Howard Schultz, Former Starbucks Chairman & CEO who is giving serious thought to an independent run for the presidency as a "centrist independent", joined Fox News Radio's Guy Benson & Marie Harf to talk about his vision for the country and how he'd govern if he decides to run and is elected.
Marie Harf: [00:00:00] Welcome back to Benson and Harf on this Thursday evening. We are happy you are with us tonight. Guy and I are both in Washington D.C. and that song is apparently according to some research our team did. Our next guests favorite song. So we hope our team got it right. Summer Wind that's a classic like Frank love. Oh good. OK. Thank you so much so that voice you just heard everyone that is Howard Schultz the former Starbucks chairman and CEO. He is giving serious thought to an independent run for the presidency. He's also the author of From the Ground Up A Journey to reimagine the promise of America. And we are very glad he is on the show with us tonight. Howard I want to start with the big political news of the day and that is former congressman Beto O'Rourke jumping in the race as many people thought he would. We want to get your reaction to that. Do you think he has what it takes to be president.
Howard Schultz: [00:00:52] Well I don't know Beto O'Rorke I think obviously this is something that was expected. I think he will add a lot to the conversation. So many people in the Democratic field it's hard to know who's going to emerge but I think his voice will be welcome and I look forward to hearing what he has to say and his vision for the country. However somebody who has watched how the Democratic Party has moved so far to the left I'm very dubious and concerned with the far left leaning what I would categorize socialistic agenda I don't think is consistent with the mass majority of the American people.
Guy Benson: [00:01:34] All right well let's pick up on that and thanks for being here. Speaking of the Democrats so I've read a few quotes from you throughout this process as you're considering running. And you said at one point quote "Nobody wants to see this president meaning Donald Trump leave office more than me". And you also said that if you decided to run in at some point the data convinced you that you were just playing a spoiler role that would help President Trump get reelected you would get out of the race. Is there a better way to ensure the president leaving office than just voting for whomever the Democrats nominate. And I guess the follow up to that question Howard is is there anyone in the democratic process right now for 2020 then primary that you would not vote for over Donald Trump if you were not in the race.
Howard Schultz: [00:02:22] Well let me try and answer the complexity of that question. First and foremost I'm engaged in this process because of my love of the country and my profound concern about the direction and the fragile nature of this moment in time. I've engaged in this process because not that I'm running. If I do run against the Democratic Party if I do run I'm running because the two party system at the extremes are steeped in ideology self-interest and self-preservation and do not represent the majority of the American people. Having said that is 18 months away. It's way too early to decide whether or not who's going to be who's going to have the nomination. But the spoiler in this race is not going to be Howard Schultz the spoiler in this race is If a Democratic person is the nominee who is embracing the platform of free Medicare free college a job for everybody a Green New Deal these kinds of proposals that are 50 60 trillion dollars on top of the 22 trillion dollar debt that both parties are complicit in. That's the spoiler. And if that person is in the race Donald Trump will get reelected. What I'm trying to do and what I'm inspired by is I've been traveling the country come to the country for the last five weeks I'm in Tampa. It was in Miami yesterday. All last week in Texas next week in Colorado I'm meeting Americans who are telling me exactly what I believe and that is they feel unrepresented they've lost trust in our government and our leaders and they want a new solution. When you have a situation where 80 percent of the country wants to see legislation passed with regard to immigration gun legislation tax a whole situation in which we do not need comprehensive tax reform that we can't get it. And these are the kinds of programs that both parties are not willing to compromise collaborate or any way engage with each other on behalf of the American people. That's why I'm engaged in this process as a centrist trying to create commonsense solutions for the American people.
Guy Benson: [00:04:39] Look I get that and I respect that and I actually share a number of the concerns that you just expressed and our listeners know that's how I feel and one of the things that I appreciate most about your promo campaign if we can call it that is your attention to the national debt and at least being a clarion voice for fiscal reality and sanity and seems like neither party is there right now. It's deeply frustrating. But again just to reiterate the second part of my question if it did come down to the two major parties Donald Trump and let's say Bernie Sanders you were sort of describing someone like him and you were not in the race at that point. Are you inclined to vote for Trump or Sanders.
