I sat down with Henry Winkler last week for 40 minutes of political and media/culture chat. MSNBC aired the tightly edited 11 minute segment Saturday, but the entire conversation was fascinating to me and I hope you:
HH: Henry Winkler, thank you for talking to me today.
HW: Oh, I’m so happy you’re in my house.
HH: Well, yeah, I’m very honored to be invited in. And that you would talk to me about politics in 2017, when
everything is so stressed. Any– any– you know, reluctance on your part?
HW: Oh, okay, do you know what I did? Yesterday, I listened to music as opposed to the radio news. And I
thought to myself, “Oh my goodness, there’s music. I forgot.”
HW: It– it is like you’re glued to listening to the ups and downs and– and I have no idea what is happening.
HH: Have you always been—
HH: –a political junkie?
HW: No. It– it started– just– a– really a few years ago.
HH: In 2008, you made a fairly iconic ad with Ron Howard and Andy—
HH: –Griffith for President Obama.
HH: You know how to pick winners. Happy Days, through Arrested—
HW: Ron called me. And he said– “Would you do this? Would you dress as the Fonz?” I went, “Oh my god,
almost 40 years later.” Here we are, in the makeup chair– getting our wigs on. Talking about our children. His
directing movies– what’s going on. We walk to the set together, talking about credit cards and daughters. I lean
against the car, this ’50s car. He walks around the car, and I went, “Hey, Richie. What are you the–” and it was
like 40 years dripped away like sand– being blown by a dust storm.
HH: Had you ever done a political ad before—
HH: –or since?
HW: Well. I did go to Missouri the first time for Clinton. And I spoke on behalf of the Clintons– in—
HW: –you know, rallies.
HH: 1992, 96.
HH: That era. You come by, I tell people, as I pre– prepared for the interview. I wanna talk to Henry Winkler
because you have this great Q factor. Everybody likes you. People my age and– and older love Happy Days, the
millennials love Arrested Development.
HH: In between, they’ve got The Water Boy.
HH: Now, parents and the families and children with learning disabilities love Hank Zipzer. We gotta talk about
Hank. But you come by your politics honestly. People need to know your backstory. Your parents, and how you
came to be—
HW: My middle name– Franklin– it comes directly from the president of the United States when my parents
immigrated here from Nazi Germany. If they were not able to stay, I would not be here. They would be dead.
So, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. I am Henry Franklin Winkler.
HH: They are refugees from Hitler’s Germany in 1939.
HW: Yes. Yes.
HH: Jews who go to New York.
HW: Now, I have to ask a question.
HW: I– I really do. So, then these– these young g– good-looking Nazis are walking down the street—in
Charlottesville and they are saying, “You won’t replace us. Jews won’t re–” I don’t wanna replace anybody. I—I
like staying right where I am doing what I’m doing. Who are they– what are they talking about?
HH: I have no idea.
HW: Okay fine.
HH: And I come from the—
HW: I just wanted to know.
HH: –Frederick Knefler wing of the Republican party. My wife’s great-great-grandfather was the only Union
Jewish general at Shiloh.
HH: And so I– I’m– they were talkin’ about my– my children. Right?
HH: So, they don’t like my kids or your kids.
HW: I– I just wanna say, I– I don’t wanna replace you. You should live in health. (LAUGHTER) Just change a
little bit of your politics.
HH: Okay. All of your politics.
HH: Hank, but when did you activate? Because you’re a child of the ’60s. Emerson College—
HH: –Yale Drama school.
HW: Right. But at that time, when I was in school, that I got into college in the first place was a miracle. I’m
talking about that God must’ve just come down and touched me or something. Or– or touched Emerson
College. ‘Cause education was so difficult. Yale. I got into Yale. I got into the Drama school. Unbelievable. I
thought of nothing except being a professional, eating through brick, to get to earn a living doing what I dreamt
of doing since I was seven. I thought of nothing else.
HH: So the S.D.S. gets started in Boston.
HW: Had no idea.
HH: Not– no idea.
HH: You s– and you go to do Summer Stock—
HW: Black Panthers.
HW: I thought they were a beautiful animal. I– I literally had no idea.
HH: When Detroit came out this summer—
HH: –and depicts America on fire in—
HH: –1967, it reminds us we’re really not that bad off right now but—
HH: So, did that touch you at all? Race politics was– you’re– you’re—
HW: It always touches me. It– all right, go– race is shocking to me. That– how about this? How about that
we’re talking about transgender? Now, isn’t it said in almost every book, God has created us all in His image?
