Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, has written a New York Times op-ed in which he specifically denies that he plans to run for president as a Democrat -- which, of course, leads to speculation that that's precisely what he's planning.
Schultz tells us:
Despite the encouragement of others, I have no intention of entering the presidential fray. I’m not done serving at Starbucks. Although we have built an iconic brand while providing even part-time employees with access to health care, free college education and stock options, there is more we can do as a public company to demonstrate responsible leadership.
Which inspires The Atlantic's David Graham to write:
But Schultz’s denial is hardly Shermanesque.... His description of the sort of leader he believes America needs sounds a lot like, well, Howard Schultz.
Now, why are we speculating this way about Schultz? Graham again:
... his name is already being floated for president. The first major mention came, weirdly enough, in the New York Times column in which Maureen Dowd broke the news that Joe Biden was still considering a presidential run. “Potent friends of America’s lord of latte, Howard Schultz, have been pressing him to join the Democratic primary, thinking the time is right for someone who’s not a political lifer. For the passionate 62-year-old -- watching the circus from Seattle -- it may be a tempting proposition,” she wrote, but the morsel was somewhat overlooked beside the Biden tidings.
So what does Schultz think we need in a president? He tells us that what we need is a "servant leader." The phrase, which is not original to Schultz, refers to a leader who puts the needs of others above his or her own -- but in Schultz telling it somehow becomes shorthand for lamentations about how "Both sides do it":
... nothing I’ve read or heard in the past few years has rivaled the power of the image I viewed on my cellphone a few years ago: Pope Francis, shortly after his election, kneeling and washing the feet of a dozen prisoners in Rome, one of them a young Muslim woman, in a pre-Easter ritual.↓ Story continues below ↓
In recent weeks, I have taken to recalling that humble, inspiring act of servant leadership as I observe the antithesis: a field of presidential aspirants unable to rise above petty politics. I know candidates want to play to the party faithful during the primary season, but the challenges facing us today are too dire for another status-quo election.... Our nation has been profoundly damaged by a lack of civility and courage in Washington, where leaders of both parties have abdicated their responsibility to forge reasonable compromises to expand the economy, rebuild our infrastructure, improve schools, transform entitlement programs and so much more....
Our country is in desperate need of servant leaders, of men and women willing to kneel and embrace those who are not like them. Everyone seeking the presidency professes great love for our nation. But I ask myself, how can you be a genuine public servant if you belittle your fellow citizens and freeze out people who hold differing views?
I don't know what country Howard Schultz was living in for, oh, the past several decades, but in my America, the Democratic Party was the party that (despite some resistance) allowed Ronald Reagan to get the tax cuts he wanted, then a decade later cooperated with Newt Gingrich and company on welfare reform and budgeting, then a decade later allowed George W. Bush to get the tax cuts and wars he wanted, then approached the Obama presidency in a spirit of "Let's work with Republicans on the Obama agenda" -- only to get kicked in the teeth by the GOP at every turn. But to Schultz, both parties are equally to blame. This is the guy Democrats should prefer to Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, or even Joe Biden?
Now, I'm sure Schultz is well-meaning; I'm sure he's not using the concept of servant leadership as biblical bunkum to gull the rubes, like so many conservatives. This is actually a favorite idea of the right, or at least a favorite Christian-y meme. Sarah Palin regularly says, dishonestly, that she might run for president again because she has "a servant's heart," and her fans regularly describe her as a servant leader. Here, at a CNN blog, a religious writer tells us that Walmart "has used Christian servant leadership models in building the world's largest retailer." Oh, and here's Brad Nagel, a corporate COO and former Navy SEAL, giving a lecture in 2012 at the University of Iowa's business school in which, among other topics, "Servant leadership was covered." I bring this up because a couple of days ago we learned that Nagel -- a Donald Trump campaign staffer -- had posted racist messages on social media:
I don't think Schultz is thinking like those clowns. However, if he defines servant leadership as trying to compromise with political opponents, the answer is: We've been there. We've done that. It wasn't allowed.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog