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. David

    "Obama process ridiculous." What a extraordinarily (and I assume, intentionally) misleading headline.

    July 13, 2009 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  2. independent

    Err on the side of caution, if it isn't an emergency. Look at the flack they took for the tax issues of several nominees. What if it were something more serious, or gave the appearance of being more serious.

    If you have some serious work to do, you don't want to be distracted by questions of someone's motives and connections.

    It is a pain we must bear.

    July 13, 2009 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  3. blinky

    it's pretty simple. tell candidates "tell us everything we need to know – affairs, tax errors, illegal immigrants, church attendance, love children, drinking habits, file sharing, etc." and then tell them "if you put us in an awkward spot, we'll make sure you work minimum wage for the rest of your life, if at all." for pete's sake, each party is powerful enough to destroy someone, and every incident embarrasses and weakens the party in power. why do they put up with it?

    July 13, 2009 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  4. Mel Bailey

    It is better that the vetting be done up front than for the right wing nuts to play "gotch you".

    July 13, 2009 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  5. Jim

    "Big Government at work. Hillary would have been so much better than this community organizer will less experience than most corporate mid-level managers. Obama is a joke."

    I assure you, this didn't start with Obama.

    July 13, 2009 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  6. Susan

    but Ms Clinton, you got ur job pretty fast..........

    July 13, 2009 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  7. emnnanuelle

    Obama is a Joke too... Hillary please run in 2012 ...he is not doing his job

    July 13, 2009 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  8. RCinMD

    People, come on. If the Obama adminstration places a candidate without a complete vetting process, and then it turns out that the person has a tax problem that was overlooked some of you folks will be the first to scream about incompetance.

    Many of you will not give this man any credit no matter what he does. It is just plain irrational. He can't win with some folks.

    Of course the Obama shop is over-doing vetting these days. They have been raked over the coals more than once over accusations of not being thorough enough in the past.

    So, which one do you want folks? Over-done vetting, or just a reasonable amount???

    July 13, 2009 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  9. Joe the Troll

    Obama didn't invent this situation. This came from years and years of partisan bickering and finger-pointing.

    July 13, 2009 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  10. JMarie

    Folks who do not want to be vetted have a reason they do not want to be vetted.

    It will be a lovely time when the Administrations (all parties) have qualified folks who are happy to have their records transparent to review.

    Sorry Hilary, can't sneak folks in who have something to hide.

    July 13, 2009 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  11. Al-Chesapeake

    Maybe in their vetting process they are now checking to see if the
    individual has paid income taxes and need to go down the list several times to find someone that has.....

    July 13, 2009 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  12. bryen

    Kudos to Secretary Clinton for taking a stance in favor of transparency. She could have given a wishy-washy answer, but instead she came out and said "This is the problem right here!"

    The rest of the administration could take a lesson or two from her.

    July 13, 2009 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  13. annie for Palin

    Then how did so many tax cheats get thru with flying colors?

    July 13, 2009 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  14. Hill is laying the groundwork already

    I was waiting for Lady Godiva to rear her head. Hill's marking her territory for a run against Obama. Mark my words! Lol.

    July 13, 2009 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  15. andrea

    The question is : was obama thoroughly vetted?

    July 13, 2009 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  16. Thorough vetting is critical..

    It may be "rediculous" and "frustrating" but the alternative is worse.

    July 13, 2009 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  17. annie for Palin

    The dnc cheated and picked obama over Hillary – boy what a bunch of losers! Hillary would have been 100 X's better president than this idiot!

    July 13, 2009 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  18. Larry, OR

    Read the story, not just the headline: She's frustrated with the process, not Obama. The process is ridiculous because it has to be for two reasons:
    1. Several people have said there were no problems when there really were;
    2. The game of trying to find some flaw in a candidate and beat the administration who chose them over the head with it is ever more a part of politics.

    A reasonable process in response to those two constraints is going to be, well, frustrating.

    July 13, 2009 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  19. gerryluimes

    This is democracy at work!;Messy,frustrating,confusing and time consuming;Yet,better than any other form of government.Churchill had to deal with it.So can this government.Long live the USA !.

    July 13, 2009 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  20. Ed Barenborg

    "I mean, I have lots of cousins I've never met."


    July 13, 2009 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  21. gah

    There is nothing I hate more than misleading headlines.

    "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!"

    This is the fallout of partisan politics, and it is not an attack on the Obama administration. The fact is that the opposition party will always look for any microscopic crack in the veneer of any candidate for a high ranking position. Say, for instance John Doe is recommended as for Role X because he is perfectly qualified, then it turns out John Doe once smoked a cigarette in a school yard when he was in the 5th grade, it'll be blamed on the president. The President must therefore vet his selections thoroughly, and very few good people are willing to be subjected to that level of scrutiny.

    Until we get over all the silly small-politics this nation will continue to decline. You might have thought we'd learned our lesson after people flew planes into NYC and New Orleans was completely wiped out. Turns out, nope, we're still obsessed with phoney "issues".

    July 13, 2009 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  22. Lew in clermont

    at least we can learn from her being honest. As my dad would say, she was tellin it like it is.Deal with it people. Bigger problems out there than this.Try figuring out out to pay the bills, fed your family, find a job, keep gas in the car,and if you cant handle that , go sit next to a soldier in the afgan war,and think how he can't even be there for his family. Bigger problems people

    July 13, 2009 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    It seems to me that if the process is that ridiculous, Hillary would have declined the position and found work elsewhere.
    I am glad that we finally have leadership that is truly concerned about the everyday people of this country.
    Prior administrations have put us in this mess that we are in because they refused to say no to politics as usual. Obama is a man that comes from where the ordinary people come from and understands the plite of the ordinary person.
    It's easy to continue to destroy peoples lives when you come from money, never experiencing or understanding the reality of working from the ground floor up.
    I bet neither the Bushes nor the Clintons have ever had to use foodstamps or live on salaries that are 20 years behind economic times.
    The reality is; it is difficult to understand how to change a system for the better when you have always been a big part of the problem.

    July 13, 2009 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  24. sdtangler

    For all this "vetting-out", there is little accountability once a person is "in".

    The only questions that should matter is, "is this indiscretion/mistake/past f-up going to prevent them from getting their job done?" I also believe that people learn from mistakes, and that past problems better prepare a person for future challenges.

    July 13, 2009 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  25. RustyDC

    Sure – let's just do away with the vetting process! Then when we can find out about them later, and we can all blame Obama. Sorry folks, he's smarter than that! We are talking about some of the most important positions in our nation. I would think people (including Hillary Clinton) would want them properly vetted! Did we learn nothing from that rediculous Sarah Palin fiasco?

    July 13, 2009 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
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