Howie Schultz in all his Alan Alda glory
Speaking as a hardcore conservative, I adore Howie Schultz. Not just because he's making far-left Democrats' lives so miserable, not just because his Starbucks empire is so consumer-fantastic; in the wake of his 60 Minutes interview last night, I actually like him.
I'd never seen him in a live interview before, and he came off as a really nice guy. He was fresh, honest, thoughtful, vulnerable, kind of an Alan Alda with business smarts. Yes, a lot of conservatives hated Alda as they will inevitably hate Schultz, but remember that when Alda faded from the scene,* only kind things were said about the man, because apparently, he was quite genuine even in private. Schultz comes off as like that, too. Make fun of it if you will, but it stands in stark contrast to that hideous way the current crop of Democratic presidential candidates and congressional leaders are coming off: strident, scripted, lockstep, hive-minded, spend-to-the-sky, and doggedly insistent that blue is green. It was eye-catching to see this Schultz difference in politics, which is where he seems to be going these days, as he decides, with his wife at his side, whether he wants to run for president.
His problem is that he's a liberal. Being a brilliant liberal in business, his liberalism is premised on exactly what he did to make Starbucks great: taking an ordinary idea, like coffee, and improving it and packaging it up to make it premium. And not just premium, a full premium experience, with attractive shop surroundings and premium customer service, plus a free refill with every drink ordered. Everyone loves the free stuff.
In his 60 Minutes interview last night, Schultz spoke of rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, finding a pathway for illegal aliens to make themselves legal, quality health care but no Democrat-style free health care for all, and a more moderate corporate tax cut (which is to say a tax hike on the people who hire) but tax relief to the middle class. We also know of his well-meaning blunders on race relations – trying to get Starbucks employees to start "conversations" about race relations with total stranger customers in the stores, which was a bust, and worse still, doing that "race relations" training (lucky African-American baristas!) over a Starbucks manager's reasonable request to non-paying customers taking up table space to leave, something that led to bums taking over the Starbucks bathrooms in some areas and baristas (hired to make coffee) forced to clean up after them.
Schultz, like all liberals, isn't all that good at noticing unintended consequences, despite some obvious consciousness about what it is like to be poor, which he actually was in his youth and childhood. Does he notice that the U.S. has reduced carbon emissions well beyond what the Paris signatories have done, all the while drilling to the skies to put the petro-tyrants out of business? Don't think so. Does he know what tax hikes do to people who hire for jobs? A middle-class tax cut is pretty meaningless to middle-class people if they can't get the jobs.
Does he know about the bums in the bathrooms of Starbucks? Why didn't 60 Minutes ask him about the bums who took over the Starbucks bathrooms based on his well-meaning race relations gambit?
It wouldn't be unreasonable to think Schultz could turn government into a really wonderful Starbucks-style customer service operation for taxpayers, a veritable Starbucks experience, forcing bureaucrats to behave as accomodatingly and pleasantly as baristas, calling customers by name and greeting repeat customers, with pre-order capacities and names on cups of paperwork. On the other hand, there are always the bums in the bathrooms, and that's the problem with Schultz. Catering to all customers is a wonderful thing in business, but someone needs to confront enemies to the common good, too, and Schultz doesn't seem to be the man for that.
Could I vote for him? Change brands? Don't think so. He's obviously a liberal, after all, and I'm quite satisfied with President Trump and think he's what's needed to fight the leftist behemoth, thank you very much. But I still like Howie. I could buy a cup of Schultz if the Trump runs out. Don't think it will.
*Item has been corrected to say that Alda is still alive, not deceased. Thanks to John Leonard for correction.