"My experience at the White House was invaluable," says Smith, who helped maneuver through the Clarence Thomas proceedings, deliberations in Kuwait and the Los Angeles riots, among dozens of other issues. "When you're at the center of the universe, you have to think quickly and size up a situation instantly because whether you like it or not you're going to be on the news the next day."
Afterward, Smith worked for a few years as NBC's vice president of communications responsible for news, sports and entertainment shows. Then she opened her own firm, which handles corporate clients as well as individuals. Smith's resume attracted high-profile cases. Working with Lewinsky, whose affair with President Clinton had made her a target of national wrath, Smith orchestrated the selection of Lewinsky's legal team and created a communications strategy that was compatible with the legal strategy.
"We tried to portray her as a young woman at a certain point in her life, vulnerable and exposed to certain things. Our goal was to get an agreement and make sure she didn't have to go to jail," she says.
Underlying all of Smith's crisis management is the fundamental belief that most people deserve a second chance. "I think that we all make mistakes," she says.