Charlie Gibson, Politics and Presidents

PHOTO Charles Gibson is shown on the "ABC News" set in this April 24, 1984 file photo, in Washington, D.C.

Charles Gibson has covered politics for ABC News for nearly 35 years. But many years before he was a political reporter, when he was a child growing up in Washington, D.C., Gibson marveled at the life in the White House and the Capitol.

"It's a pretty great profession that gets you inside the gates," he said on tonight's "World News."

Gibson has been inside those gates on countless occasions since, and is asked constantly about interviewing presidents.

He started with an interview with Richard Nixon, and then sat down with Gerald Ford. Gibson watched Ford in his hotel suite at the Republican Convention in 1976 as he watched himself be nominated for President -- and then talked to him after his defeat.

Next came Jimmy Carter, always gracious in an interview, Gibson said and Ronald Reagan who Gibson asked if he was trading arms for hostages, leading up to the 1987 Iran-Contra Affair. "No. In no way," the president replied.

Gibson also sat down with Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

"It can be imposing when you realize the President has gotten angry with a question," Gibson said on "World News," about an interview he did with Clinton that prompted the president to ask Gibson sternly, "Do you want to have an honest conversation?"

And of course, the current President Barack Obama -- where questions got personal on the campaign trail when Gibson asked him about his father who abandoned his family.

"My conclusion is that some of my drive comes from wanting to prove that he should have stuck around," Obama told Gibson.

But covering politics wasn't always fun. At a demonstration at the 1984 Democratic convention, police told Gibson to move behind their lines. He said "no," not unless the other networks had to move too. The next thing he knew, he was on the ground and handcuffed. He was released an hour later.

Gibson moderated the 2004 presidential debate between President W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry. He's also moderated candidate debates – last year ABC News had the Republican and Democratic candidates all in one night before the New Hampshire primary.

"The one thing I wanted was to get them all on the stage at once -- to show that everyone is in this together," Gibson said on "World News." "It was -- to me -- a majestic moment."

Sarah Palin and Tip O'Neil

And then there are the interviews that people remember. In September 2008, Gibson interviewed Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin – the interview made headlines as Gibson questioned her on foreign affairs, national security, and whether or not she had enough experience for the job.

She famously told Gibson that, "you could actually see see Russia from land here in Alaska."

But when people ask him about the most memorable character he's covered?

"I don't have to think about it," Gibson said.

For six years, he covered the late speaker of the House Tip O'Neil -- an old-time Irish-American politician who didn't worry much about political correctness, but whose instincts for politics were flawless.

Gibson summed it up at the end of his "World News" broadcast this evening, "I'm just as grateful for having had the chance to cover it -- and see it from the inside."

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