HW: If we are all created in His image, a person who comes out of a body, who is– comes out of their mom,
and their chemistry is different. They have no control over it. They have this need to be other than they are, but
they are American, and they are loyal, and they are willing to sign up. How do we say that these human beings
don’t have the same rights as any other human being?
HH: The evolution of that issue’s—
HH: –been so rapid.
HH: When you endorsed President Obama in 2008, he wasn’t even for same-sex marriage.
HW: I– I get it.
HH: So, it’s been like a decade of a major change—
HW: But I saw him do that.
HW: I saw it happen.
HH: You saw him move.
HW: Okay, I saw a move. It– we went from a tweet to now doing it for real. It is so– shocking to me that I can’t
belie– if we are going to remain a great country, every single American has to functioning on all eight
cylinders. We have to be firing at the top of our game. And not divide us and– make us spew and it just is—
HH: Let me go back—
HW: Go ahead.
HH: –and forth with you a little bit.
HW: Go ahead.
HH: Is Donald Trump an actor? You’re an actor’s actor, Henry Winkler. You’re successful in film and
HW: Well, there is a tell—
HH: –a voice actor. You think he’s an actor?
HW: There is a tell. I don’t think he’s an actor. I don’t think he’s an actor. I– I do believe that he is completely
self– possessed or obsessed. And– and it’s very interesting. This is what he does. When the crowd goes wild for
him, he moves his ear closer to the sound. You watch it, it happens.
HH: Oh, I know, it’s– I can see it.
HW: Every time.
HH: I can see it. I was on four debate stages with the president.
HW: Right. He’s—
HH: What’s that tell you?
HW: Th– that– that his life’s br– bread, his life’s blood is the sound of– appreciation or– adulation or
HH: Isn’t that every actor you’ve ever known?
HW: Not every actor, no. There is a reason to act. You act– truly, I mean, if– you act to illuminate life. You
hold life up for other people. And you say, “This is the experience. Are you touched by it? Are you informed by
it?” Not, you know– Shelley Berman said– that every kiss– every– joke, every laugh that he gets, every laugh
that he gets, is like a kiss on his balls. (LAUGH) Okay?
HH: We may ha– we have to edit that. But okay.
HW: It’s okay. It’s true. But the fact is that’s not the total reason to be an actor. And there are lots and lots of
actors out there who just are– are not in it just for the adulation. It feels good. I will not de– I will not– deny it.
It feels good to make a living. I will not deny it. To live my dream. B– it’s fun. Putting the character together.
Building a human being. That so– that– that people all over the world say, “How did you know me so well?
Ho– that’s me. I understand that. I am moved by that.” That is a good reason to be an actor.
HH: So you’re obviously passionate—
HW: Oh, here’s something else.
HH: –about President Trump. Go ahead, sure.
HW: About being an actor. How about people saying, “Hey (LAUGH) you Hollywood people, why don’t you
keep your politics to yourself?” I’m an American first. I am then a man. I am a husband. I am a dad, a
grandfather. I am a Jew. Why do I not have the same rights to look at my country that I love, that has been so
good to me, that I adore and have an opinion? Do I have to be– like, a coal miner? Do I have to be a farmer? Do
I– what– what is that about?
HH: You’ve gotta be from Ohio. It’s actually—
HW: Oh, I do?
HH: Th– th– that’s it.
HH: That– we really run– we elect presidents.
HW: If there is—
HH: If you carry Ohio, you win.
HW: I– if there is– reincarnation, I’m coming back as an Ohioan who is Bruce Springsteen.
HH: All right, there you go.
HW: Thank you very much.
HH: Let me talk to you though about—
HH: –when you– when you decided to go for President Obama, it’s a first for you, right? So you– and you did
a little bit for– for Clinton. But you throw all in.
HH: Do you feel like it was worth it? Because it didn’t in fact– it did not– impact your image. As I said, your
Q. When I was sitting down with—
HW: What do you mean was it worth it? In what way?
HH: Did he deliver?
HW: (SIGH) Do you know what? I– I’m not– I don’t know. I wish I loved what he had to say. I loved how he
said it. I loved how he had compassion for– the human beings who were killed in this country. For the sailors
who were lost at the bottom of their boat in– who actually mentioned it. I wish he were more of a schmoozer. I
wish he was Tip O’Neill. I wish he understood how to cross the aisle. Somebody just said to me something very
interesting. It’s so expensive to live in Washington that now, nobody can live in Washington. And so, the
senators used to leave the floor, have dinner, go to the school, and all of their children were playing ball
together. They had a life together. There was not so much– suspicion or divide. They– they did not agree all
the time. But they could talk about it. There’s no– doesn’t s– or it doesn’t seem to me, there’s any talking
HH: You’re– you’re very close. I live there most of the year. There is now this. Whereas we would watch
Gilligan’s Island then Happy Days, now we watch cable or ESPN.
