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In Focus: Illegal Immigration; A "Fixer" Goes Public; Dogs and Politics

Aired May 13, 2012 - 19:30   ET


TOM FOREMAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Millions of immigrants have raised illegally from Mexico into the U.S.. Efforts to stop them have prompted protests, bitter words, even violence.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These guys patrol this area day and night.

FOREMAN: But a stunning new report says the border war is over. So why isn't Washington celebrating?

You've seen her with the president, the famous and the infamous. When scandal breaks, Judy Smith is close by. Now one of the most secretive women in power politics explains what she's been up to. At least a little.

JUDY SMITH: I can't talk about that.


FOREMAN: He's fast, he's smart, he's charming.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are not producing this interview, buddy.

FOREMAN: He may also be a key to bringing fans back to NASCAR.

And presidents' pooches' politics gone to the dogs. All on "In Focus."


FOREMAN: Welcome. I'm Tom Foreman. With voters wildly and widely dissatisfied with both major political parties these days you might think that Washington will be eager to trumphet any sort of bipartisan success especially on a highly divisive issue.

Think again. A startling report from a reputable group here says that America has in its grasp just such a success on the issue of illegal immigration. And yet Washington right now seems to have no idea what to do with it.

(voice-over): Despite the protests and counter-protests, the conservative outrage and liberal unrest all along the 2,000-mile U.S. border with Mexico, raw numbers say the war on illegal immigration is largely over. The number of people trying to slip into America unnoticed has plummeted so drastically in recent years, it is now likely that more native-born Mexicans are leaving the U.S. to go home than are trying to come here. At least, that is the startling finding of a new analysis of U.S. and Mexican census data, arrest records and interviews by the Pew Hispanic Center. Jeff Passel led the search.

JEFF PASSEL, PEW HISPANIC CENTER: We've actually seen the unauthorized population, the number living here from Mexico shrinking over the last three years.

FOREMAN: They're getting smaller?


FOREMAN: And at the same time politically (INAUDIBLE) the whole argument is about how it's ballooning?

PASSEL: That's right.

FOREMAN: How did it happen? Certainly the crashing American economy destroyed many of the the jobs that for 40 years spurred millions of immigrants to brave the desert and possible arrests. Plummenting birth rates in Mexico played a role too. But there is no denying this is also a victory for the heavy hand of the law.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These guys patrol this area day and night, and they're looking for signs.

FOREMAN: We sent our CNN senior national security producer Suzanne Kelly down to take a look, and she said part of what made it work was making parts of the border a bit like a war zone.

SUZANNE KELLY, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY PRODUCER: What war zones look like are tough, rugged areas that are difficult to get to, difficult to monitor, difficult to see what's going on and see who is going where.

FOREMAN (on camera): And they have a lot of big military equipment moving around.

KELLY: Exactly. Special forces are now part of a toolbox for border protection in this country.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Pew notes that funding for the border patrol more than doubled over the past seven years. On the border now? Almost 24,000 border patrols and agents, more than 10,000 motion detectors, nine unmanned surveillance drones.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These aircrafts have cameras, high-definition cameras that help us at night.

FOREMAN: 125 airplanes and helicopters. Pursuit of illegal immigrants have also been stepped up inland. More than a quarter of a million were picked up and deported in 2010 alone. Add efforts by states to pass laws against illegal immigrants -

PASSEL: I think it's fair to say the purpose of them is to make life difficult for the unauthorized immigrants. And it seems to be doing that.

FOREMAN: Still, Washington is not taking much credit for this victory forged by Republican and democratic presidents alike. In simple terms, political analysts suggest democrats don't want to crow too much for fear of annoying their liberal base, Republicans don't want to admit anything is going right with the democrat in the Oval Office. And Quinnipiac University recently found almost seven in 10 voters support the Arizona immigration law now before the Supreme Court.

But beyond the politics, federal agents too remain horrifically concerned because as the number of Mexican citizens they've apprehended declines they've been able to focus more on violent drug running and the threat of terrorism spilling over the line.

KELLY: The people that are most concerned about are the OTMs right? The other then Mexicans. Is what they call them and those are the people coming from places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen.

FOREMAN (on camera): How many of these people are there?

KELLY: So far this year, three months of this year, 19,000.

FOREMAN: How seriously do they take the threat of this?

KELLY: Very seriously.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Granted, many of those people are from other Latin American countries. Still, Pew says there are still 11 million undocumented Mexican workers in the United States, and no one knows if current trends will continue once the U.S. economy recovers.

