July 17th, 2009
02:01 PM ET
9 years ago

Clinton again rips into vetting process

 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday tore into the Obama administration's 'vetting' process

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday tore into the Obama administration's 'vetting' process

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Behind the scenes they're tearing out their hair.

Nominees for top positions in the Obama administration say they are put on seemingly endless hold for months during the "vetting" process, forced to provide minute details of their financial, personal and professional lives going back years. Many have to hire lawyers and accountants – paid for with their own money – to compile the information. Some nominees have simply given up in frustration.

Now, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says it's affecting U.S. diplomatic relations.

"It's hard to explain in my position to our foreign counterparts that we don't have positions filled that would be the natural interlocutors or their counterparts in other countries," she said Thursday.

It's the third time this week the secretary has lambasted the process. Monday, she called it "frustrating beyond words," telling staff at the U.S. Agency for International Development who still don't have a new administrator, the process is a "nightmare."

Wednesday, in a major foreign policy speech at the Council on Foreign Relations, Clinton was at it again: "I mean, we are trying to get our political leaders in place to work with our very dedicated Foreign Service and Civil Service employees, but we're still not there yet. And I had no idea when I was in the Senate asking a million questions of every nominee – how really shortsighted that was."

Thursday, at a press availability, the Secretary told CNN, "Most (foreign) governments, after they are elected, are up and going in a relatively short period of time. We are now six months into our new administration and it's not only here but across the government where they don't have critical positions filled. I think it's pretty obvious that the process has gotten much more complicated, cumbersome and lengthy and that is something that I hear from everyone. And it is a matter that we're going to have to address."

Clinton added that it's not just the Obama administration and it's not happening just at the State Department or USAID. The situation has been getting worse with every administration. But some political observers say President Obama's new ethics rules make it even more challenging to get through the process.

In spite of the frustration, at the USAID town hall Clinton managed to find some ironic humor in the predicament: "… 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!"

Filed under: Hillary Clinton
soundoff (299 Responses)
  1. You lose all credibility when you say Palin is smart

    Yup, let's keep mentioning the birth certificate. Apparently on top of the media electing the President the FBI, CIA, NSA, etc completely ignored law and elected a man with no birth certificate.

    Keep crying wolf, we stopped listening last year.

    July 17, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  2. Jinza

    To Mark M:

    Do you honestly think that Obama would have gotten this far if his place of birth was falsified? With all the haters out there, wouldn't common sense dictate that at least a goverment investigative unit would see into this?

    Look at the Sotamayor process. How much of a stink did that make? All for what? Sotamayor seems to be getting her way, whilst the grilling side put up a show that they're doing a masterful job in scrutinizing candidates.

    How many job interviews have you been in where the interviewer accuses you of a hypothetical situation conjectured in their opinionated mind?

    July 17, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  3. flatland hillbilly

    Of course, it is easier to fly around the world with the kids and have elaborate tea parties at taxpayers expense than to deal with real issues that need remedied now!

    July 17, 2009 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  4. Obama Victim

    sure wish she was president

    July 17, 2009 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  5. Cleo

    It is unfortunate that so many people are prone to parrott the misinformation provided to them by the right wing propagandists that impedes progress, breeds hate and cripples society.The President has provided proper evidence of his birth which was acceptable to the agency responsible for conducting background investigations. The rumor that purports the president is not an american should be put to rest once and for all.

    July 17, 2009 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    Maybe they could simplify the vetting process by only asking one question:

    "Did you pay all your taxes?"

    Cause evidently that question is not on the application.

    July 17, 2009 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  7. Okey Anozie

    Your joking..... The man has produced a birth certificate...ur joking...right?

    July 17, 2009 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  8. Steve (the real one)

    @dominican mama 4 Obama July 17th, 2009 11:01 am ET
    This man has to have his people checked, and triple checked. And even then something goes awry and the Republiklans are all over it. Sorry for the inconvenience Hillary, I'm sure it frustrates Obama too, but you know, it is what it is
    There is one thing lacking in your post.....HONESTY! Explain how all the tax cheaters got through, if eveyone was triple checked. Either someone didn't know, or that someone didn't care!

    July 17, 2009 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  9. SDArlington

    This is not an "Obama Process," it's a vetting process, and anyone who works with or for the government at any level of clearance can attest to this. Any post with clearance concerns requires an exhaustive vetting process in order to verify past relationships and identify potential security risks – both social and financial. The greater the profile of the individual, and the more sensitive the material they will be exposed to and expected to handle responsibly, the more exhaustive the process.

    Secretary Clinton is not so politically blind as to damage her own party's image through reckless commentary. She's simply stating a fact, and the frustrations that she, and tens of thousands of other federal employees feel, when upholding a system that's necessary, though arguably not perfect.

    CNN's headlines are often designed to attract attention. Ad space on the Web generates money just as well as commercials on cable. There's nothing more profitable than a rift in a popular administration. I bet Secretary Clinton could comment on that as well.

    July 17, 2009 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  10. drman

    Hillary needs to stop and think about what she's saying.
    She's not the VP, she's in an appointed position and can be easily dis-appointed if she can't deal with the President's procedures.
    Her Hubby Bill has been keeping his mouth shut, why can't she?