HH: There is no space left.
HW: Right. Do you know David Gergen?
HW: Would you say hello to him for me?
HH: I will. I haven’t seen him in a few years—
HW: All right, but if you ever—
HH: –but he worked for President Ford and President Nix—
HW: Just send him my respect.
HH: And– ca– I wanna go back to your public education.
HW: Jake Tapper?
HH: Jake and I did the debates together.
HH: And– and we have lots of friends in the media. I get along fine.
HW: Li– and– and young, brand new Kathy Tur. (MAKES NOISE) I’m– I’m with Tur.
HH: Do you like Steve Kornacki?
HW: I love Steve Kornacki. Wi– starting with his incredibly impassioned reporting about the Bridgegate.
HW: I– that’s when he came into my vision. I think he’s incredibly– Ari. There are so many of these human
beings who are so smart.
HH: Steve Kornacki today.
HH: On the day that we’re taping.
HH: Wrote a very perceptive piece for NBC.com.
HH: That has in it, I believe I can quote it from memory, “the depiction of President Trump in media and
culture is uniquely hostile.”
HH: Do you agree with that?
HW: I agree that he has created– I believe– self-imposed—
HW: –Donald Trump has imposed a veneer that– keeps him like he is in bubble wrap. Like he is not connected
to or doesn’t have the empathy to be connected. And has created this thing where wh– do we love to hate him? I
don’t love hating him. Because I wish it was different.
HH: Do you have any optimism about him at all?
HW: I– as a human being am always looking for the pony in the pile of poop.
HW: And I keep thinking this can’t be true. This can’t be the way the man thinks. This can’t be that he is like
this. That there are 300 million Americans, and he takes care of 12.
HH: You’re a New Yorker.
HH: Your books, Hank Zipzer books– by the way, 28 of them– number 28 just came out. There’s gonna be a
total of 33.
HH: They’re all Manhattan.
HW: Yes, they are.
HH: They’re for the Manhattan people, right?
HW: He loves Manhattan.
HH: Okay, so we’ve got the African-American buddy who lives on the fourth floor, the Taiwanese girl whose
parents are doctors. His dad is your dad. They’re all mixed. But there’s Nick Mac– Mackavaney (PH)? Mac—
HW: Oh, McKelty.
HH: McKelty. The bad guy.
HW: Nick the tick.
HH: Nick the tick.
HH: And so, I’m thinking a lot of people like me think President Trump is just a New Yorker. And that, we just
gotta get used to him.
HW: No, I don’t believe it.
HH: Tell me why—
HW: I don’t believe it because I’ve met too many New Yorkers who have a world vision. Who don’t go
around— they– either there is a craziness that is truly going on, or he has a vision of total destruction like—
like– like Carthage. And out of that is supposed to grow something in his image, or different. I don’t know
But I don’t think that’s great for this world– and for our country.
HH: If you’re right, that’s ominous ac– that’s– that’s “take to the sea” if I may quote Barry Zuckerkorn to you.
HH: “Take to the sea.” But there’s a chance that it’s not.
HW: I did like the costume that I wore on Arrested Development.
HH: (LAUGH) Okay. Everyone– my– Guy Benson, another conservative who loves you.
HH: I was with him in Chicago last week. Says to me, “Ask him about Barry Zuckerkorn.” So, I’m going to just
say– that’s it. He said, “Ask him about Barry Zuckerkorn.”
HW: I fell into Barry Zuckerkorn. Mitch Hurwitz, he– called me and asked me if I would play this part. It was
only supposed to be, like, two episodes that I would be the– the lawyer for the family. And I knew that I was
having a great time. I’m sitting– first scene ever, I’m sitting in the living room with the entire family. And there
are Danishes. No one is eating the Danishes. And I just slowly started to take the Danish and put it in my
briefcase for later ’cause it shouldn’t go to waste. And it has grown in that I’m going to do– three episodes—in
this new– season.
HH: So, you have a serendipitous life. (GASPS) Except for your dyslexia.
HW: I’m knocking on– (KNOCKS ON WOOD) You know what? I have to tell you something. I have thought
about this. So, I got really angry that I was dyslexic. And then I got really angry that I learned that I was
dyslexic and didn’t have to have all of that punishment, all of that grounding, all of that humiliation. Then, I
embraced it. I don’t know, swear to you, if I would be sitting here today, talking to you if I was not dyslexic. I
don’t know if the fight, if the– if the passion, if the will to be somebody, to– to be out of this damaged brain,
different brain. To emerge. I don’t know if I– so, I love my dyslexia.