PASSEL: The question for the future is whether the job magnet of the U.S. will continue to draw people or whether enforcement and conditions in Mexico will keep people home again.

FOREMAN: So maybe all of that makes Washington hesitant to say that what we're doing is working. Because on the border, the battle is always changing politically, economically and strategically.

KELLY: I don't think when you're looking at border security and you're looking at keeping the country safe something is ever going to work because the threat is constantly changing. The threat is changing and evolving and adapting. And the second that we think, in Washington or anywhere in the country, that it works, we're all in trouble.


FOREMAN: In just a moment, a woman in trouble, a man going around in circles, and how a pooch saved the presidency and just might do it again.


FOREMAN: A woman here in Washington, D.C., has found herself in trouble again which is really no surprise because she always does. In trouble with presidents, CEOs, celebrities and sports stars. She asks for it. The simple truth is, in this town full of scandal, she is the one that big names call when things go wrong. And now she is going public.


MICHAEL VICK: We all know in the past I've made some mistakes. I've done some terrible things. I made a horrible mistake.

FOREMAN (voice-over): That's her, on the edge of the Michael Vick dog fighting scandal. On the edge of congressional turmoil. On the edge of the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky affair.


FOREMAN: In all of Washington, there is no one edgier than Judy Smith.

JUDY SMITH: I really do enjoy it. I think it's in my DNA.

FOREMAN (on camera): It's in your DNA -

SMITH: I do.

FOREMAN: To get phone calls at three in the morning from people having a panic attack?

SMITH: To handle crisis, yes.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When have I ever not been cleared.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Never. Until today.

FOREMAN: Hollywood likes it, too. The new ABC TV show "Scandal" is based on Judy Smith's life and work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The man is a saint which is why the president (INAUDIBLE) and nominated him into the largest court in the land.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Which I could have stopped if you hadn't cut off my access.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know why I cut off your access.

FOREMAN: So what exactly does she do?

(on camera): Are most people found by trouble or do they create their own trouble?

SMITH: I think a little bit of both.

FOREMAN (voice-over): She is, simply put, a fixer. She's been involved in some of the biggest crises D.C. has ever seen. The Iran Contra investigation, the Marion Barry prosecution, the Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill clash over a Supreme Court seat. The Chandra Levy case. Her expertise lies in taking massive problems and making them smaller by developing strategies for those at the center of the storm.

(on camera): Is this fundamentally about accepting responsibility or avoiding it?

SMITH: Oh, it has to be about accepting responsibility, without a doubt.

FOREMAN: But that can be a tall order when you're talking about really big people in really big trouble.

SMITH: Oh, I agree. I agree. But I think it's the only way to get through that trouble. If you don't, you know, accept responsibility, if you don't admit that you made a mistake, you won't be able to deal with the crisis.

FOREMAN: Raised as one of five kids in D.C., Smith attended Catholic schools where she mediated disputes between classmates. Went to college, became a lawyer, and wound up in crisis central, the White House, where she learned many of her skills.

SMITH: The president said that he wants to run a clean, hard- hitting campaign. We also have here today with us - when you're working in the White House, anything can happen during the course of the day. It's very fast paced. You have to be able to decide exactly what you're going to say very quickly, and you're always - really, you're at the center of the universe there.

FOREMAN: She also learned about keeping secrets. Smith is breaking her famous silence a bit to promote her new book, "Good Self Bad Self" about how anyone can get into and out of a mess. But she remains cagey about her clients. For example, she still will not confirm reports that she hid Monica Lewinsky in a church homeless shelter at the height of the scandal. And as for people who are or might be current clients? Don't even go there.

(on camera): The Secret Service hooker scandal, can that be handled good or bad?

SMITH: Can we stop for a second?


SMITH: I can't talk about that one.


(voice-over): She also won't reveal where she lives in DC, what kind of car she drives.

(on camera): You didn't want us to come to your office.

SMITH: No, no. FOREMAN: Why?

SMITH: No, didn't want you to come to my home because you see when a crisis happens, the first place that press people come out and I love all of you guys - But people will come and camp out at your office, your home.

FOREMAN: You don't love all of us.

SMITH: You know, wherever you are.

FOREMAN: You think you've got our number. That's different than loving us.

SMITH: You guys probably think you have my number, too, and that's how that works. But that's OK. That's OK.

FOREMAN (voice-over): For all that, like her character in "Scandal," Smith prides herself on her toughness and straight talk with those who pay for it.