Howard Schultz: [00:05:21] You know voting is a very private sacred situation. I'm not going to publicly say who I might vote for. I will say this if it comes down to Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders the country's going to have a very very poor choice a worse choice than we had in 2016 when 100 million Americans did not vote. And I also believe if that's the choice Donald Trump probably gets reelected. And I think that will be tragic for the country.
Marie Harf: [00:05:51] I certainly share Howard you're feeling that that would be tragic for the country. Believe me I very firmly believe that we are in a moment that requires sort of drastic political action on everyone's part. I want to ask you about what four presidential candidates is usually the first major decision they make as a candidate that people look to in terms of their leadership style their management style how they would actually govern. And that's picking a vice president. And I think in order to be on the ballot in a number of states there has to be a complete ticket a president and a vice president. What are you looking for what would you be looking for in a vice presidential running mate. And would you like to compliment you know someone who's a little more conservative maybe someone who's a little more liberal someone who's not from the business world. What are the kinds of things you would look for.
Howard Schultz: [00:06:44] Well let me clarify what you said. So ever so your listeners understand if we proceed. We've done the work. And I can say unequivocally will we will be on the ballot of all 50 states. And you're correct in about 32 states we would have to name the vice president what I said yesterday in a public speech at Miami Dade College is that if I run for president and I'm fortunate to be elected my cabinet administration would be the most diverse the most bipartisan Republican Democrat independent and I would have more women on the cabinet than anyone has ever run for president in the history of the country. It's too early to tell you who that vice president would be but what I would want is someone who has the the moral character and the humility and the experience to be the president the United States has the leadership qualities to be the United States. There's no more important decision than someone could make in naming the vice president someone who has the you know I think you know what the country is suffering from right now is a lack of trust in our leaders in institutions and in government. The next president United States is going to have to restore that trust the promise of the country and the American dream. The vice president has to be complimentary in his or her skill base experience but most importantly the temperament of humility and the character to bring the dignity and the honor and the civility back to the Oval Office and to the American people.
Marie Harf: [00:08:23] Just a quick follow up are there vice presidents in our recent past who you think have been good models in that role.
Howard Schultz: [00:08:31] Well I think when Ronald Reagan and George Bush ran I think it was a wonderful team a team that complemented each other and obviously that prepared George Bush to become president United States. I think when President Kennedy had Lyndon Johnson as his vice president and we had the you know the unfortunate tragic assassination of President Kennedy Lyndon Johnson was ready to be president. I also think that this is a time in America where we need to really honor and respect women and there's no reason to believe that the next president United States or vice president state should not be a woman.
Guy Benson: [00:09:16] Interesting. Our guest is Howard Schultz. He might be running for president. He was the CEO of Starbucks and you mentioned that speech down in Miami which I found to be fascinating on a number of levels. One of the things that you said that perked up a lot of people's attention had to do with the Supreme Court because we've had some very bruising battles over confirmation processes in the last number of years. And you said that you would seek if you were president to nominate the types of judges who could get broad overwhelming bipartisan support. And that sounds good but I guess my question is you look at Merrick Garland who is sort of like a consensus center left pick. He didn't get a vote from the Republicans. You look at Neil Gorsuch who is a consensus center right pick. He didn't. He got filibustered by the Democrats. Does someone like that that you describe does that really exist in American jurisprudence today. I to put a finer point on it. Of the nine sitting justices are any of them close to that type of model that you're talking about that you think would be a consensus pick.
Howard Schultz: [00:10:20] Well you know we we have had many times in our history where there was almost 100 percent bipartisan support for job.
Guy Benson: [00:10:31] But that era is gone.
Howard Schultz: [00:10:32] Right well it's gone but it needs to come back. This is the entire point of why I am engaged in this process. The United States government and the level of revenge politics is broken. The American people desire and deserve better Representation and that representation needs to be based on cooperation. And what I suggested yesterday is if the Supreme Court of all aspects of our government is based on a politics as a weapon then we are in deep trouble. And I think it is time to recognize that we need strong leadership and a renewal of our values of our democracy and a level of truthfulness in which politics takes a back seat and ethnicity.
