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OpinionColumnistsMark Chiusano

The 2020 NY clown car

Yet another New Yorker is looking at the presidency. 

Yet another New Yorker is looking at the

Yet another New Yorker is looking at the presidency.  Photo Credit: Getty Images for NAACP Legal Def/Dave Kotinsky

The field of 2020 presidential contenders is becoming a sort of clown car bursting with New Yorkers.

In the driver’s seat, of course, is President Donald Trump, grimly directing the vehicle into potholes on the FDR Drive.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is right next to him, tapping at her phone to check the next flight to Iowa, where she’s resided ever since announcing her presidential exploratory committee from Stephen Colbert’s Manhattan television studio.

Michael Bloomberg is in the backseat shouting “no comment” out the window whenever someone asks a question about about the NYPD's stop-and-frisk.

Now add former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz to the scrum, sipping on a tall or grande or whatever while he debates the merits of a third-party run.

Yes, Schultz is a New Yorker, too, raised in public housing in Canarsie -- just over the borough border and about a thousand income brackets away from the current president of the United States.

Today, Schultz, who said Sunday on "60 Minutes" that he's considering a White House run, is certain he couldn’t run as a Democrat because of progressives' expensive dreams like universal health care or job guarantees. But when his family moved into the Bayview projects back in the 1950s, they rightfully benefited from a similarly muscular government housing program. 

In his book “Pour Your Heart Into It” he describes his family as “working poor” and his father a “beaten” man who could hardly earn enough money in stints as a truck driver, factory worker, and cab driver.

“Coffee was not a big part of my childhood,” he writes with some irony, noting that his mother drank instant.

Now he’s in the clown car with the other contenders, and perhaps he and Trump can talk about the New York that shaped them. For Trump, gifts from a wealthy father who gained a fortune through construction for the outer-borough working class, and education and baseball at a private school. For Schultz, a public housing upbringing and a stint as Canarsie High School’s quarterback, which led to a college scholarship.

Their connections to Manhattan: Trump deciding to use his dad’s wealth to get in the luxury real estate game. Schultz working an after-school job at age 16 as a Garment District furrier, stretching animal skin, according to “Pour Your Heart.”

But in some ways, the different upbringings led to similar places for the two men -- fame and a whole lot of money and the idea that this qualifies you to lead the free world.

If you squint a little, you might say Schultz was preparing for the clown car at least as much as Trump was. While Trump made noise about one office or another and alerted the media, Schultz has been writing books on various Starbucks-business-leadership-related topics -- plus one called “For Love of Country” about Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans and how much of a “civilian-military disconnect” we have here. (Neither Trump nor Schultz served in Vietnam. In “Pour Your Heart” Schultz says his draft number was high. Trump: Bone spurs.)

From time to time in recent years, you might have remembered hearing about Starbucks doing a decent company thing like hiring veterans or paying for education or doing racial bias training, combating its image as an expensive-ish coffee company that, like many big companies, has had its issues with worker treatment -- see the problem of unpredictable scheduling, for example.

But at the end of the day, it’s another rich New York guy joining Trump and Bloomberg in the five-borough clown car. Of course, the clown car might get more crowded soon. There’s Brooklyn native Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders trying to hail the car down on Ocean Parkway and yelling about millionaires and billionaires. The car speeds past Hillary Clinton coming out of "Dear Evan Hansen" shrugging with a smile, “maybe, maybe.”

And here’s Mayor Bill de Blasio outside the Prospect Park YMCA, hoping to stuff his long frame in there somewhere, even if it’s not his old SUV. Everyone likes joyriding.

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