Presidential Crises and Scandals

Act 4: From Nixon to Bush, Barbara Walters takes a look at her unforgettable presidential interviews
8:58 | 11/29/13

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Transcript for Presidential Crises and Scandals
It's where the buck stops, the president's desk, what does it take to survive the pressures and have an impact? Each had their defining moments and the moments they regret. In my interviews with eight u.S. Presidents. They talked about their most difficult decisions. Now we know that there were no weapons of mass destruction? Was it worth it? Oh, absolutely. We touched on life changing events, like the assassin's bullet that nearly killed ronald reagan. I didn't know I was shot. I thought it was fireworks. After I got in the car, all of a sudden, I felt the most excruciating pain I've ever felt. Most important, each president revealed his inner thoughts about the challenges he faced that would define his legacy. If you place your left hand on the bible. For richard nixon, it was the watergate scandal. Not the slightest suggestion I had knowledge of the planning. The only u.S. President to quit while on the job. I shall resign the president see effective noon tomorrow. Nixon left in disgrace done in by his secret oval office recordings which proved he knew about the break-in. I sat down several times with president nixon. You are with us so much somebody wondered if you weren't part of the party. The most difficult was his his first live interview after leaving the white house. Are you sorry you didn't burn the tapes? Yes, I think so because they were private conversations subject to misinterpretation as we have all seen. Every time I saw him from then on, he apologized again. I made my mistakes as we have all seen. I gerald r. Ford solemnly swear -- when vice president gerald ford was sworn in, he becathe first and only us president not to be voted into office, within a month, ford pardoned nixon. I full, free, and absolute pardon. A controversial gesture that may have cost him the next election. It hurt you. In this election. I am sure, uh, barbara, that it had an adverse impact. I just decided, regardless of the political consequences, that I would do what I thought was right. President ford built a reputation for falling down those slippery air force one stairs, but I couldn't summon the courage to ask him about it. Jimmy carter, the peanut farmer from georgia, was a southern gentleman, at least on the surface. And that was fortunate for me because this was my first presidential special. Are you mean? Do you have a cold, hard mean streak, do those blue eyes get cold and hard? Well, I'm mean enough to protect myself. And to win if I'm in a battle, and there's another moment with the carters that took me years to live down. I just pray that I will never disappoint the american people. Why couldn't I have left well enough alone? Be wise with us, governor. Be good to us. Ugg. Read my lips. No new taxes. For the first president bush, the issue was credibility. He was accused of being 'too nice.' shall we say that terrible word? Wimp factor. In other words, he vacillated on major issues. You sorry that you ever said, "read my lips, no new taxes"? I'm not sorry in the sense of trying to hold the line on taxes. I think it caused a credibility problem at the time. I would have to rank that as not a howling success. Put it that way. It didn't help that mrs. Bush sometimes openly contradicted the president. But it gave me an amusing insight to the inner workings of their, at the time -- 44 year marriage -- you felt that some of his answers perhaps during the campaign were not as strong about the homeless as they should have been and you it was something the truth? Yeah, I saw that, too. I thought it was outrageous. That's not true or untrue. What's that mean? It is of a great concern and you wanted him to know it, is that it? Well, I think he knew it. No, she criticized some answer I gave, I wouldn't say chastised me for it, it wasn't exactly, but -- you must have told. I didn't tell. I william douglas clinton -- when bill clinton arrived in washington, the central question was about his character. An issue in the 1996 presidential campaign. How important is it for the president to be a role model? I think it's important for the president to be a role model as a leader for the country, but I don't think that means we should turn our politics into one long dark night of personal attacks. I did not have sexual relations with that woman. The president with the best intentions made some of the worst personal mistakes. Nevertheless, he left office with the highest approval rating in history. Always articulate, in my most recent encounter, clinton spoke eloquently about the harsh reality of facing death. When you had your quadruple bypass surgery, what impact has that had on you today? I realized, you know, that if I hadn't made it through that surgery, I would have still had a life more full, more rich than the vast majority of people that ever lived. And I decided that, you know, if people survive for a reason, that, that my reason should be to give those chances to other people. From the first days of his presidency, george w bush faced a list of challenges, none bigger than this -- there is one report a plane has hit the world trade center. Mr. President, you were in a classroom of second graders, reading a school children's book, when your chief of staff whispered in your ear. What did he say? He said, a second airplane has hit the world trade center. America is under attack.' what were your thoughts? Well, I was -- I -- I knew i needed to be clear-headed, and i was anxious to get out of the classroom to get the facts. When did you say to yourself, 'this means war?' when I learned that the crash was not an accident, but looked like a planned attack, I knew we were --i knew we were entering into a whole new era in american history, that we were at war. Of all of my presidential interviews, the most unforgettable would have to be with the universally popular ronald reagan. A former actor, he was president of the screen actors guild long before he was president of the united states. You, of course, are being called all the time "the great communicator." Do you think that any of that is the acting experience? I have often wondered how some people in positions of this kind, how do they manage without having had that experience? I took a memorable ride with the gipper on thanksgiving, 1981 at his private ranch in his now famous jeep. I hope you're a good driver. You know what you're doing, i hope. Yes, I've been driving this for quite a while. You probably deduced that it wasn't new. I don't want to hurt your feelings, but this is the scroungiest jeep I have ever -- the upholstery is coming out. I mean, I know we have an austerity program, but this is ridiculous. Our interviews were down-to-earth and forthright. Ronald reagan seemed to have the capacity to make the country feel better. Mr. President, this ranch is a very special place for you. What happens to you here? What does it do for you? Well, it almost casts a spell. It is truly a shangri la. And it just, well, I guess the scripture line is right. "I looked at the hills from whence cometh my strength." I've always believed tt there was some plan that put this continent here to be found by people 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.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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