By Nicholas Riccardi / Associated Press
DENVER — Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz on Thursday slammed President 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.
Schultz will hold another town hall in Colorado Springs on Friday.