SMITH: I know that people usually look at crisis communications as someone that spins and a fixer. My view on that is that you can't spin. You have to tell the truth about what happened. If there is a -

FOREMAN (on camera): It isn't just a spin, is it?

SMITH: It's not, it's the truth.

FOREMAN (voice-over): And here's another truth.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a dirty little secret. And dirty little secrets always come out, don't they, Cyrus?

FOREMAN: Hollywood endings aside, her work is often messy, often exhausting and always unexpected. Even as we were wrapping up this story, her phone rang, and with a quick goodbye, Judy Smith hailed a cab and was off to save somebody's day.

(on camera): I guess the good part is in Washington, you'll never run out of clients.

SMTIH: We always have crisis in Washington, don't we? That's always going on. Yes, absolutely.


FOREMAN: In a moment, fast times, finals and tempting fate with a smile.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have a girlfriend?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do not. That one doesn't quite fit in the schedule right now.

FOREMAN: Elizabeth O'Leary goes round and round with a rising star.


FOREMAN: NASCAR is fighting to regain its traction. The bad economy hit its blue collar fan base very hard, and attendance at races fell off dramatically in recent years. But now a new star is rising on the track racing circuit with movie star good looks, quick reflexes and a brain for business like the sport has never seen. Lizzy O'Leary caught up with him in North Carolina.


LIZZIE O'LEARY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's not unusual to see a NASCAR driver do 185 miles an hour. He can turn without a trace of fear. Or break down a problem with his crew chief.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Better than it was before! It felt tight right after the center.

O'LEARY: But strip away the sponsorships and all the engine noise, and it is most unusual to find a driver like this one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're sharpening your understanding in both parts and lumen, make a list of the similarities and differences between the two of them.

O'LEARY: Welcome to the double life of Pauly Hirocca, professional NASCAR driver and Duke University senior.


O'LEARY (on camera): You wanted to be a driver for how long?

HARRAKA: I started racing when I was seven and I wanted to do it since before then, as long as I can remember.

O'LEARY: So why did you go to Duke?

HARRAKA: You know, I reached a point near my senior year in high school when the guidance counselors in high school said, you've got the grades to go to a great school, you should pursue that. People in racing said, college will always be there, put it off for a few years and pursue racing. And I didn't really like either of those theories. I felt like I could actually play them together and leverage both to make the other better.

O'LEARY (voice-over): In today's world of sports where branding can make or break you, Paulie is a trifecta of marketing magic. A great driver with a charming personality and an instinct for playing to the cameras that's almost uncanny.

HARAKKA: When I got to Duke my first semester - do we need to redo that because of the lens?

O'LEARY (on camera: You are not producing this interview, buddy! (voice-over): He's also working on something almost unheard of among NASCAR drivers: a college degree. And it's serving him well. As a business major, he knew from the start that NASCAR is expensive. Traditionally, young drivers like Paulie just try to join well- established teams.

HARAKKA: Unless you have some level of financial backing, you just can't break in. Especially post recession, it's becoming even more pronounced.

O'LEARLY: Mindful of all that and interested in being in the driver's seat off the track as well, Paulie started his own company and reached out to investors, setting up his own economic pit crew. One of his first recruit, Duke University law professor Paul Haagen.

PAUL HAAGEN, DUKE UNIVERSITY: I had no idea who he was. He showed up in the dean's suite and had an idea that I could help him with NASCAR. And I tried as hard as I could to discourage him, and he's not an easy guy to discourage.

O'LEARY: Haagen is no stranger to athletes. He's mentored Duke players who didn't nearly turn professional but became stars, including NBA Shane Bayau (ph) and Grant Hill.

(on camera): Shane Bayau (ph), Grant Hill, Paulie - is there a quality that they all share?

HAAGEN: Yes. They're willing to take advice, they're willing to take chances, and they're willing to take responsibility.

O'LEARY (voice-over): Paulie is the first Duke athlete who Haagen actually invested in, putting thousands of his own dollars into Harraka's company but the business major never misses a chance to assure anyone who listens he's a sure bet.

HARRAKA: And then you can fuel the whole truck right here before you roll that little bit extra. That's a snappy loose.

O'LEARY (on camera): I'm watching you sell Paulie Harraka to me. Do you turn it off?

HARRAKA: I don't know that it's necessarily a sales pitch as much as it's something that I'm really passionate about and really enjoy it, enjoy talking about and getting excited about.

O'LEARY (voice-over): The only thing he enjoys more than talking is competing.

(on camera): Not exactly like the go-carts you started in.

HARRAKA: Not quite. They were a lot faster and a lot more agile than these.

