x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Why I'm backing The Donald’s bid to be president

Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor explains why he is backing Donald Trump in the US presidential race

Donald Trump answers a question at the first official Republican presidential candidates debate in Cleveland, Ohio. Brian Snyder / Reuters
Donald Trump answers a question at the first official Republican presidential candidates debate in Cleveland, Ohio. Brian Snyder / Reuters

When real estate magnate and television personality Donald Trump announced his intention to run for US president, he was not taken seriously. There was a tendency to think that it was little more than a PR attention-grabber. Jokes about this larger-than-life character permeate social media. It is true that he does not fit the presidential mould, due to his propensity to shoot from the hip and his colourful background, but I would argue that that is a good thing.

The Bushes, Clintons and Barack Obama all fit the usual bill in terms of Ivy League educations and sterling career paths, but all have embroiled the US in unnecessary conflicts at great cost to the nation in terms of lives and money. Mr Obama has weakened what was once considered the most successful economic and political powerhouse on the planet with his dithering and poor decision-making that has alienated many of America’s hitherto staunch allies. He may possess an unusually high intellect, but what the US needs is not a thinker but a fearless doer.

America no longer inspires the world nor is capable of leading by example. Mr Obama has led from behind. If anyone is to blame for the rise of ISIL and the confused mess in which the Syrian people find themselves, then Mr Obama fits the bill by default. He has worn blinkers when it suited him and, worse, when he signed up to the Iran nuclear deal, he placed the Middle East and the Gulf in grave danger from an enriched, empowered and legitimised Tehran. He has dashed the hopes of the Palestinian people with unfulfilled promises and, although he was once an activist in the civil rights movement, he has done little to stem institutional racism that, if anything, has risen on his watch.

Presidential candidates say the things America wants to hear, but as soon as they get their feet through the Oval Office door, they bin their pledges to become almost clones of their predecessor, especially with regards to foreign policy. They morph into members of the establishment and put themselves under the influence of lobbies and vested interests.

There is no guarantee that, as president, Mr Trump would not also do so, but so far he has shown himself to be his own man. He believes in bringing back his country’s superpower status, has guts, determination and, most of all, is a true patriot.

The American people have had enough of flowery speeches, intellectual theories and empty promises. It is time that voters began scrutinising presidential candidates through a new lens, one that is serious, positive and objective. Americans should look to a candidate who possesses the necessary substance and life experience.

I believe Donald Trump could be that man – and so do many Republicans. According to a poll conducted by Monmouth University, he enjoys a more than two-to-one lead over his closest rival for the Republican nomination, Jeb Bush. Concurrently Democratic support for Hillary Clinton is slipping.

Until Mr Trump held up his hand, the field was dominated by the Bush and Clinton dynasties. Candidates flush with family money, capitalising on the family name and extensive insider and corporate connections, smash the idea of a level playing field. From either Mrs Clinton or Jeb Bush America can expect more of the same.

Then along comes “The Donald” as proof there are other options. Most US presidents come from privileged, insular backgrounds; many have come from the legal profession; few have had any real business acumen and certainly not the kind that Mr Trump has in buckets.

He is a strategist with a shrewd business mind and he has triumphantly rebounded from setbacks time and time again to emerge triumphant. He comes with economic know-how and strong relationships with world leaders and economic giants. Mr Trump is a man who wants America to be great again.

I don’t know him on a personal level but I know enough to be convinced he is the right man for the job. Americans need employment, improved living standards, opportunity, loans for small businesses and investment in infrastructure at a time when entire cities have become economic wastelands. Most of all, they want to enjoy the fruits of a healthy economy.

Mr Obama promised change and did not deliver because he trampled over his own principles to reach the top and once there, was too weak to rock the establishment boat.

With Mr Trump, what you see is what you get. Yes he has a history of stepping on toes when he says it like it is – or how he sees it – but to my mind that is one of his greatest advantages. He is a fighter and he will fight for America if he is given the chance. He is ruthless, too. He has told the Republican Party that in the event he does not get its nomination, he will run as an independent, thereby splitting the Republican vote.

He said it himself: “I love America. And when you love something, you protect it passionately – fiercely, even. We are the greatest country the world has ever known. I make no apologies for this country, my pride in it, or my desire to see us become strong and rich again.”

“Wealth funds our freedom,” he has said. There has never been a truer sentence. I can only advise US voters to reject the guys with fancy diplomas who have inherited famous names for someone who is proud of life’s battle scars, has overcome every challenge and come out a winner. America has never needed a winner in the White House as much as it does now.

Khalaf Al Habtoor is chairman of Al Habtoor Group