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Saturday, February 09, 2019

The caffeinated "man of means" turns out to be jerk. Surprise.

by digby

The billionaire Howard Schultz (excuse me "man of means" Howard Schultz) turns out to be different than his public persona:

Though he stepped down last year as Starbucks’ chairman and CEO, Schultz’s political pitch is deeply rooted in the company’s carefully cultivated image as a progressive, benevolent employer that cares for its employees, which it calls “partners,” and acts as what he calls a “gathering spot, a Third Place that draws people together.” He presents himself as a rare combination of archetypes: a visionary entrepreneur who’s built an $84 billion global empire on pricey lattes, and a bleeding-heart do-gooder who lavishes health coverage, college tuition and other benefits on those 330,000 “partners,” has them undergo racial-bias training and write “Come Together” on customers’ coffee cups. In response to President Donald Trump’s immigrant-bashing, the company promised to hire 10,000 refugees.

This pitch is also steeped in the mystique of progressive, affluent Seattle, Starbucks’ hometown, celebrated around the world as a capital of coffee culture, innovation and progressive policy. In an op-ed in the Seattle Times last week, Schultz praised his adopted home effusively, oddly crediting its “diversity of thought” with helping inspire him to (maybe) run as a centrist independent.

But there’s a disconnect here, one that will become increasingly evident as national media outlets dig harder into Schultz’s history than 60 Minutes did. His “come together” pitch may ring weakest here in Seattle, where he’s proved a singularly divisive figure and left a long, unhappy trail of civic and community disengagement. The rest of the world might know him as the father of the Frappuccino, but here he’s known for treating a public park like private property and throwing away the city’s NBA team. Schultz acknowledged in his op-ed that “Seattle and I have had a complicated relationship.” But that was putting it mildly.

He’s instinctually defensive and self-protective. … He’s not an honest person.”

One of Starbucks’ founders, speaking publicly about Schultz for the first time, has scarcely a good word to say. Gordon Bowker, who helped Schultz launch his first espresso bars before selling Starbucks to him, and whom Schultz has hailed as a mentor, says he was shocked to find himself and the other founders the subjects of vicious gossip and, after they started a small, competing coffee roaster, effaced from the company’s official history.

Schultz, who slams the Republican and Democratic parties for engaging in “revenge politics,” is himself “vindictive,” says Bowker. “He’s instinctually defensive and self-protective. … He’s not an honest person.” Schultz’s office did not respond to requests for comment on this and other accusations arising from his decades in Seattle.

That's from a devastating Politico profile of the MOM that really rips the mask off this fellow. It's well worth reading.

It's certainly not impossible for "men of means" to be good leaders. Franklin Roosevelt comes to mind. The Kennedys had their moments. There have been countless other wealthy people who did public service with decency and fairness.

But billionaire businessmen are a special breed, and they require a very, very close look before anyone should put their faith in their ability to run government or even understand the basic tenets of democracy. They don't operate under the same rules.

It's easy to dismiss Trump as an anomaly because he's such a dolt and really got where he is because of his celebrity more than any business success. But however much of a phony he is, the man spent his life as a very rich man trying to get richer, which is what most of these guys do. Hopefully we can at least all now agree that "private sector" experience is wildly oversold as a qualification for president.