Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said he wasn't a "messiah" and called left-wing policies espoused by Democratic presidential candidates "fantasy" that will never come to fruition.
The billionaire is mulling an independent bid for the presidency, trying to craft himself as appealing to a vast middle group of Americans fed up with both parties.
"I'm not a messiah," he told Firing Line host Margaret Hoover. "I'm one person who loves the country and is deeply, profoundly concerned about the direction we're going. I do believe that that there are millions of Americans who agree with me from all walks of life that this is a moment in time where the country is on the clock in so many areas."
"You say you're not a messiah, but why is it you?" Hoover asked.
"It's me because I know this is a moment in my life where I feel this is where I'm supposed to be," he said. "It's not about destiny. It's about the courage of my conviction to try and be the leader that I have been in a company I've spent the last 18 months thinking with very carefully. I put myself in a position to do this. I funded it myself thus far."
Schultz has historically supported Democratic candidates, but he has spoken out against policies popular with progressives like Medicare for All, Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D., Mass.) ultra-millionaire tax, and the Green New Deal as unrealistic and punitive.
"I am not a messiah…it's about the courage of my conviction." @HowardSchultz, the former CEO of @Starbucks, explains why he is considering an Independent bid for president on this week's BRAND NEW #FiringLineShowPBS pic.twitter.com/EQVdlgHQcu
— Firing Line with Margaret Hoover (@FiringLineShow) April 3, 2019
"There's nothing free," he said. "We should establish that, so someone is going to pay, and who's going to pay for all this free stuff? Not only the wealthy but everyone's taxes are going to go up. My company demonstrated that we could be financially successful, reward shareholders and achieve the fragile balance between humanity and financial performance.
"I think every business in America can do that and has a responsibility in one way or another to do that, and that should be a transformation of what capitalism should be in the future," he added. "All these other Democrats that are running for president who are espousing all these things that are not feasible, that are fantasy, I have done it."
Hoover asked if the platform for his "centrist independent" candidacy should involve calling on the civic and private sectors to take on things the government shouldn't. Schultz replied affirmatively and said government "can't solve all our problems, unlike what the Democrats are saying."
"There has to be a partnership between business, philanthropists, nonprofits, and the government," he said. "You know, when I hear Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and this young, very talented congresswoman [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] who I think—these are all well-intentioned people who love the country—but their policies … they're not real. Free college, free job, Medicare for all. It's not going to happen."
"There's nothing free."- @HowardSchultz calls out progressive Democrats for pushing the party too far left with proposals like free college tuition and Medicare for all. "These things….are fantasy," says the ex-Starbucks CEO pic.twitter.com/fInYMUsrVb
— Firing Line with Margaret Hoover (@FiringLineShow) April 4, 2019
Schultz's announcement that he was thinking of running in January infuriated Democrats, who fear he could siphon votes from the eventual party nominee to the benefit of President Donald Trump.