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

Clinton: Vetting process for administration jobs 'a nightmare'

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/07/13/art.hrchand0713.gi.jpg caption="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. Trish

    Sorry to hear Hillary broke her elbow, but I think she looks and sounds better than ever! Hopefully, she can keep us laughing and point out the ridiculous world of politics so that things will truly change! Hillary 2012!

    July 13, 2009 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  2. barbara burgess

    I agree with Sec Clinton. It is good to finally see here again. I get the sense that the Administration has been hiding her away/usurping activities that what would normally be in her role. What a shame. Sign of weakness on the Obama Administration-shame on them.

    July 13, 2009 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  3. Brian in Cleveland Ohio

    Isn't it ironic that the President subjects his appointees to such intense scrutiny; when the national press didn't subject him to the same level of questioning? I'd love to know where the President lived from age 18; what is on his college transripts from Occidental and Columbia University he never released...all the foreign nationals he knows....etc etc...

    July 13, 2009 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  4. Rob Kole

    I dont' think it was just the process she was referring to but the guidelines being used. For example if a qualified canidate wsa a lobbist they can not be considered under this administration. Overall be correct but what about those people who lobbied for fresh water in Africa, or peace, or free drugs. Worthy causes but currently the cirtera does not distinguish what a person was lobbying for.

    July 13, 2009 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  5. Derek

    It's not the Obama administration's fault.....they are just making sure that if they nominate somebody and didn't ask the correct questions that somebody would dig up some kind of dirt and blame the Obama administration for not doing their research. Look at what they did to all of the other nominees for not knowing every little detail. Clinton did not blame the specific administration....she blamed the process by which all administrations must go by because every candidate is chastized by every little thing. They are just being careful.

    July 13, 2009 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  6. ANDROLOMA, Commerce City, Colorado

    Sotomayor's philosophy: 'fidelity to the law'

    Would it be too civilized to ask for a little fidelity to the precepts of humanity and empathy for one's fellow human? I'm afraid this candidate is too ethnocentric and self-absorbed to be considered; and yet I am smart enough to realize my opinion is too preliminary and underconsidered. Just a quick first thought, I think she's not an ideal candidate. But most others aren't as well. She might fit right in. Which would be no big surprise. We fail from winning due to a lack of trying. Some efforts aren't worth the effort.

    July 13, 2009 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  7. Willy Brown

    Sounds like Ms. Bill Clinton has thrown down the first "I'm running for President " flag for 2012.

    July 13, 2009 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  8. Ken H.

    Well, guess what? Obama was not vetted properly and liberal morons and democrat dummies voted this fool into office. Do people really think Obama has any kind of experience to lead? He doesn't, and therefore he does not know how to pick the right kind of people to put into his administration.

    July 13, 2009 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  9. marty

    After reading the very first paragraph and then reading the rest of the story including Senator Clinton's quotes, it's easy to understand why many high profile persons stick to the teleprompter.

    July 13, 2009 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  10. Tom

    Sounds like a smelly PUMA dropping bashing our president.

    July 13, 2009 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  11. brian in mesa

    Thank you cnn for the picture – why that picture? why do you continue to move more to the right everyday. I have got to find some news source that is unbiased and actually reports something. CNN is certainly no longer a source for any real news. It justs repeats what people like Sarah Palin says without any checking or followup.

    July 13, 2009 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  12. Henry

    You tell them Hillary!!

    July 13, 2009 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  13. Florida Dude

    It tells me that he was serious about getting the right people in place. Too bad that most of Washington is a cesspool of corruption on both sides of the isle.

    July 13, 2009 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  14. Voter

    Hillary Clinton should be the President. Well, I guess if Obama spends enough of our money, who knows? There will be Hillary, better at foreign affairs than anyone – and especially better than our Babe in the Woods.

    Of course he chose her for that role: otherwise he may well have gotten us all blown up!

