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. The nerve

    Well you got through didn't you and we know you had a lot of baggage Hilliary.

    July 13, 2009 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  2. mjm

    The vetting can't be that bad. Tax evaders seem to do well.

    The problem is there are more jobs to fill and not enough Chicago cronies to fill them....Got to learn to out source.

    July 13, 2009 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  3. Dave

    This process exists because of the right-wing's constant use of character defamation as their core political strategy. Obama wants his nominations to be able to function at their job without being artificially held down by a minority that despises democracy.

    July 13, 2009 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  4. what a mess

    our government is in trouble, we have 200+ years of too much process that has not been cut back

    don't know how, but we need to revisit and scale back

    July 13, 2009 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  5. Snoopy

    Repubs are a joke and the fact that they would continue to 'pump' someone that doesn't even know what the 'Bush Doctrine' represents is totally laughable. how can you not know this as a Repub running for the 2nd highest seat in the USA...darn, at the time it was named after the standing president. Also, I still don't understand how the 'liberal' media did it...I mean how did they make Falin give those off the wall answers? I wish I had that power to physcially make someone open their mouth and say some weird things.

    I guess with this vetting process, the Repubs know best since they didn't Vet Falin and just threw her to the wolves.

    July 13, 2009 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  6. RL

    Misleading headline referencing 'Obama process' as ridiculous. Article is not addressing Obama's specific process but the arduous process in general. I expect better from CNN.

    July 13, 2009 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |

    Obama just wants cabinet members that are not associated with extremists and that have paid their taxes in the past...oh wait...

    July 13, 2009 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  8. gary davis Harbor Oregon

    I AGREE and Hillary is doing a great job
    keep up the great job HILLARY

    July 13, 2009 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  9. mike

    Yet the problems that have come out are not because of some tiny little detail like having a friend from another country but having not paid Taxes. Would think with all that red tape you would find something like that before the Media does.

    July 13, 2009 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  10. JP

    Too bad that Obama the man who has not accomplished anything his whole life wasn't vetted.

    July 13, 2009 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  11. Some perspective please

    Seth in Jacksonville says it well. There is complaining about the vetting process and complaining if the person turns out not to be a saint. I like to blame the Republican politicians (ok and Democrats) that make a mountain out of a molehill, but I think we also need to hold all forms of media that find it newsworthy to place unfounded outrage as front page news items. News media have the obligation to determine which outrage should really be headline news. Likewise, consumers have the obligation to let the news media know when they have crossed the line. We all have played a part in getting to where we are and we all have the responsibility to change it.

    July 13, 2009 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  12. Chris

    It is ridiculous. Do care.

    July 13, 2009 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  13. Doug Neumann

    Seems to only be red tape and a long process if you're not a minority now.

    July 13, 2009 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  14. blue

    It is irresponsible of CNN to create the false impression from the headline of this article that Mrs. Clinton was critical of Obama's process in particular, when she was just making a fairly benign comment regarding red tape in general. This is not news, don't try to make it news. Is this CNN or is this the Enquirer?

    July 13, 2009 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  15. fred

    Right ... people like Red think it's different for people with an "R" after their name. It's okay to see crap on both sides, you know.

    July 13, 2009 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  16. Judy

    It's ok.....At least Obama has learned to take his time. And with every new president.....we can expect mistakes....I mean look at all the oopss and uh-ohs so far.......He promised change and his change will take a lot longer than what we all hoped for. But hopefully.....Obama will at least keep one of the changes he promsed during election. But if not.....I hear China is willing to loan the U.S. more money.

    July 13, 2009 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  17. Truth monitor

    The headline selected for this piece is deplorable. It paints a divisive picture between Obama and Clinton, when the real "story" says nothing of the kind! Hillary herself states the vetting process gets 'worse' with each administration, meaning more scrutiny is applied to eligibles (good!). And, the fact that potential hires don't want to be vetted – well that's a problem too, isn't it? It works both ways. Too bad important positions must wait to be filled, but better to end up with the best.

    July 13, 2009 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  18. Joe

    And so CNN has to headline this in a sensational way to make it seem that Clinton and Obama are at odds. Nice work CNN. You're getting more like Fox News every day.

    July 13, 2009 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  19. Pier Giacalone

    In typical sensationalist "journalism", the headline on the front page of CNN.com is completely misleading and implies some kind of rift between Clinton and Obama that isn't there in the slightest.

    She was merely complaining about the overall process which is clearly just a symptom of how petty politics has gotten. She had no specific complain about Obama but you'd have to actually read the article to know that. Thanks CNN!

    July 13, 2009 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  20. Jane

    Why are they vetted? They (most of his apointees have not piad their taxes) and they still get the job. He is a pathetic President. He is all about star power and nothing of substance. Hillary was so much betrter – people see it now but they did not then – what a real shame for our country. If I was Hillary I would get out and run against him in 2012. Way to go Hillary.

    July 13, 2009 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  21. Orenge

    @ Seth:

    Exactly. The process was CAUSED to be ridiculous by people who are hiding wrongdoing on the one hand, and by people on witch hunts on the other.

    I'm sure Obama is just as frustrated with the situation as Clinton is.

    July 13, 2009 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  22. darrent123

    Par for the course. If we want to have the best qualified, and socially, economically and politically correct person for any high level post, it makes sense. You've got to have your house in order.

    It's not the Obama Administration. It's the "will of the people"
    We demand that vetting be thourough!
    Or all hell breaks lose and fingers get pointed and characters – skewed!

    Better to pick them carefully, or risk a possible nightmare.
    Look at S Palin. – A Prime Example.

    July 13, 2009 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  23. Robert Lamarche

    Red: This has nothing to do with Obama. He's probably the most frustrated of all, seeing his best picks being put through the wringer and falling off the wayside.

    Just the big grinding wheels of bureaucracy...

    July 13, 2009 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  24. mark

    This is due to politics not to obama or anyone else. Poltics forces these politicians to vet so they can be voted through without politics as usual. Blame your everydat policitian.

    July 13, 2009 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  25. Obama Fan

    I'm sorry that Secretary Clinton thinks that the process of screening potential job applicants is frustrating. Perhaps that's the problem with Washington D.C.; that in order to work in government, you must actually be as advertised. Most employers in the private sector go through similar processes.

    What blows my mind is that Ms. Clinton thinks that getting a high government posting should be quick and easy. This is how cronyism, nepotism, rascalism, and corruption take root. Tsk, tsk, Madame Secretary!

    July 13, 2009 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
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