Public vs. private is the major distinction of the three political scandals. Only one of the scandals, the Iran-Contra affair, involved scandal on an international scale. However, each scandal made an impact on U.S. history.
Watergate has been called the greatest political scandal of all time. It was a scandal of epic proportions, even though it only involved Americans directly. Pres. Nixon, who held the most power and influence in the U.S., directed and funded (using taxpayer money) a break-in. All of the evidence pointed to Nixon, including wire taps he had installed in his own office. After being found guilty of the actual and related crimes, Pres. Nixon was forced into a humiliating, public resignation.
President Clinton faced impeachment and removal from office after it became obvious that he used carefully-worded language to lie about an affair. During that time, many people stated that Clinton's lies hurt no one but his family. The belief was that the president's behavior was his own business. However, the affair did tarnish the world had of the U.S; jokes about the president were common.
Government officials normally refuse to negotiate with individuals who hold captives however the Iran-Contra affair was a case of indirect negotiation. The Iran-Contra affair had an impact on the U.S. international standing. Not only was diversion of government funds and cover-up exposed, but this affair was on an international scale. The situation began innocently enough with an attempt to help Iran, but the effort fell through. No evidence of the unethical act points directly to President Reagan.
Pres. Nixon's offense is the most offensive because he willfully committed a crime and then covered it up.