That’s the burning question provoked by reports that Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak is scheduled to visit the White House to meet US President Donald Trump on September 12.
On the face of it, of course, this could be seen as just another in a series of the customary pilgrimages by the heads of small, insignificant nations to pay homage to the world’s most powerful personage.
And so it certainly is, at least to some extent. But Donald Trump is, to put it mildly, not your usual US President, and thus Najib possibly perceives him as a prospect for more than an exchange of the usual platitudes.
For example, the fact that Trump’s administration is under investigation for possible electoral collusion with Putin’s Russian regime probably gives Najib some hope of presidential sympathy for the fact that the US Department of Justice suspects him of complicity in massive money-laundering.
And thus some prospect that Trump, perceiving himself to be a victim of persecution, as he frequently claims to do, might feel a kind of felonious fellowship with Najib and extend him some help in dodging the attentions of the DOJ.
Not that Najib has ever himself admitted to being the ‘Malaysian Official 1’ (MO1) identified in the DOJ documents pertaining to allegations of money-laundering associated with the multi-billion-ringgit 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) swindle.
But nor has he ever given any indication of who else MO1 could possibly be, or why he summarily fired an attorney-general of Malaysia who showed signs of investigating the 1MDB matter, just as Trump similarly fired a head of the FBI for refusing to go easy on him.
Besides hoping that Trump will welcome him as a similarly put-upon partner in suspected crime, Najib also possibly hopes that he and his potential friend in the White House share common or at least somewhat similar interests in Saudi Arabia.
It was a rich Saudi prince, after all, from whom Najib claimed he had received a ‘donation’ of the billions of ringgit that investigators of 1MDB money-laundering activities discovered in his bank accounts, and Saudi Arabia was the first stop in the bizarre peace and arms-sales mission on which Trump embarked following his election to the presidency.
The Saudi connection ties-in perfectly, too, with Trump’s crusade against Islamic State, as Najib claimed that the princely ‘donation’ he received was in recognition for his strenuous efforts to combat IS.
Efforts that nobody else, as far as I know, has ever been aware of his making, diplomatically, militarily or otherwise. Quite the contrary, in fact, in light of his notorious call a couple of years ago to members of his Umno/BN regime to emulate the ‘spirit and courage of IS’ in their ‘struggle’ against the Malaysian opposition.
Najib’s false claims about ‘donations’, IS, and indeed everything else about which he ever makes public pronouncements, inevitably bring us to the core characteristic that he and Trump have in common, a propensity for pathological lying.
And, by extension, for characterizing any and every disagreement with their lies as ‘fake news’.
Though whether their shared antipathy to the truth will turn out to unite or divide them when they actually meet face-to-face for a discussion that is bound to stress the ‘con’ in conversation, remains to be seen.
My guess is that their mutual lying will prove as insuperable a barrier between them as will the other fatal character flaw they have in common, rampant narcissism.
Trump, I suspect, will despise Najib for clearly being not nearly as ‘great’ as himself, and for coming from a country that is not only less ‘great’ than the US, but contemptibly corrupt and suspiciously Islamic into the bargain.
In other words, he’ll come to the same proverbial conclusion about Najib as past US administrations have about other dubious third-world potentates, especially those so rash as to have relationships with enemies of the US, as Najib’s Malaysia so rashly does with North Korea, that ‘he may be a son of a bitch, but at least he’s our son of a bitch’.
And Najib will console himself that his people love him because he gives them signs to wave that say so; that at least the remaining hair he has on his head appears real; and that even if his First Lady may not as slim and blonde as Trump’s, Rosmah almost certainly has a far bigger collection of handbags and pink diamonds than Melania could possibly have.
But one thing I’m pretty sure Najib alias MO1 won’t get out of his forthcoming White House meeting is any reprieve from US investigations into his alleged 1MDB-related activities.
Because Trump or, if you prefer, USO1 is in a similar predicament, and it’s going to take enough of his time, energy and fakery to defend himself against charges of stealing the presidency, without having to support some third-world nobody in his efforts to beat what looks for all the world like an open-and-shut case of money-laundering.