HH: Did you know Woodrow Wilson was dyslexic?
HW: I did not.
HH: Yeah, this– this– austere intellectual—
HW: I did not. Nor did I know Woodr– Woodrow. I didn’t know him. Woody.
HH: Well, he was– well, he was amazing—
HW: Yeah. WW.
HH: –progressive character.
HH: And lots of lefties love him. Lots of progressives loved him. And he’s dyslexic. And I’ve always wondered
about the connection between the left, or liberalism, and having empathy with some kind of disadvantage this
profound at the beginning of life.
HW: When your brain doesn’t work, and I’m talking about driving down this street and missing my house. And
my wife saying, “Anytime you wanna turn into the driveway or turn around, so we can go home, will be fine.”
Still to this day, there is something about– I understand what it is like to feel challenged physically, sports-wise,
academically– in– in– in– weight-wise, skin-wise. I don’t care. I talk to those kids, and I tell them, there is
greatness in you, no matter what your shape, what your size, what your color. And now, it is up to you to find
that greatness. Give it to the world.
HH: You stress resilience and friendship.
HH: President Obama’s books, which I read very closely and listened to as well.
HH: Very closely. Stress the same thing.
HH: The conservative in me says—
HH: –that is– sounds wonderful. His presidency was a disaster because it was founded on feelings. And the red
line was founded on feelings. He couldn’t bring himself to execute against Assad.
HW: Got it.
HW: (HENRY WINKLER: UNINTEL)
HH: –leading from behind, he couldn’t execute– he couldn’t bring himself to do hard things. I got in trouble
’cause I asked Ben Carson during a debate, “Do you have what it takes, you know, to kill people?”
HH: ‘Cause he’s really one of the nicest people I ever met. Do you think liberals might live in a world that’s
detached from the awful reality of the world?
HW: I don’t. I think that it’s up to the individual. I– I could never put a label like that. They– I heard, or I read– that there is a difference in the conservative brain and the liberal brain. They are– they are just wired differently.
HH: Wouldn’t surprise me.
HW: Yeah. And so, I think that’s part of it. But there are lots of liberals who– or who were completely active. Who are active. It is very interesting to hear you say that about– Barack Obama, that his feelings got in his way.
HH: Oh, I think all the time. And it’s not about– not about my opinion. It’s about your opinions. But I would love to know—
HW: But it is. It’s interesting. I’m glad I heard it.
HH: I– I– I– I enormously respect him as a father, as an achiever.
HW: Sure, sure, sure.
HH: As someone who overcame all this stuff.
HH: But with– with his politics, I agree with almost nothing.
HW: As a singer. (LAUGH)
HH: I– you know, almost nothing.
HH: My best friends are liberals, and I argue with him all night long. And yet, I can’t move them. And– do you move your conservative friends? Do you have conservative friends?
HW: I’m– I ha– I will have any friend. I will have any friend if they are interesting and if they are good people and d
don’t think that I wanna replace them.
HH: Did y– (LAUGH) you are very– you’re very right to bring that up by the way. I tried to explain this to my– (THROAT CLEARING) always Trumpers, friends, that he needed to condemn the anti-Semitic torch carriers specifically that way.
HW: You know how easy it is? A couple of thugs walkin’ around in the street. All of a sudden, it builds. A couple of other b– thugs join them. They pick a color for their shirt. (CLAPS) We’re off and running. I have no doubt that if we’re not careful (SNAPS) it could happen just like a match in a– in a bunch of fall leaves that have dried.
HH: I have much more confidence in the Constitution. I also don’t believe President Trump is a racist or a bigot in any way. I’ve interviewed him so often I have an ear for it.
HW: Right. Okay. So what does he do then? He only does what is good for the moment.
HH: He advances the Trump agenda as– he’s– his own party.
HW: I see.
HH: It’s a coalition– he’s not a Republican.
HW: Now, so, where does America fit in that?
HH: It fits in there that he’s working in combine with Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell to advance less government—
HW: Even though he’s yelling at them, that’s not really true.
HH: That’s not really true.
HW: I see.
HH: And it– it’s– in fact, when Bill Clinton would yell at George Mitchell, it wasn’t really true either.
HW: I see.
HH: It’s just politics.
HW: So, then let me ask you a question. (THROAT CLEARING) Is this politics? The– the emotional part. He comes out. He speaks in front of his– in– in front of his elevators. He has completely– eviscerated Mitch McConnell in the news, on the tweets, in the whatever. His wife, Mitch McConnell’s wife, is standing there smiling.
