July 13th, 2009
07:25 PM ET
5 years ago

Clinton: Vetting process for administration jobs 'a nightmare'

Secretary of State Clinton spoke out Monday about the Obama administration's rigorous vetting process.
Secretary of State Clinton spoke out Monday about the Obama administration's rigorous vetting process.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton showed a rare flash of frustration Monday - calling the vetting process for Obama administration nominees "ridiculous" and "a nightmare."

At a question-and-answer session with staff from the U.S. Agency for International Development, a woman asked her when the agency would be getting a new administrator and "why it's taking so long."

"Let me say it's not for lack of trying," Clinton replied. "The process - the clearance and vetting process - is a nightmare," she told the staff. "It takes far longer than any of us would want to see. It is frustrating beyond words."

The secretary said she "pushed very hard last week, when I knew I was coming here, to get permission from the White House to be able to tell you that help is on the way and somebody will be nominated shortly." But, she said, "the message came back, 'We're not ready.'"

"Anyone who has gone through it or looked at this process will tell you that every administration it gets worse," she added.

"Some very good people just didn't want to be vetted," she explained. "You have to hire lawyers, you have to hire accountants. I mean, it is ridiculous!"

Drawing laughs from the crowd, Clinton said, "And then here's one of the questions you get asked: First of all, you have to remember everywhere you've lived since you were 18. And, beyond a certain age you can't even remember when you were 18!"

One of her "all-time favorite questions," she said, is, "Please tell us every foreign national you know."

"I mean, some people who are of different ancestry, they're a hyphenated American and they have family still living in other countries, finally said it's ridiculous. I mean, I have lots of cousins I've never met. You're going to ask me to put their names down so they can all be interviewed? That's ridiculous!

"You're sensing my frustration!" Clinton sighed.


Filed under: Extra • Hillary Clinton • Obama administration • Popular Posts
soundoff (300 Responses)
  1. APV

    Yeah, right. And after all that "vetting", every nominee turns out to be a tax cheat. If Washington had any honest people left, this won't be necessary.

    July 13, 2009 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  2. Chris

    The extensive background checks and clearance process in the administration is ridiculous and quite frankly counter productive. A lot of great candidates are being rejected for smoking a joint years ago, yet the President himself did far more than that. Huge Obama fan here, but I'm not a fan of a process that eliminates a lot of great candidates before they even get a fair chance.

    July 13, 2009 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  3. Donnie

    Seth in Jacksonville, FL July 13th, 2009 5:52 pm ET

    And yet if any imperfections in someone's record come to light afterward, we hear all about how the person "wasn't properly vetted," and they point fingers and complain.

    So true...

    July 13, 2009 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  4. Dennis

    It sounds a little like whining? I know these people are not accustomed to actually doing work–but support your elected leaders wishes. I went through an incredible vetting process that cost me lots of money and never got hired. If it's too tough a process, let the candidates apply elsewhere. Jobs are so abundant right now–aren't they?

    July 13, 2009 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  5. henry

    The scope and intrusiveness of the media have made it necessary for President Obama's vetting process to be extra stringent. Add to that the facts that he's the first African American President and the first Democrat in eight years and the Republicans and Racist( is that redundant?) are just waiting for a slip up or the next big contraversy due to someone not being properly vetted. Basically what Hilary is saying is that these rich people being interviewed have so many skeletons in their closets that its difficult to hire any of them.

    July 13, 2009 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  6. No Hillary = No Obama

    They just like jerking Hillary around. What vetting process did Obama go through? His murky background, his questionable affliation with a racist church, his lack of patriotism – can't even bother to put his hand over his heart to say the pledge. And what has he done for this country so far? Unemployment numbers keep rising and the economic picture is as bleak as ever. The guy is a talker and who cares about his trip to Africa? Really, who cares?? How does that benefit everyday Americans. It's time to take Obama off the high horse you people keep putting him on.

    July 13, 2009 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  7. Beverly in NC

    President Obama is a man of integrity and character and he wants to make sure the people around him are also honorable and above reproach.

    Hilliary had a lot of skeltons in her closet – that is why she had to prove she was worth to hold such a critical position in our government.

    I trust Obama's judgment. We certainly had no one with any ethics or honor in the last administration. It's refreshing to know we have real, decent, honest, and hard-working people in our government now.

    July 13, 2009 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  8. Katherine

    Some do not like the vetting process because if you have skeletons in your closet - the Obama Administration does not want you working for the people of America. We voted for trancparency and that is what we expect. She (Clinton) needs to be real quite and be grateful she has a job!!! Obama team keep up the good work!

    July 13, 2009 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  9. dubya

    Better then having an administration full of brownies...

