Mulling presidential run, Howard Schultz appears in Philly

Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz speaks at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz speaks at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz appeared in Philadelphia Wednesday night, but shed no new light on his presidential aspirations.

The businessman told “60 Minutes” in late January he might run for president as an independent, and he appeared at a CNN town hall Tuesday night.

Schultz reiterated the need for centrist problem solvers who aren’t beholden to partisan politics. He told a crowded auditorium at the Free Library of Philadelphia that the “silent majority of Americans are looking for and longing for someone who’s not in bed with special interests, not based on self-preservation and ideology.”

Some critics of President Trump worry Schultz, a former Democrat, would fracture the electorate and give Trump an easier path to victory. Schultz challenged that assumption Wednesday and said his presence on the ballot would make deep red and deep blue states more competitive, thus scrambling the usual electoral map.

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He did, however, make one promise after calling Trump the “worst” president.

“I will do nothing to reelect Donald Trump, I can promise you that,” he told the mostly sympathetic crowd.

Schultz did not elaborate on his plans to run, only that he’ll continue to consider the possibility.

Two audience questions alluded to negative reactions that followed Schultz’s “60 Minutes” announcement. Schultz said his announcement had caused a “groundswell.”

“How would you describe that groundswell,” asked Bill Kristol, the conservative pundit and moderator of the event. “Feel free to use colorful language.”

Schultz also spoke about a 2018 incident at a Center City Starbucks when a manager called the police on two black men who were waiting for a business acquaintance. A woman who identified herself as the person who recorded a viral video of the arrest stood up and accused Schultz of minimizing what the manager had done.

Schultz pinned blame on the company.

“It was not the manager’s fault. It was the fault of the company,” he said. “And the fault was we had a policy that was not clear. And unfortunately that policy led to a bad decision.”

Starbucks later closed its stores for a day of employee training and changed its policy on whether patrons need to buy something if they want to remain inside a store.

Schultz also addressed comments he made Tuesday night on CNN when he said he “doesn’t see color.” The former CEO repeated those comments in Philadelphia, but said they’d been misinterpreted. He added that most, if not all, people have some level of unconscious bias based on their life experiences.

Ostensibly, Schultz is on a book tour and spent a good portion of the evening talking about his biography, “From the Ground Up.” He detailed his upbringing in a Brooklyn housing project and explained how growing up poor both scarred him and left him, he said, with a fear of failure.

A handful of people from an independent voters group gathered outside the Free Library before Schultz’s remarks to support his right to run. One woman, meanwhile, stood beside the doorway and urged arriving guests to tell Schultz he shouldn’t run.

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