HW: So, Mitch McConnell does not come home and go (MAKES NOISE) like– who is– J– Sessions?
HW: He doesn’t come home and say, “Wow, that’s– that’s hur– that’s crazy. That’s hurtful.” The– what is the man doing?
HH: This is important. This—
HW: Or is it—
HH: Washington is a big theater. It is a giant arena—
HH: –of propositional—
HH: –exchanges. But you’re an actor. You w– you’ve worked your whole life with people. You don’t care what they say about you.
HW: Oh, yes, I do.
HH: Except in the reviews (THROAT CLEARING) right?
HW: No. I– you– you– you learn not to read reviews.
HW: Because the people are very mean. They say they wanna set their hair on fire because of your performance in something you think you did really well in. I mean, what is that? I call the guy up in Texas. I said, “You wanna set your hair on fire?”
HH: Did you really?
HH: You called a critic up?
HW: Yeah, I did. I said, “I’m makin’ a movie here. What are you talk–” “Oh, it’s just my sense of humor.”
HH: Oh good– apply that to President Trump. He watches cable. And it’s– it’s like you callin’ the critic. He wants to call up the people on cable that—
HW: No, I understand.
HH: Do you understa—
HW: So, how does the wife of Mitch McConnell stand there and smile? Then on the other side you have two– Jewish men. One of them I th– I heard is going to maybe be elevated to—
HH: Gary Cohn, yeah.
HW: –to the—
HH: Federal Reserve.
HW: –head of the Fed.
HW: So, I know why he’s standing there. The other one is married to a hilaria (SIC). What– what– what– wh– I’m now thinking governance has nothing to do with protecting America.
HW: In 2017.
HH: It’s an interview again, not a debate. Let me ask you.
HW: Yeah. I don’t know.
HH: Do you have anything good to say about Donald Trump?
HW: I’ll get back to you on that.
HH: (LAUGH) Did you have anything good to say about Ronald Reagan?
HW: Yeah. I met him. I thought he was lovely. I knew his– his wife. I knew his daughter. Yeah.
HH: Do you have anything good to say about George W. Bush?
HH: Everybody loves the old man.
HH: Everybody– I—
HH: –(UNINTEL) is easy.
HW: No, I have to say– the– the fact that he– he also abdicated– and gave his vice president– more than he should. There is something charming– sincere, lovely about– Bush Jr.
HH: Yeah, I’ve interviewed him a number of times. He will never say one word about President Obama. He will not say—
HH: –a critical word about President Obama. (UNINTEL)—
HW: Because he has—
HW: That’s right.
HH: He’s gracious.
HW: He’s gracious.
HH: Would you fly fish– you’re a fly fisherman.
HW: I am.
HH: How often do you go?
HW: I go twice a year.
HH: And you’re good?
HW: W– I am– I am– I love it so much, I don’t care if I’m good or not.
HH: Would you fly fish—
HH: –with Dick Cheney?
HW: I’m not sure. I’m not sure because I have this sense about him that is dark.
HH: Oh, I love the guy, Henry.
HH: I love the guy.
HH: He’s been a great public servant—
HH: –for so long. But it was a war time. It was 9/11. Let me give you a proposition.
HH: How did you change on 9/11?
HW: How did I change? I saw our country across the board come together as one undulating– universe. We were– everybody had one thought. I– I had my flag. They had their flag. We were under one flag.
HH: What happened since then? ‘Cause we’re not under one flag (LAUGH) right now.
HW: I don’t know. I’m trying to figure that out. I don’t– I’m not so smart. And I don’t even– that’s not even hyperbole. I don’t know what happened. I’m thinking we only function like that as a– as a one in– in dire straits.
HH: Now, civility in politics is pretty stressed right now.
HH: That’s why I was so glad you said, “Come up, let’s talk.”
HH: You know I’m conservative, we’ve done the radio before.
HH: Does it exist in the entertainment community, diversity of opinion, where you talk to a conservative? They have the– the semi-secret organi—
HW: Not always.
HH: Not always.
HW: No, no, no. Because ri– actors are human beings first. They are who they are first. And then, they do their job as an actor. Just being an actor– you are– a dad. A husband. A grandfather. You’re– I’m a producer. I– I write children’s books. I have a partner. I live a very rich, full life that includes my profession of acting, also.
HH: So, in your conversations with your fellow actors, do you talk politics?
HH: And do you have any conservative actors with whom you work on a regular basis or is it the uniform world? I’ve spent time with Rob Reiner, with Oliver Stone, with Ron Howard, your pal.
HH: Interviewing various projects, doing dif– different things.
HH: There are a couple of conservatives up here.