O'LEARY (voice-over): When we took him to a local go-kart track for a few friendly rounds, it took less than a lap for his competitive instinct to come out. He went after me time and again, other drivers, even my cameraman. At Daytona, Paulie crashed in a big way. And yet, he crawled from the wreckage like the college student he is calling it a learning experience.

O'LEARLy (on camera): When do you lose your fear?

HARRAKA: I think as a race car driver, well I know, as a race car driver, you have to be fearless. You're going to wreck. It's going to happen. It might be no fault of your own. It might be totally your fault. But it's inevitable. And you can't be afraid of that. You have to spend a lot of time with your safety equipment. But once you're in a race car, strapped in, and once your belts are secured, your helmet's on (INAUDIBLE) and your driving suit is zipped up, you can't be afraid. You can't.

O'LEARY (voice-over): Graduation is not far off now, and he acknowledges that his double life has cost him a bit of a college experience.

(on camera): Do you have a girlfriend?

HARRAKA: I do not. That one doesn't quite fit in the schedule right now.

O'LEARY (voice-over): Still, he's a quick learner. There's plenty of time for that.

HARRAKA: I haven't had the typical college experience. I've had an awesome college experience.

(INAUDIBLE) the better it feels.

O'LEARY: For now, it's about moving as fast as he can, both on the track and beyond it.


FOREMAN: All right. It's not quite over yet. When we come back, the presidential dog fight that bites.


FOREMAN: Presidential contender Mitt Romney continues to be hounded by his dog. The former governor's decision 30 years ago to take the family pet to Canada on top of his car has been an absolute gift to democrats. Republicans counterattack by pointing out that President Obama in his own book admits eating dog as a child. Now all of this may seem silly until you consider that in D.C., strange things can happen when political animals start prowling.


FOREMAN (voice-over): Ever since George Washington, presidents have been judged by the dogs they run with. No wonder Mitt Romney and President Obama are trying to laugh off cracks like these.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney ever invites you to go for a ride, call shotgun. And if the president tries to butter you, run.

FOREMAN: There is, however, reason for them to take it at least a little seriously.

GARRETT GRAFF, EDITOR "WASHINGTONIAN": Presidents and their pets have a long and storied history.

FOREMAN: Garret (INAUDIBLE) is editor in chief of the "Washingtonian" magazine.

GRAFF: Most of us don't get the intricacies of Middle East oil politics and the rise and fall of the GDP, but we can get if you connect with a dog.

FOREMAN: Presidents have kept company with critters of all types. Theodore Roosevelt turned the White House into a zoo with parrots, horses, ponies, bears, zebras, snakes, and an inexplicably a one-legged chicken.

GRAFF: John Quincy Adams actually used to love surprising guests in the White House with an alligator he kept in a bathtub.

FOREMAN: William Taft had a cow. Woodrow Wilson pioneered the PR potential of sheep using them to trim the White House lawn during World War I and apparently calling someone about it. Calvin Coolidge, like Roosevelt, had it all. Lion cubs, a goose, a bob cat, a raccoon, and a pygmy hippo named Billy.

GRAFF: Both Teddy Roosevelt and Calvin Coolidge gave large parts of their menagerie to the National Zoo here in Washington. Even today, many, if not most of the pygmy hippos in zoos in the United States, are descendents of that original Calvin Coolidge hippo.

FOREMAN: But dogs have always been the most likely pick for first pet, for better or worse. For example, there was a story going around that during a tour of the Illusion Islands, Franklin Roosevelt left his Scottish terrier, Fala, behind and sent the Navy back to rescue him. It looked like a public relations disaster until FDR declawed his critics with humor.

FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT: Well, of cours,e I don't resent attacks. And my family don't resent attacks but Fala does resent them.

FOREMAN: It is a measure of how well the speech worked that Fala wound up as part of the FDR memorial. Richard Nixon pulled a similar trick, defending himself against accusations he received improper gifts by listing his kids' dog Checkers as one of them.

RICHARD NIXON: And I just want to say this right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we're going to keep it.

FOREMAN: Voters ate it up. It does not always go well. Lyndon Johnson picked his beagle up by the ears, and animal lovers howled. Still, almost every president has had at least one dog and maybe, just maybe, there is a reason beyond politics. GRAFF: The presidency is a very lonely undertaking. I think there are very many moments in the White House where what you really want to do is take your pet for a walk.


FOREMAN: And with that, it's time for us to take a walk. You can find out more about all of these stories on

I'm Tom Foreman. Thanks for watching.