When Starbucks chairman emeritus Howard Schultz announced he was considering an independent run for president in 2020, you could literally feel virtually everyone who was anyone in the Democratic Party sit up bolt upright in their chairs. After all, conventional wisdom suggests that Schultz could potentially siphon off enough Democrats to allow Trump to sneak up the middle and steal another term even while losing the popular vote.
In a measure of how much the political world has turned upside down in the Trump era, one of the more (in)famous spoilers of modern times, Ralph Nader, dropped by Fox Business to suggest that Schultz’ presence could be a disaster waiting to happen–for both parties. Watch here.
But surely Trump would have been just giddy at this. Apparently not, judging by this tweet he fired off on Monday morning.
At first glance, this appears to be vintage Trump–finding a way to belittle anyone who might dare oppose him. But this tweet may have been more sinister than that.
Notice how Individual-1 noted that Starbucks is a tenant at the Trump Tower atrium. If Trump was merely meaning to take a swipe at Schultz, why would he even bring it up? There is literally no good-faith reason to do so.
Was Trump issuing a veiled threat to use the rent from Starbucks as potential leverage over Schultz? Given Trump’s past history, this is a fair question. He has shown no qualms about using the power of his office to bully his critics into submission. For instance, he spent early April trashing Amazon on Twitter; Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos also owns one of Trump’s biggest gadflies, The Washington Post. According to Bush 43 ethics counsel and leading Trump critic Richard Painter, this 280-character war may have crossed the line into securities fraud.
More recently, Trump got the bright idea to out House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s plans to lead a congressional fact-finding mission to Afghanistan. One problem–those plans were supposed to be secret. And with good reason–you do not give advance notice that VIPs are coming into an active war zone.
Even if you believe Trump’s argument that Pelosi needed to be in Washington to find a way to end the shutdown, his decision to out her travel plans was incredibly reckless. So reckless, in fact, that Pelosi scrapped plans to fly commercial after Trump nixed her government jet. Trump’s own State Department concluded that it was far too risky on the ground for comfort. Under the circumstances, it was perfectly understandable that Pelosi was visibly shaken when she addressed reporters after deciding to delay the trip altogether.
So considering Trump’s history, it’s really, really, really difficult to assume good faith on Trump’s part when he made this latest jab at Starbucks. Also considering this history, this tweet sounds like something you’d expect from some tinhorn tyrant in a Third World country. It is not something we should expect or tolerate here. Imagine if a Democratic president who was a real estate mogul in private life saw fit to use Twitter to even suggest he might put the squeeze on a potential Republican or independent challenger–using a property that challenger rents as leverage? It would be no less outrageous than what Trump did here.
All too often since Trump rode down the escalator at Trump Tower in 2015, we’ve found ourselves asking questions that no one in a self-respecting democracy should even have to ask about a presidential candidate or a president. This is yet another of those times.
Ironically, this tweet may bolster the biggest argument against a Schultz candidacy. When an existential threat to democracy manifests itself, the biggest gift that threat can get is vote-splitting. With this tweet, Trump has proven beyond any doubt that he is a clear, present and existential threat to the republic.
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