HH: But there aren’t many.
HW: Not many.
HH: Why is that?
HW: Maybe it is the– the– the need to– create– comes from that brain that is more inclusive. More– willing to accept everybody and who they are.
HH: Now, Lincoln– of course, my party was your party—
HW: Can I ask you a question?
HH: You bet.
HW: Is– is it true that the– the population is changing in color in America?
HW: That– yes. And– you know, because I hear about M13 or MS13, the gang?
HW: And I hear a lot about them. But what I hear is not when they are plucked and sent away. I hear about the mother who is plucked and sent away. And it hit me like a ton of bricks. You send the mother away because they have babies.
HH: Huh. I don’t think there’s a plan like that, Henry.
HH: I– I– I– race is a very interesting thing. Immigration’s a very interesting thing.
HW: I don’t know either.
HH: But– but when we come to the entertainment community, people who are watching this, it’s MSNBC.
HH: It’s got mostly– it skews a little bit to the left. It might have some new conservatives, ’cause there are new conservatives running around like this.
HH: What do you say to conservatives about the artist– the artistic community’s willingness to be fair? Forget President Trump for a second. ‘Cause he’s one of a kind.
HW: He’s one of a kind, right.
HH: What about Paul Ryan? Son of a single mom. Takes care of his mom.
HW: Paul Ryan? Yes. I’m sure is a really good fellow. And has an agenda which– has him also at the center. I’m sure he likes the position he’s got and wants to keep it. And a lot of the times, you hear him say– and is almost saying the right thing. But it sounds like a bowl of just– just before Jell-O solidifies. It all sounds really shaky.
HH: We really– I say we meaning– ’cause I’m a Ryan conservative. We really don’t think government can do anything very well. We think that most government functions is public education, function to Henry Winkler as a child with dyslexia. They think they know what the problem is, they have no idea.
HW: Okay, let me ask you a question. Why don’t we– you know what the most important infrastructure for me is? Education.
HH: Education, sure.
HH: Your books would telegraph that.
HW: Right. And– and I’ll te– why don’t we pay attention? We give lip service. We have overcrowded schools. We have overcrowded classrooms. A teacher is trying to teach the top 10% and the bottom 10% the same information in the same amount of time. Somebody is falling through the cracks. How do we let a fifth of the population, 20% of the population, just kind of fall away?
HH: You’re a conservative, Henry.
HW: I am.
HH: That– because—
HW: I’m– I’m with you, then.
HH: –the public employee unions—
HW: Then I’m also a conservative. (OVERTALK)
HW: And I am proud of it.
HH: Then– then wh– what about the inability to fix that– pre– the big cities where these school districts are.
HW: It’s will. Will. All you have to do is want to do it from the head to the feet. Whatever that is. If it’s the government in the city, if it’s the government in the state. I– I– I wanna know, does Flint, Michigan have clean water yet? And– or from the major government in the United States? The president. If you will it, it is not a dream.
HW: I live that.
HH: If I tell you– if I start to make an argument to you that it’s—
HW: If we care about those children, and they get an education, and they have a point of view, we– it– it would all change.
HH: I do. And I think the problem has been diagnosed by conservatives.
HH: But that when we make the argument, liberals hear Charlie Brown’s teacher in– in Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown. The– the tuba, the– going (MAKES NOISE). They don’t hear us. Do you ever listen to conservatives? Do you and—
HW: I do.
HH: You do.
HW: I will listen to anybody who has an answer that will m– take care of all of us. I will listen to anybody. I don’t care. I don’t have that, “Oh my god, he’s a conservative. I’m not listening.”
HW: A good point is a good point. And I– you know why you– we watch the news? ‘Cause we want to hear somebody say something that we are not falling off the face of the earth. That we can take back the position from Madam Merkel. Who is– is a lovely woman. Who filled the vacuum. It was us until that moment, right? I would like to take back our position in the world.
HH: Now, if I tell you that I was very happy with the president’s speech on Monday night about Afghanistan—
HW: Okay, here’s what I’m gonna ask you.
HH: (UNINTEL) tell me. No, you tell me what you thought of the president’s speech.
HH: People are interested in you, they’re not interested in me.
HW: You– we now have heard him a lot. I take a moment, and you tell me if I’m– if I’m wrong. I’m just piecing facts together. I hear about the phone call to the president of Mexico early on about, “Please, you gotta help me here. I gotta– I can’t just not say I’m gonna have the wall. You gotta pay for the wall, and then I’ll pay you back. It’ll all work out and it–” There I saw the man kind of like treading water, trying to figure out how he was going to fill all of this stuff, that maybe he doesn’t think so fast because he speaks. Okay? I don’t know who I’m listening to. I don’t know. Because he can read from a teleprompter kind of slowly, kind of like with no passion and no ferschtunt (PH). No understanding of the material. No, I know that for sure. Because I know people who have worked with him in the office, in his office. And they are shocked by how little this man cares to know.
