Dana Milbank: Howard Schultz brings a whole latte trouble

FILE - In this March 22, 2017 file photo, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz speaks at the Starbucks annual shareholders meeting in Seattle. For someone who has given about $150,000 to Democratic campaigns over the years, Schultz is generating tepid, or even hostile, responses within the party as he weighs a presidential bid in 2020. That's because reports have suggested he's considering running as an independent, a prospect that could draw support away from the eventual Democratic nominee and hand President Donald Trump another four years in office, many fret. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

Washington • Howard Schultz has brought a whole latte trouble on himself.

The former Starbucks magnate has provoked boycott threats, heckling and Twitter attacks with his threat to mount an independent presidential run that critics say could get President Trump re-elected. Just about everybody this side of Tucker Carlson believes we do not need another old, white, insult-doling, super-caffeinated billionaire who is stingy with charity and believes he alone can fix the nation's problems.

Though I am loath to throw cold brew on these concerns, I don't see what all the froth is about. The naysayers are making a venti mistake.

Contrary to his early utterances, Schultz will not be president for just the 1 percent. He will also represent the 2 percent, the half-and-half and the soy — and he would leave room for milk! Only a man of his experience could unite this vast land, from the Vermont Maple Nut Muffin to the Michigan Cherry Oat Bar.

Schultz, watching Trump's fumbles, must think what the comic songwriter Kinky Friedman thought when he ran for Texas governor. Observing that both George W. Bush and Rick Perry once had the job, he devised the campaign slogan: "How hard can it be?"

Americans have discovered, painfully, that running the country is not the same thing as running a real estate business based on dodgy accounting and stiffing partners. But running the country really is like making coffee. As goes Starbucks, so goes the nation.

Under our new Daddy Starbucks, the United States will be an international orphan no more. Foreign leaders will again flock to the White House, for state dinners set to acoustic guitar music and featuring Protein Bistro Boxes and Toffeedoodle Cookies.

Schultz is getting grief for declaring it "ridiculous" that Americans worth more than $50 million would pay 2 percent of their wealth in taxes, and for saying that Medicare-for-all is "not American." But he has a point. If the wealthy are taxed more, they won't be able to buy as many $5.25 frappuccinos, and countless baristas would lose their jobs. Do not think of this as trickle-down economics. Think of this as pour-over economics.

There is nothing more Americano.

Admittedly, Schultz is not a great philanthropist, reportedly giving away just half a percent of his $3.4 billion net worth last year. But this doesn't mean he's disingenuous in expressing concern for the "40 percent of the American people [who] don't have $400 in the bank" (perhaps because they bought $5.95 cold-pressed juice at Starbucks). Consider the multitudes who have been given the Starbucks bathroom code and free WiFi (after a purchase). If that isn't good enough, let them eat cake pops.

True, Starbucks has had some high-profile trouble with its treatment of nonwhite customers. But this does not reflect Schultz's real view of the United States as a caramel macchiato of diversity; a great, dirty chai melting pot; a veritable zebra mocha of cultures. Schultz's administration will think of immigrants as essential dark, medium and blonde roasts in the perfect house blend.

Trump thinks Guatemalans are coming to kill us; Starbucks values Guatemalan exports for being “rich and balanced with lively flavor notes.” Trump may think Africa is full of “s---hole countries,” but Starbucks values African exports for their “dark chocolate notes with rich aromas.”

Likewise, Schultz will use Starbucks-style relabeling to make the United States feel better. Disappointing increases in economic growth will not be called "small" but "tall." The federal debt will no longer be "enormous" but "trenta."

Schultz will be a responsible steward of the taxpayer’s money: When he owned the National Basketball Association’s Seattle SuperSonics, he reportedly rewarded employees with $3.50 Starbucks gift cards, custom-made because standard ones were too generous. He clearly has the requisite international experience, having introduced both Thai-style peanut chicken wraps and spicy chorizo, Monterey Jack and egg breakfast sandwiches.

I almost affogato! Schultz also respects the work of the intelligence community: He has maintained a "secret menu" at Starbucks for years.

Schultz's critics have questioned his civic-mindedness, because he often neglects to vote and because, after declaring the Sonics a "public trust" to have the team in Seattle, he sold it to a group that moved it to Oklahoma City.

But I overlook such quibbles because of Schultz's long record of bringing home the bacon, as well as the Gouda, and pursuing that tasty breakfast sandwich with a passion tea. His breve bid for the presidency will restore in the United States the ideals of Athenian democracy — or at least give us a good Greek yogurt parfait.

Dana Milbank | The Washington Post

Dana Milbank is a Washington Post op-ed columnist. He sketches the foolish, the fallacious and the felonious in politics.