Guy Benson: [00:11:24] Look I think that's totally fair. But we we you know you would only be president you can only control your part of this equation. Congress is polarized that's where we are right now. And I guess the question is of the sitting nine justices are any any of them the type of person that you think ought to be a consensus type of pick.
Howard Schultz: [00:11:43] Well I think Justice Roberts has proven to be a wonderful example of what we are talking about and I think he has the temperament of humility and he he has demonstrated time and time again especially in in recent cases his ability to rise above politics. But the point here is and I appreciate the questioning and the dialogue. The point is this is that the country is on the clock right now and the clock is telling me and I think the majority of Americans that our current political system is broken divided divides of the level of incitement and all of this comes down to a lack of leadership and a lack of trust. And when I'm what I'm proposing and what I'm been saying for the last five weeks and I've been studying for the past year is that we need a real imagination and a transformation of our government so that we can serve the interests of the people as opposed to politicians serving their self-interest. And I realized that the president cannot do this alone. But can you imagine a situation where for the first time since George Washington the American people speak so loudly and send an independent person independent thinker to the White House and as a result of that that person is able to have a mandate to finally disrupt and transform the system. And I think there are good people on both sides of the aisle who are steeped in ideology as they have to stay within the lines of that of that ideology that are dying to vote their conscience in their heart. But they can't do it. If you get an independent person in that Oval Office you will see Republicans and Democrats take off that uniform of ideology and start voting with their heart and your conscience on behalf of the American people. And in addition to that you'll see a plethora of independent candidates running for office immediately as a result of the license they will have as a result of an independent president.
Marie Harf: [00:13:52] Howard I want to go overseas now because I think one of the consequences of our broken politics here at home is is on the world stage people take us a little less seriously. What do you see sitting in where you are today as the biggest foreign policy or national security challenge and threat that we are facing. What what would be at the top of that list for you.
Howard Schultz: [00:14:15] Well as someone who has built a company in which we have Starbucks stores in 77 countries around the world and I'm a global citizen. I'd say two things. One Russia is an enemy of the United States and the greatest threat. I think we have currently is that Putin and the Russian establishment gets up every day to disrupt our democracy and the American people do not see every day is the level of cyber warfare and cyber attacks that are happening day in and day out. That is a major major security threat to the United States. In addition to that China is not an enemy of America. China is a fierce competitor that is working diligently to displace us as the number one economic power in the world. And we have to recognize that that that is a serious national threat to the country and is not in our national interest. And so when we have a 22 trillion dollar debt and this president adding a trillion dollars a year and we're spending five hundred billion dollars a year in interest that is a threat to our national interest our national security. And that's why I'm so concerned about the lack of understanding about this with regard to there isn't a Republican during the Obama administration or the Republicans for eight years. Bangs on the president for fiscal discipline wanting the debt down and then that the Trump presidency happens. You don't hear a word from the Republicans and this is emblematic of why I am so concerned of the level of divisiveness and false narrative and the lack of truth in politics. This is what needs to be changed because there are such serious consequences and we can fix these things and the American people deserve a much better government.
Guy Benson: [00:16:09] Howard Schultz very briefly last question. Have you ever gone sort of undercover boss and had a surprising experience at a random Starbucks somewhere.
Howard Schultz: [00:16:21] I haven't had and I have not. As an undercover boss. But basically I go to Starbucks almost every day and my wife has a hundred million Americans I'm proud of.
Guy Benson: [00:16:32] It's a good plug.
Marie Harf: [00:16:34] Well we certainly have that in common. Howard SchultzI probably go to Starbucks not as much as you but I go close. It's close. Howard Schultz former Starbucks chairman and CEO thinking about running for president. Thank you so much for joining the show tonight. We really appreciate your time.
Howard Schultz: [00:16:50] Thank you for the song. Very very nice.
Marie Harf: [00:16:54] Howard we have a great team. They did their research and it was a good way to start the interview. We appreciate it. Thank you. We're going to take a break. We'll be right back.