HH: Let’s talk about his team.
HH: You’re a producer and a director.
HH: So, you’ve had to put together series, and you’ve had to—
HH: And you’ve been an actor, of course.
HH: James Mattis, Secretary of Defense. Probably not a Republican, can’t be sure. John Allen, Chief of Staff, Marine Corps general, probably not a Republican, can’t be sure.
HW: John Allen?
HH: Yeah, the– the Chief of Staff, General Allen.
HH: Mike Pompeo, director of the Central Intelligence Agency—
HW: I have no feeling about him whatsoever.
HH: Okay, number one at West Point, I know him pretty well. He’s pretty– he’s– he’s an amazing guy.
HH: Wh– we can talk about H. R. McMaster, the national—
HH: –security advisor.
HW: Getting a bad replace.
HH: He’s a terrific man.
HW: He looks like it.
HH: So he built this team. Mike Pence is a good friend of mine—
HH: And I believe him to be a very wonderful human being.
HH: Some of my audience won’t agree with that, some will. You look at his team. He put together a very good team, didn’t he?
HW: Right. And then, he’s– General Kelly.
HH: General Kelly.
HW: Okay, now.
HH: I said Allen, I’m sorry, I meant General Kelly.
HW: Okay, now General Kelly. I feel for this guy.
HW: I’m not kidding. I literally– I put myself in him– in his position. And I wake up in the morning, and I think, “What is he gonna do today? What am I gonna do to make sure he doesn’t do that? Can I ever do anything to make sure he doesn’t do that?” I– eventually, the job is going to beat him over the head until he bleeds from his skull.
HH: What do you think the job did to President Obama?
HW: Say it again.
HH: What do you think the job did to President Obama over eight years? And to make it bipartisan, what did it do to George W. Bush over eight years? It’s the hardest damn job in the world.
HW: It is the hardest damn job. But you have to have a– will to take care of everybody in this country. Now, do you do it as a conservative? Do you do it as a liberal? I don’t care. I would vote for a conservative like that. I would vote for a Republican like that. If I thought they had a vision for “we’re gonna figure this out” or “we’re gonna figure out as much as we can.” Not—
HH: Let me begin to wrap this up by asking you. Is there anything President Trump can do to persuade Henry Winkler that he has the country’s best interests at heart? Anything that he can say, do, a way of acting.
HW: Do. And not say anymore. No. The– the– I think that a– we’re way past words. Because you never know who you’re gonna see. You never know– the– the real– the real Donald– comes out. And then, there is– the guy who says, “All right, I’ll do it. I’ll read what I’m supposed to.” The doing. The caring about the population.
I– selling off– now, I go fly fishing in the West. I go to Yellowstone Park. I have to drive through Yellowstone Park to get to the river in Idaho. It’s crowded. It takes me a long time. People are loving the park. And then, we sell parts of the park off? It’s already crowded. There’s not enough room for all of the Americans to love and enjoy America. How do you take the rivers that we drink from, we fish in, we walk in, we sit by, we listen to, we– we– we are replenished by. Th– that– that water, our crops, and put sludge into them because it’s expedient? That– those little tiny things, the beaches made up of a grain of sand. You got a lot of grains that are making a beach that– is unhealthy sand.
HH: Now, I don’t disagree with any of that. But under President Obama’s E.P.A.—
HH: –they turned the Colorado River yellow—
HH: –because of mal-administration.
HH: They– there were so many screw ups in the I.R.S. There are so many screw ups—
HW: I’m– I– I don’t deny it.
HH: –the gun running—
HH: If we get it right, if the results are good—
HH: Does Henry Winkler have it in him to say, “You know what, I– he may not have been the best rhetorical president. He may not have been number 44 in the 45.”
HW: If we get it right?
HH: If we get it right.
HW: I will call you. And I will record the sentence, “Do you know what? Shut my mouth.”
HH: Well, I don’t want you to shut your mouth. ‘Cause I– it’s– it’s so nice that someone will talk to me about this from your world. Because most people aren’t engaging on politics right now.
HW: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).
HH: They wanna talk about Russia with me.
HW: No, I– I understand. That’s another thing.
HH: Well, what do you– that’s I– I had to– hey, if only for the rest of my (UNINTEL)—
HW: Okay, can I just say?
HH: Tell me.
HW: Here’s what I think about Russia.
