired, because he did not defend his thin-skinned, egotistical boss enough. If I were in the press room, I would ask, “do you really expect us believe that response?” Keith

      • I wish you wre there :). Fear plays a big part in the actions of Spicer and the backing off of the press. I hope our free press will continue to uncover and follow the leaks , our only means of getting to the bottom if what is going on in the White House, DOJ, and the stonewalling by our FBI. I always assumed we had checks and balances , now I find the people’s hands are tied in this takeover by the Republican Mafia.

      • Holly, you are right about the fear. He portrays being a bully at these conferences. Having seen him before the election, I thought he was a poor choice play this role. Melissa McCarthy was genius in her portrayal on SNL.

        I was very pleased with comments of George W. Bush, who has appeared very presidential in his recent interviews, regarding the need for a free press. These echo want a former Navy Seal and orchestrator of the Bin Laden raid said about the free press. From where I sit, the smug crowd noted above is the biggest purveyor of fake news in the US. Keith

  2. Smugness and going on the offense when asked a question, turning the question around … all signs that the speaker is either lying, else has no clue what he/she is talking about. I would call this bunch a ‘nest of vipers’, but that would be an insult to vipers. Good post, Keith!

    • Jill, the turnaround question is frustrating, as it usually means exactly what you described. I saw someone try to say that is not what Sessions meant, but what I heard and read he added the phrase that he has not met with any Russians, without caveat. That would make what he said a lie. In fairness, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan were good Presidents, but they lied about Bill’s infidelity and Ron’s Iran-Contra affair. Yet, our current President is different, as the truth is more the exception.

  3. Note to Readers: I was never a huge fan of William Buckley and Gore Vidal for their smugness, even though, both had positions on issues that were well grounded. I often found their arguments in person and in writing to be lessons to convince the listener or reader how smart they were. Yet, the smugness used by many of the folks noted above is more aggressive as if to bully the interviewer. At least you knew Buckley and Vidal were well read and smart, so their smugness was more intellectual.

  4. Yes, Trump’s lies are different … the underlying purpose is somehow darker, more than simply CYA, but manipulation of press and public … and his lies cover far more territory than either Clinton’s affairs, or the Iran-Contra affair. Almost any topic seems to be an excuse to cook up another layer of lies and deceit, from the irrelevant size of the inaugural crowd to relations with Russia to a non-existent healthcare replacement. If, as Politifact has said, 70% of everything he says is a lie, how are we to know which 30% is true? We can’t, therefore we must assume it is all a lie.

    • Jill, your conclusion is sound. I do not believe a word the man says, and build from there. The odds are with me. Unfortunately, too many believe every word this man says. That is truly a shame as the people with little voice have believed he will help them. The Guardian has a piece today on African-Americans and Hispanics bearing the brunt of his environmental rules reductions. Keith

  5. Dear Keith,

    Thanks for your blog. DT and his cronies probably think that the display of humility is for losers only. I never thought that I would ever say these words, I miss President Bush.

    Ciao, Gronda

    • Gronda, per Holly and my discussion above, W has been very statesman-like of late. I have to go back to Nixon to find a President so controlling and look where it got him. I think we had discussions back in November, for such an inexperienced person, he should have surrounded himself with people who knew what they were doing. While he made a few good picks, his closest advisors are novices and negative people. So, they berate everyone who dare question him. This Russian onion is revealing even more layers. And, the more beligerent they are convinces me something is amiss. Tonight, David Brooks said the answers may be in his tax returns. Keith

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