Flash in the pan. It is common knowledge who was the smart-alec Singapore political leader who said these infamous words in describing Mr. Barack Obama before he was elected American President. Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew appeared to be disdainful about the prospects of a black American candidate becoming an American President and true to his highfalutin character he irresistably opened his big mouth to make his disparaging portrayal of Mr. Barack Obama. Any possible repercussion arising out of his cavalier utterance could not have been further from his mind. He was apparently rooting for the white candidate Mr. John McCain and was no different from the white American supremacists who considered the election of a black American President to be apocalyptic.
As a result, the victory of Mr. Barack Obama in the American presidential election could not but bring mortification to MM Lee. That President Obama was subsequently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize within a year of taking office added to MM Lee's consternation. This was not the first time he opened his big mouth which brought embarrassment to the point of disaster. But all is not lost because MM Lee has a thick-skinned quality and can change like a chameleon. He calculated that he had to come to terms with the untenable problem sooner or later. The opportunity presented itself when he went to America to receive an award presented by the US-Asean Business Council end of October. He managed to wrangle a meeting with President Barack Obama the day after the award dinner.
That President Obama was magnanimous enough to condescend to see MM Lee warts and all could not have escaped his narrow outlook of black people. He was naturally astounded and overwhelmed when President Obama described him as "one of the legendary figures of Asia". President Obama was very liberal with his accolade to people who had been disparaging in their behaviour towards him. And MM Lee may be forgiven if he had been mesmerised by the thought that President Obama had been incredibly forgiving. This must have been so exhilarating to him that he forgot himself and made his gaffe by calling on President Obama to engage in Asia in order to counter-balance the emerging economic and military might of China. This immediately evoked a colossal uproar from the Chinese people, especially their netizens, which looked like it was going to be prolonged. But Chinese leaders very judiciously mitigated the situation, not necessarily out of any consideration for MM Lee but more likely for the overall political interests.
Can the leopard change its spots? Can MM Lee be counted on to curb his tendency of making political gaffes in future? We may see a subsidence of indiscretions on his part for a time but there is no guarantee that there will not be a recrudescence of his gaffes. This is a problem which deserves a final solution by the PAP leadership. After all, he is drawing a whopping salary for doing a nominal job.