Defiant Schultz outlines how he differs from Trump

Howard Schultz, who’s weighing an independent run for president, attempted to draw a difference between him and President Donald Trump, a fellow New York businessman, who he called “despicable.”

“I’m self-made. I’m living proof of the American dream,” the former Starbucks CEO, who grew up in public housing in Brooklyn, told CNN’s Poppy Harlow in a wide-ranging interview.

Schultz argued that the President has “done almost everything possible to discredit the dignity, the civility, the values, the respectfulness of the Oval Office with no degree of any sense of responsibility to the American people.”

“What I would say is look at my life experience. Not so much what I’ve done at Starbucks, but what I’ve learned along the way, and my deep, deep concern, my empathic concern for the American people, and also my concern for our standing in the world,” Schultz said, drawing a distinction between himself and Trump. “And I think the the word that really comes to mind is authentic, truthful leadership.”

Schultz slams progressive policies

A long-life Democrat, Schultz announced Sunday in a CBS “60 Minutes” interview that he’s contemplating a “centrist independent” bid.

He told CNN on Tuesday that the Democratic Party started losing him “when the party started shifting so far left to progressive policies that I know in my heart are … as false as President Trump telling the American people when he was running for president that the Mexicans were going to pay for the wall.”

He stood by his criticism of “Medicare-for-all,” a policy supported by Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris, as “not American” and told CNN the proposal is “unaffordable.”

“It’s an idea that has no merit,” he said of the 2% annual tax on Americans with an income over $10 million that Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic hopeful, proposed.

“She knows that there’s no way this could come to pass this,” he said. “These are just false campaign promises to make noise and again, it’s punitive.”

Schultz does not support New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s plan of a 70% marginal tax rate on income over $10 million.

“Why should we punish it? What’s the American dream? The American dream is to create opportunity,” he told Harlow. “The American dream is to rise above your standing in life. Now, we’re going to be provide punitive tax rates for people who have succeeded. Now what we need is comprehensive tax reform.”

While he was critical of Democrats’ tax proposals, he hasn’t embraced Trump’s tax cuts, either.

“There has to be more skin in the game. Both for individuals who are of privilege and certainly corporations, who shouldn’t receive a 21% tax cut just for being a corporation,” he said.

Harlow asked Schulz how his plan would reduce the widening income gap.

“Is it raising corporate taxes immensely?” she asked.

“I think the 21% tax rate was wrong. I would not be supportive of that if I was president,” Schultz said, referring to the Republican tax plan’s cut to the corporate rate.

Harlow pushed again, “But would you raise corporate taxes?”

“I would not be supportive of 21%,” he said. “That should give you some idea as to what I would do. And I also think there has to be significant incentives of corporations to do more for their people: training, education, and obviously health insurance. But we need comprehensive tax reform.”

A potential running mate

Though he hasn’t officially announced, Schultz remained open to having a woman as his running mate.

“I think it’s the most important thing to do is to have the highest qualified person and if that’s a woman that would be wonderful,” Schultz told Harlow. “But I haven’t thought about it.”

Asked if he would add a Republican to the ticket, he said, “I think that would be interesting and certainly demonstrate a centrist position, which I believe in.”

Standing defiant against Democrats

Since announcing Sunday that he’s contemplating an independent run, Schultz’s potential candidacy has been met with fierce opposition from Democrats, who think Schultz would take votes from their party’s nominee and pave the way for Trump to win re-election.

Schultz dismissed the criticism as a “false narrative” and argued that it would be a “far left progressive Democrat” who would hand Trump a second term.

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who toyed with the idea of running as an independent in 2016, recently argued against third-party candidates.

“Well, this is a very different time than 2015,” Schultz said, adding later, “I respect his decision. If he’s going to run, he’s going to run as Democrat. Good luck to him. I respect Mike Bloomberg. I have a different view.”

If Bloomberg were to jump into the 2020 race, Schultz said it “would not affect me.”

Schultz also vowed that he “never put myself in a position where I would be the person who re-elects Donald Trump, but that is not what I believe today.”

But the former Starbucks magnate didn’t leave any ambiguity about his personal feelings about the current commander in chief when asked by Harlow for his first reaction to the words “President Trump.”

“Despicable,” Schultz replied.