    And better than giving conservative talk show hosts/party leaders any ammunition to attack the president when the work of the nation is at such a critical point. Conservatives have really really really skrewed things up, and are just chomping at the bit for any chance for them to foist more failure on the United States. It is their stated goal to make the country fail. They said it loud and clear and many times over. they think that America failing is their ticket to power. They forget that they already failed so badly that only the infirm or deranged would ever vote republicon again.

    July 13, 2009 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  10. Patty - St. Louis

    Hillary should be President. Obama and his clothes-horse wife are a joke.

    July 13, 2009 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  11. NotObamaFollowerAnyMore

    The Obama guy is turning out to be a joke finally. When you are going through the hardship, wisdom says spend wisely and control the expenditure. This guys is printing paper money and borrowing left and right and putting us in a higher debt in the name of stimulus packages, that is nothing but a payback to his campaign contributors.
    Unemployement close to 10% and national public debt close to $40,000/person is not a pretty picture. It is no where getting better soon. Just for a number sake, $1 billion is roughly an operating profit of a typically big company employing 50,000+ employees. Imagine how many bodies need to work hard to pay an insane amount of debt back, unless these political jokers are thinking of bankrupting the country and ditching the loans, jeopardizing dollar value in a big way. and 'yes we can'. If you think it is not possible look at California, Yes govt can fail miserably, problem is state can save towns, country can save states, who is going to save the country?

    July 13, 2009 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  12. Bill

    Some assertions above aside, Hill isn't criticizing the President. She is criticizing the process.

    July 13, 2009 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  13. Jack

    This is a joke.. Hillary called it exactly right! All this president knows how to do is the world tour circuit, looking for more adoring fans. This isn't the Oscars for pete's sake! When is he going to settle down in the White House and do the job he was elected to?

    July 13, 2009 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  14. Terry from West Texas

    It is ridiculous to expect an unblemished past. Only the most insignificant of our citizens has a history so uninteresting that no one will criticize it. We can thank the fundamentalists and Conservatives for that. They still cling to this imaginary concept of what a citizen should be like: financial and moral perfection.

    Most of us are corner cutters. At least, the high percentage of speeders on the freeway suggests that most Americans only obey the law when they think they might be caught.

    July 13, 2009 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  15. Ron L

    This is a DIRECT result of our current NEWS MEDIA and POLITICAL DISCOURSE...They (adminstration) have to check and make sure the nominee for a postion hasn't done anything more harmful than jay walking in their entire life or........the American public will hear about it for at least 7 days 24/7 by pundits, newscasters, and the other idiots allowed to congest our airways. So you end up with people who are without (any found sin) but IS NOT the best person for the job..and we wonder why the government isn't as efficient as it sholud be....IT's PRETTY WHACKED!!

    July 13, 2009 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  16. BiggieT

    Hillary 2012. She should have been in the Oval Office right now.

    July 13, 2009 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  17. Jeanne

    Good lord, Sarah Palin just got 100 times (literally) the number of posts than Hillary in just a few moments. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

    Romney/Palin 2012

    July 13, 2009 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  18. notanotherrepublicanwhiner?

    I knew there would be comments from people blaming Obama's leadership for this. Can't people read? Mrs. Clinton said that "every administration it gets worse." She did not say that it has never been a problem until this non-experienced, "Big Government" leader took office. Selecting a department head in an administration has become just as politically charged as the primaries. Every little thing brought into the spot light and turned into a big deal by those opposing the administration. At least Obama isn't blatantly appointing people who worked for a pharmaceutical company to head the FDA, or people who worked for oil companies to head the EPA, like dubya did.

    July 13, 2009 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  19. janelle

    This big process, and they can't check to make sure they've paid their taxes?

    July 13, 2009 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  20. Dulaney

    After all the crooks that were in the last Administration I'm glad President O'Bama is taking the time to weed out the crooks and criminals before they ruin his good reputation. Mrs. clinton should be happy he gave her ajob...Miss Ungrateful.

    July 13, 2009 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  21. Patrick Lewis

    This is what happens when muckraking is all that is left of journalism.

    July 13, 2009 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  22. Leslie

    Mayor Bloomberg of NY called you a BACKSTABBER Hillary for telling diplomats they don't have to pay property taxes in NY when the said law has been there for 130 years. BAD BAD HILLARY......BAD DECISION!

    July 13, 2009 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  23. TJ

    This time when it appears to be rigorous, it is being named "ridiculous" and "a nightmare". The last time when some people that went through it had problems, it was called another name. Classic "between the rock and a hard place"

    July 13, 2009 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  24. Phil

    Great headline. Does it really reflect the occasion? It's relective of what's wrong with news today.

    July 13, 2009 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  25. Ambrose Smith, Borrego Springs, California

    Ask McCain for vetting advice. He can do it in a jiffy!

    July 13, 2009 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
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