Schultz says he’s looking to give back as a ‘public servant’

Former coffee mogul Howard Schultz inched closer toward an independent presidential bid on Thursday, delivering a speech in which he said he’s looking to give back as “a public servant.”

“I’ve spent my life trying to make the opportunities that were available to me, education and good jobs, available to others. Now, for four decades, I’ve done this as a business leader. Today, I’m humbly asking whether or not I can do this in another way, and that is as a public servant,” the billionaire former Starbucks CEO said in remarks at Purdue University.

He went on to say: “Running for president is one path I am seriously considering. Doing so as an independent centrist would completely free me from being beholden to special interest groups and extreme party ideologies.”

A fierce critic of both President Donald Trump and of the left, Schultz has been trying to carve out a moderate position as he considers a 2020 bid.

Schultz ran through a slew of policy areas, generally hitting what he described as the “far left” and “far right” position on each rather than offering his own specific alternatives.

He went after both the left and right for their respective positions on immigration and on health care, saying that neither government-run health care or repealing Obamacare qualified as a “viable solution.”

“Neither side, extreme left, extreme right, has offered and developed any kind of credible plan to reduce costs by increasing competition or requiring more transparency on prices from hospitals and drug companies or investing preventive care,” Schultz said. “This is a problem that can be solved. We must bring down healthcare costs, while increasing choice and access.”

Schultz’s proposals included a call for tax reform that would lower taxes “for the middle class and small businesses” along with a call for the wealthy to pay their “fair share” — including himself.

“And by the way, the people deserve to see the tax return of anybody who is running for president,” Schultz said, vowing to release his returns if he chooses to run.

He also trained criticism on Trump over trade, foreign policy and having “poisoned our culture.”

Schultz floated an independent bid for president last month, and he has continued to explore the possibility in high profile media appearances, including an interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes” and a CNN town hall event scheduled for next week.

He drew a mocking tweet from Trump and sparked anxiety among Democrats about a potential spoiler candidacy, though fared relatively poorly in a recent CNN poll on the 2020 race.

Schultz argued he would not enter the race if it would help Trump’s re-election chances.

“Trump must not serve a second term,” Schultz said. “And as I explore whether to run for office, I’ll do so with the conviction that my final decision must not make his re-election a possibility.”