'20/20': Memorable Reagan Moments

REAGAN: Yes. I would sit there beside him and listen to the radio or something (laughter).

WALTERS: You stopped, I hope.

REAGAN: Yes. Oh, yes.

WALTERS: You don't do that with heads of state.

REAGAN: No. No.

WALTERS: You're more like your mother, people say … Do you think that's so?

REAGAN: She left me with an enduring faith, I know that. We were always conscious of people who were worse off than we were because my mother was always finding people that needed help.

WALTERS: What do you think is the biggest misconception about you?

REAGAN: Oh, I think the image that I am heartless and ruthless and so forth. As I say, I'm really a soft touch.

1986: ‘The Great Communicator’

In 1986, Walters met with Reagan again. When Walters visited the president, midway through his second term, Reagan enjoyed a 70 percent approval rating.

WALTERS: You, of course, are often called "the Great Communicator." Do you think that any of that is the acting experience? Are you able to express emotion in a better way, perhaps, or in a different way than other political people because with you it's just instinctive?

REAGAN: I've often wondered how some people in positions of this kind — how they manage without having had any acting experience. (laughs)

WALTERS: You have also been called "the Teflon President." … They say nothing sticks to you, no criticism sticks to you, that you get away with everything. How do you answer that criticism?

REAGAN: Well, maybe it has something to do with an image that's been created that, frankly, I find a little frustrating. They say I don't really think for myself, that the staff tells me what to do. Then there's the other one that I'm always making gaffes, saying things that aren't so. I'll always be sorry that I didn't overrule some people. A few years ago, the day after a press conference, the press was out with six horrendous mistakes, gaffes, that I had made. … I wrote a statement to the effect that I was right and they were wrong in these matters.

1990: Remembering His White House Years

Walters sat down with Reagan for the last time in 1990, reviewing his White House years and discussing his political and legacy.

WALTERS: How do you think that history will remember you?

REAGAN: I hope it'll remember me on the basis that when I took office, I felt very strongly that our government had grown too officious and imposing too much on the private sector in our society and that I wanted to see if the American people couldn't get back that pride and that patriotism, that confidence that they had in our system. And I think they have.

… I've always believed that there was some plan that put this continent here to be found by people from every corner of the world who had the courage and the love of freedom enough to uproot themselves — leave family and friends and homeland to come here and develop a whole new people called American. You look at the beauty of it, and God really did shed his grace on America, as the song says.

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