Ex-Starbucks CEO Schultz to Address AIPAC While Exploring a Presidential Bid as an Independent

Schultz’s decision to attend AIPAC comes as Democrats have been grappling with the left’s criticism of Israel and as most presidential candidates chose not to attend

In this March 22, 2017, file photo, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz speaks at the Starbucks annual shareholders meeting in Seattle
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File

Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz will attend the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Monday evening. That from Schultz aide Erin McPike.

Schultz’s decision to attend the annual AIPAC conference in Washington comes as Democrats have been grappling with the left’s criticism of Israel and as most presidential candidates are sitting this year’s conference out. Schultz is actively considering an independent presidential bid himself.

On Friday, Schultz responded to a tweet from the liberal advocacy group MoveOn, which has been urging Democratic presidential candidates not to attend. He said that the “unwillingness of the far left to even speak with people they may disagree with is one of the worst symbols of the dysfunction in Washington today.”

Schultz last Thursday slammed U.S. President Donald Trump’s hastily-announced withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria as he kicked off a Colorado tour while exploring a presidential bid as an independent.

Schultz spoke at town halls in Denver and Boulder on Thursday. The 65-year-old billionaire said he’ll decide whether to formally run later this spring or early in the summer.

Most of Schultz’s speech in Denver was focused on his standard criticism of both Trump and Democrats, whom he said have veered too far to the left and are part of the two-party stranglehold on U.S. politics. But, in response to a question, he ventured into relatively new terrain of foreign policy.

Schultz called China a “fierce competitor” to the U.S. rather than an enemy but said that Russia is indeed an “enemy of the United States.” And he said that Trump’s abruptly-declared withdrawal from Syria in December created a power vacuum in the Middle East that China and Russia can now fill.

“We’re going to look back on that decision as a terrible decision for our foreign policy,” Schultz said.

Trump’s abrupt decision led to the resignation of Secretary of Defense James Mattis. The president has since agreed to allow a smaller U.S. force to remain in Syria, which is still reeling from a long civil war.

Democrats fear that Schultz could peel off enough moderates from their candidate to re-elect Trump. Schultz dismissed that possibility Thursday, saying that if Democrats nominate a socialist candidate to challenge Trump “then the spoiler is that Democratic socialist.”

Only one of the more than a dozen Democrats competing for the party’s presidential nomination, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, identifies as a socialist. But Schultz said in an interview that Democrats espousing socialist-style messages were getting more attention and support in the primary.