The older I get, the better I used to be – Leo Tolstoy

A Malaysian billionaire once told me that all entrepreneurs were optimists. “We have to be,” he said. “And I think that’s why we succeed.”

I wouldn’t say Dr Mahathir, 96, is an optimist of the rose-tinted variety. I mean, he isn’t the sort of fellow who thinks a bull wouldn’t hit him because he’s a vegetarian, but he has an amazing propensity for snatching victory out of the jaws of defeat.

The ancient physician, who counted Maharaja Lela as an old friend and had never approved of J W W Birch either, might have been a tad optimistic about his party’s recent showing in the Johor state elections.

The aged medico ascribed his party’s loss to “money politics.” If he believes that, he’ll probably believe there’s light at the end of the rainbow.

His blithe assessment is reminiscent of the fellow who, while treed by a hungry lion prefers to enjoy the scenery. Dr Mahathir pointed out that despite only having about 5,000 members in Johor, his party, Pejuang, managed to garner more than 18,000 votes, which he claimed was “proof” that the party was still capable of drawing supporters.

Here’s the math: Pejuang contested in all 42 seats which means, on average, it got 438.6 votes per seat. That’s pitiable. His party didn’t just lose, it received a drubbing, with all 42 candidates losing their deposits.

Meanwhile, the wily doctor revealed that former premier Muhyiddin Yassin had recently approached him to ask for his help to regain the PM’s post.

It’s become a problem in Malaysia: if they’re not part of the solution, they’re probably running for Prime Minister.

Muhyiddin torpedoed the PH coalition he helped form by cobbling together a coalition of Malay parties to become PM in 2020. He didn’t last two years before they turned on him and threw him out.

Politics is supposedly the second oldest profession in the world, but the events of the last three years has clearly shown its resemblance to the first.

As PM, Muhyiddin was unremarkable at best. The old man, however, was scathing in his assessment of his former Cabinet colleague. He said Pejuang was “not going to support somebody who as the prime minister was as much a failure as Najib.”

What did MY expect? Tea and sympathy?

When Dr M was a teenager, history hadn’t yet been included in the school syllabus and in his 90s, he still shows no inclination to retire. At the same press conference where he dropped the bomb on MY, he was asked – hint, hint – to comment on 70-something politician Lim Kit Siang’s retirement from all forms of politics.

The crafty medic said while he “might” – note not “would” – not contest in the next general election, he “was not leaving Pejuang yet.”

“I cannot make a decision now because I have to abide by the decision of my party. So it’s something we will decide later.”

In short, he intends to remain around forever or the next 20 years, whichever comes first.