Behind that smiling exterior these past few days is a Prime Minister who is reeling.
He knows that Malaysians and the world will never look at him in the same way again.
The best advice that Najib Razak has been getting from his phalanx of advisors, family and friends since the Loretta Lynch show ranges from the ridiculous to the surreal.
* the ridiculous
A couple of his advisors want him to cut his ties with his stepson Reza and his pal, Jho Low and throw both of the spenders-in-chief to the DoJ. This strategy conveniently forgets a few gaping holes – Reza’s mother is Rosmah Mansor and that the United States government believes that the PM is a main actor in this 1MDB drama.
So this idea of ring-fencing Najib from the muck and consequences of the alleged kleptocracy is ridiculous. It is also indicative of the type of counsel the PM has been receiving since he took the top job in 2009.
The fire has nearly burnt down the barn and his advisors want him to buy fire insurance now!
Still, ridiculous ideas are a tad better than surreal ideas.
* the surreal
Some of Najib’s supporters believe that everything will return to normal in a few weeks. These are the same people who were confident that Najib’s close ties with the Obama administration would result in the investigation into the money trail of 1MDB ending up as no further action.
His supporters believe that the storm over the DoJ’s allegations will blow over and Najib will be able to resume his position as a leader in the international arena. Here’s a short message to the dreamers: not going to happen.
There is no more avenue for plausible denial. Najib will feel isolated on the world stage by world leaders who will not want to be in the same frame as someone with this baggage.
For Najib, being deprived a place among the elite on the world stage is akin to being on death row. Time cannot be a healer. Not when the next stinging headline is around the corner.
So what’s next for Najib Razak?
When any politician is pushed to the wall, he is likely to fight back with everything in his arsenal. Expect Malaysians who have played some part in the DoJ action to be hit hard by the PM.
Umno will expect him to be ruthless and he will have to be ruthless to remind his party people and his opponents that any attempt to force him out of office will be met with the sledgehammer.
It is an open secret that China have been courting Najib, aware that Asean can kiss goodbye any hope of a united stand on the South China Sea with Putrajaya closer to Beijing.
At this moment, Najib must be feeling that China is his only friend. Expect him to move even closer to China. And expect China to do everything possible to reel Malaysia into its corner.
This is a historic opportunity for the Far East superpower to divide and split Asean and thumb their noses at the US.
But moving closer to China comes with some risks for Najib.
It may prompt the US to execute the seizure of the US$1 billion sooner rather than later and encourage Washington to take other punitive action to further diminish Najib’s standing.
No wonder, behind that exterior is a PM reeling, and clutching at straws to fight back the ignominy of being referred to as Malaysian Official 1.