Ex-Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz 'seriously' mulls presidential run, bashes Trump as 'not qualified'

Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz told CBS News' "60 Minutes" Sunday that he is "seriously thinking" of making a run for the White House in 2020 as a "centrist independent," decrying what he called "revenge politics" by both mainstream political parties.

"We're living at a most fragile time, not only the fact that this president is not qualified to be the president, but the fact that both parties are consistently not doing what's necessary on behalf of the American people," said Schultz, who specifically cited the spiraling national debt as "a reckless example, not only of Republicans, but of Democrats, as well, as a reckless failure of their constitutional responsibility."

Late Sunday, The New York Times reported that Schultz would spend the next three months traveling around the country promoting his new book "From the Ground Up: A Journey to Reimagine the Promise of America" before he makes a final decision about whether or not to run. He has stops this week in New York; Tempe, Arizona; Seattle; and San Francisco — but no dates listed for the early voting states of Iowa or New Hampshire.

Hours before the "60 Minutes" interview aired, Schultz sent his first message on Twitter, where he's had an account since September 2012.

"It feels good to be here," he wrote. "My hope is to share my truth, listen to yours, build trust, and focus on things that can make us better."

Schultz tweeted again after the interview aired, writing: "This moment is like no other. Our two parties are more divided than ever. Let’s discuss how we can come together to create opportunities for more people."

The prospect of an independent run by Schultz, who described himself as a "lifelong Democrat" and has given approximately $150,000 to Democratic campaigns over the years, has caused consternation among the party's establishment who fear he might siphon votes from whoever the Democrats nominate to challenge President Trump.

"Howard Schultz running as an independent isn’t about bringing people together," said Tina Podlodowski, the Democratic Party chair in Schultz's adopted home state of Washington, in a statement late Sunday. "It’s about one person: Howard Schultz."

Neera Tanden, the president of the liberal Center for American Progress, tweeted Saturday that she would boycott Starbucks if Schultz threw his hat into the presidential ring.

"Vanity projects that help destroy democracy are disgusting," she wrote. " ... I’m not giving a penny that will end up in the election coffers of a guy who will help Trump win."

On "60 Minutes," Schultz deflected a question from interviewer Scott Pelley about the possibility of playing spoiler for a Democratic nominee.

"I wanna see the American people win," he said. "I wanna see America win. I don't care if you're a Democrat, Independent, Libertarian, Republican. Bring me your ideas. And I will be an independent person, who will embrace those ideas. Because I am not, in any way, in bed with a party."

No third-party or independent candidate has won over five percent of the popular vote since Ross Perot in 1996, but Schultz said far more people than that have had it with both parties.

"What we know, factually, is that over 40 percent of the electorate is either a registered Independent or currently affiliates themselves as an Independent," Schultz said, "because the American people are exhausted. Their trust has been broken. And they are looking for a better choice."


Schultz criticized Trump for pulling out of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, which he called a "tremendous mistake" and slammed the administration's aggressive trade policy and outwardly ambivalent stance toward multinational alliances.

"Is it in our national interest to have a fight with Mexico, Canada, the EU, China, NATO? Is it in our interest?" he said. "Give me a break. No, it's not in our interest. These are our friends. These are our allies. We are much better, as a country, being part of the world order."

On paper, Schultz offers a number of qualities that might appeal to voters. He grew up in public housing in Brooklyn, N.Y., and became the first person in his family to graduate from college.

He took over Starbucks when it sold only coffee beans, not cups — it had 11 stores and fewer than 100 employees at the time — and grew it into a global behemoth that now has close to 30,000 stores in 78 countries. Along the way he adopted an ethos of corporate responsibility, making Starbucks one of the earliest U.S. companies to offer stock options and health insurance even to part-time employees, and more recently partnering with Arizona State University to cover tuition for workers who want to earn their bachelor's degree online.

He's waded into contentious social issues. In 2013, Starbucks asked customers not to bring guns into stores following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, and in 2015, Schultz drew anger and ridicule after he urged baristas to write "Race Together" on cups to spark conversations amid tension over police shootings of black men. Last year, after two black men were arrested in a Philadelphia Starbucks while waiting for a business meeting, Starbucks closed 8,000 U.S. stores early so employees could take anti-bias training.


However, some of his views might clash with a Democratic Party gearing up to unseat Trump. While some potential nominees, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and California Sen. Kamala Harris, have endorsed single-payer health care, heavily taxing the rich or free tuition at public colleges, Schultz has criticized some such proposals as unrealistic and instead emphasized expanding the economy and curbing entitlements.

"It concerns me that so many voices within the Democratic Party are going so far to the left," Schultz told CNBC last June. "I ask myself, 'How are we going to pay for all these things?' in terms of things like single-payer or people espousing the fact that the government is going to give everyone a job. I don't think that's realistic."

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.