    July 17, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  11. Bull

    There has to be a few more fat latinas he can fill all the spots with !

    July 17, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  12. Gabe

    Why is Hillary talking about this to the media and not the Prez? If she don't like how it's going, she can always try to change things from the inside and if that doesn't work, quit.

    July 17, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  13. Alan

    I love hearing the same people who declared that our President was "palling around with terrorists" describing a loose association with someone DECADES ago now say his vetting process is somehow flawed.

    He's being CAUTIOUS. OVERLY cautious, perhaps, but the finger pointing and tongue-wagging every time someone failed the vetting process is huge.

    From Republicans.

    This isn't a fight. President Obama said he was surrounding himself with people who are more than just "yes-men" and Hillary is one...she's speaking her mind about the process and I believe our President would agree with her that it's become cumbersome and ridiculous...but he must do it.

    Dream on if you think it's a falling out. Just WAIT till the falling out you'll see if and when Palin winds up on the presidential ticket if she decides to go Republican.

    Oh - wait. Palin's ok even though she's MARRIED to someone who was active in an organization calling for Alaska to break from the U.S. but that's not important.

    July 17, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  14. SG

    Instead of Hillary getting upset about the process, she should stand by THE PRESIDENT, HER PRESIDENT! At least he is trying to keep the sludge from getting into these very important positions. I congratulate him on trying to "clean out" the unwanted instead of just pushing all forward because we are 6 months into this administration...Shame on her for not caring enough to want this.

    July 17, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  15. Debbie

    Mark M - get out of the brainwashing tank! Obama provided his birth certificate. You need that to get a passport dude! He's been in the country since birth. My son was born in Hawaii, and his looks exactly the same. What's wrong with you people??? You are bizarre!

    July 17, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  16. rj2001odyssey

    Maybe Mrs Clinton thinks it's OK to not check the backround, in detail, of the people appointed to positions in the federal government. Well, I'm glad she's not our president. First she shows she can't be fiscally responsible in running here campaign, and now she wants to short cut the background check process. In doing so, she has made visible another poor character trait, she's not a very good team player by calling out her boss and questioning his procedures. Still bitter, Hillary?

    July 17, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  17. goobs

    Don't blame the process, in this day and age probably everybody has a skeleton or two in their closet. For those who don't think so, apply
    for a job that needs a background investigation for a security clearance. Then again, it's probably easier to blame someone.

    July 17, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  18. Thin is in?

    So the vetting process is so tough, but yet 5-7 of his nomines after the fact got nailed not paying taxes?

    Is this for real?

    This is like the smokescreen Obama's brain Rahm is putting up to protect Pelosi by making an issue of a non-program NEVER used by the CIA.

    Obama lacks the fortitude to do things himself, he needs othr people to make up his mind (see scripts and teleprompters oh my!).

    July 17, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  19. ron

    Don't we have career State Dept employees that can fill these positions? Why in administration after administration are the top assignments handed out as a way of rewarding campaign donors? I say, if somebody want's to be ambassador to Monaco let the career diplomats compete for it and make the decisions based on skills.

    July 17, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  20. JSL

    Jim, isn't it time to get your tin-foil hat dry-cleaned?

    He's been President for 6 months.
    Steer out of the "skid" your in, man.

    July 17, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  21. david, CA

    Clinton "commented on" or maybe even "lamented" the difficulty of the vetting process. But "slammed" "ripped" and "lambasted?" What drama queens CNN!

    July 17, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  22. Fla.


    LOL. Another right-wing birther....

    In case you were (truly) interested, President Obama's birth certificate has been verified by MANY credible sources. Please look it up.

    July 17, 2009 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  23. Connie

    Oh Dear Lee in Ann Arbor, you will have 8 years of this awesome President. Get over it already and support your President and the people of America. I had to suffer 8 years of hell with Bush, but ya know, I supported my country and the people of the United States. I knew I didn't vote for him and knew that I would work my ass off to get the next President in. And I did. So, if you don't like President Obama and his policies, you can always move your sorry ass to another country. It's as simple as that....remember your passport when you go the airport.

    July 17, 2009 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  24. Andrew

    Of course the right wing extremists start talking about Obama's birth certificate that he has shown. There just pissed that people of color now have some say so. I appreciate their comments, it continues to make ours stronger and them weaker. They just don't have the intellect to understand that. As far as Clinton goes, I agree with what somebody already said. The Bush and Clinton families destroyed this country. The educated in this country know who is for them and who is not.

    July 17, 2009 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  25. DCHR

    CNN has left out one important detail, the "vetting" process Clinton referred to earlier this week is the SECURITY CLEARANCE process. Anyone who has applied for a high level security clearance knows that asking about your addresses since the age of 18 is one of the first questions on the security form. EVERYONE has to go through this whenever they apply for a cleared position and the State Dept has some of the highest clearances around. The clearance process can take up to 2 yrs to complete so this is not unique to the Obama administration.

    July 17, 2009 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
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