    Hillary, already an expert in our domestic agenda, and a fighter for REAL health care for EVERY SINGLE AMERICAN, unlike Mr. Slick.

    An expert on every corner of the world, and loved by all of them even before she showed up at their doors as Secretary of State.

    Just waiting to see what happens here in 3 1/2 years...

    July 13, 2009 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  15. Denver

    There's no right or wrong answer either way. If they hired some one that has a questionable record that came to light years after – they point fingers. The people in our gov't have been questionable for decades and the one attempt to fix it and people complain. There's no making anyone happy. Take the high road obama and screw the rest. You people are impossible.

    July 13, 2009 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  16. J. Sweeney, West Chester, PA

    First salvo in her preparation to challenge him in the next primary. If he doesn't get universal healthcare passed this congress... she's coming.

    July 13, 2009 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  17. Timmy

    So first he's mocked for not vetting enough and having nominees with bad tax records through. Now he's mocked for vetting too much.

    Let's at least be consistent.

    July 13, 2009 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  18. Vic

    Too bad no one vetted the Clintons well enough... can you say accomplice in Iran-Contra scenario?

    And how about that subtle little dig that with every administration the process gets worse? Well, Ms. Hot-air-sticks-to-her-philandering-man-to-get-ahead-politically has been in politics – let's see, according to her for at least 30 years or something – and what exactly has she done to "improve" the process?

    Talk about "absolutely ridiculous" – she is, and so is the statement. Do your job and quit whining woman! Crud, if this little bit of bureacratic red tape has her fuming, no wonder so many people agree she's unfit as presidential material. Become part of the solution instead of a major part of the problem!

    The USA needs women leaders with brains, moxie, spunk and innovative ideas...not whining, whimpering sots whose only reason for being where she is because she married some lying, disbarred philandering hack who just happened to be a former US president.

    July 13, 2009 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  19. tom

    lol...yeah, thats why. or was it the 5 tax dodging nominees, Gupta said no...but no one wants to hear that. please hillary, keep feeding the sheeple.

    July 13, 2009 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  20. Gramarella

    To: Red: This "community organizer" is your president...like it or not. Show some respect. Obama was left a horrible mess on his (our) plate and is doing the best he can to work with it for the betterment of OUR country. If you will check your history, you might find that Obama is not the only president we've had that wasn't very experienced to hold this office. No, Red. Obama isn't the joke; you and your ignorance are.

    July 13, 2009 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  21. Fassil

    that happens when the administration tries to live to the "No Drama Obama" expectation. But they have had a number of Drama even after the thorough vetting.

    July 13, 2009 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  22. Jason, Los Angeles

    Yeah, we wouldn't want to find solid, qualified candidates. Remember when Sarah Palin was vetted for 8 minutes? It's worth the wait to avoid people like her.

    July 13, 2009 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  23. Ron

    ... and one need only look at Sara Palin to see why vetting is oh soooo important. Senator McCain could learn something here.

    July 13, 2009 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  24. Brd

    Everyone is correct.

    And Seth is right on the money.

    Since this country has become so partisan, who would take the chance in hiring anyone when that anyone could hand the opposition their next swift boat ad.

    Look at the vetting that is going on now with the nomination of Sotamayor to the Supreme Court. If we had to do this for every nominee in any position, the country wouldn't get anything done.

    This is American politics in the 21st century; where a faux pas/gaffe travels at light speed and careers are squashed before they begin. Even if it means some very good candidates get thrown out.

    What would we rather have? Is there another way?

    July 13, 2009 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  25. Joe Unger, San Francisco

    Obama is so terrified that something might come up and he would look bad, that he set up this process. His inexperience, and those of his staff, is showing.
    He set this up to demonstrate how ethical he was and yet, he waived his own rules to hire a lobbyist to work at the Pentagon.
    Seth is right though. Americans just love fingerpointing, especially at those they disagree with. One's argument always depends on who one is supporting.

    July 13, 2009 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
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