HW: I can’t wait.
HH: You think there’s a there, there?
HW: I think there’s a there, there.
HW: I think there are too many things that were said when it was not really scrutinized, when it wasn’t really looked at or important, that– it’s– it’s– I’m– I’m saying. Do you know? One of the– the– the– yes, I do– I– I just smell it. If I’m wrong, I will call you and record that sentence.
HH: If Mr. Mueller does not indict anyone currently in the government. I’m ex– I’m exempting Manafort because he had business ties to Ukraine, I don’t know anything about Mr. Manafort. I’m exempting General Flynn and his ties to Turkey. I’m– I’m talkin’ about the president and the people in the West Wing right now. If there are no indictments of anyone there or in the family, do you think that that would have been a witch hunt that may have sent us spiraling off in the wrong direction? Could Donald Trump have been right about, “What the hell were they talkin’ about? I didn’t do anything”?
HW: You know what, I don’t know. But I wanna know—
HH: You wanna know.
HW: –whether there is no there, there. I want to know is there a there, there. I really am really interested in knowing.
HH: I agree with you. Let me conclude by asking you. Why do you think he won? Secretary Clinton’s on a book tour right now.
HH: I– I look forward to talking to her. I hope she’ll talk to me on the radio show or TV. ‘Cause I wanna talk to her about what happened. I was as surprised as anyone. I maybe have been the only person at 30 Rock who voted for President Trump. But I sure was as surprised as everyone else was that night. What do you think happened, and who voted for him? Henry Winkler.
HW: I think it was– people sat home. I am very angry at those people who sat home. I did tweet that if we don’t vote with a rational enthusiasm in 2018 and 2020, we deserve whatever we’re getting.
HH: Will you be engaged in—
HW: I don’t know.
HW: I’m– honestly, I don’t know.
HH: There’s– because I keep thinking Senator Kamala Harris, our senator now in California, is the next nominee of the Democratic party. And she’s a progressive. And she’s as dynamic as President Obama was in 2008.
HW: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).
HH: So, this experience hasn’t taken you away from politics? You’re– you’re on– you’re waitin’ to see.
HW: No, but I– listen. I– I am not– I am not– I don’t know how to say it. I’m interested. I– I think passionately. Just about the human beings in this country. I– the little boy in Ohio that was playing with his gun at 12 years old and within two seconds was dead with no question, no yelling, no what– that is the microcosm of one of the– one of the– the m– the things. It just breaks my heart.
HH: President Trump got 62.9 million votes. Fewer than Secretary Clinton—
HH: –but enough to win significantly (UNINTEL)—
HW: Yes, he won, he’s there.
HH: He’s there. Who are those 62.9 million people?
HW: I don’t know. And I—
HH: They– but they watch you. They love you. I mean, they– they– they—
HW: And can I just say, I love them? I don’t agree with them. I– I think they– I– I– I think they– have every right to feel as strong, as passionately as they do.
HH: So, are the people that are going to the rallies good, bad, ill-informed– indifferent to facts? Who do you– the bigger—
HW: Well, do you know what? I– there must be something to be in the hall with this man. So, you go to the rally. I mean– you know, I– you go to the rally. I mean, that– the– it must be something to be there—
HH: That’s a good point.
HW: –to– when he is on– when he is on his game.
HH: I was in the Fleet Center in 2004 when President Obama, then nominee-for-Senate Obama, state Senator Obama, gave his amazing speech. And so, there is something to just going. Right? It’s theater.
HW: Right. I– but– the– the– just that– oh my god, this is the guy. This is the guy of the moment. You know, and– you– you know, 20,000 people that you– you pick up the energy. I– I would not– I would not– the way I don’t want them to categorize me, I would not do that to them. They’re there. They believe. I sometimes wonder, do they hear the same thing I do? Do they see the same behavior I do? Do they fit that behavior into what is happening in just pulling everybody apart as I do?
HH: Completely different but really final question. The Hank Zipzers of the world.
HH: Who are struggling.
HH: Are they gonna be better off in ten and 15 years than they have been after the last ten or 15 years?
HW: Okay, I will tell you. They will be better off when they realize they are not defined by their challenge. When they are not defined by school or grades. No one is going to ask them how they did in geometry in the world. I– I– I– I tell this story all– I– I took geometry for four years, same course. I finally passed it senior year, summer school, with a D-minus. That was in 1963. June, 1963. Here we are in– August, 2017. From then to now, not one human being on this earth anywhere that I travel in the world has said the word hypotenuse to me. (LAUGH)
HH: I’m not gonna break that record. (LAUGH) Henry Winkler, thank you so much.
End of interview