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. diane08

    Seth wrote:
    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.

    Exactly!!! Thanks Seth. Just the point I was about to make.

    July 13, 2009 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  2. once upon a horse

    yeah if it was an easier process the Dems would have more "Sarah Palins" than they have Hillary Clintons. I think after all the earlier tax fumbles the president had, he probably HAD to clamp it down. If the person fits the job I'm sure he or she would get it.

    July 13, 2009 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  3. marc

    That's why Palin got nominated. She wasn't properly vetted by McCain.

    July 13, 2009 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  4. Dorothy

    Thank you Obama for this ridiculous process. As soon as someone is outed as being a crook, they blame you first.

    July 13, 2009 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  5. Brooks

    If the American public does not want this, then they should not support news agencies who print "stories" such as: 'Obama nominee's fourth cousin has an illegal cleaning his house!!!' or 'nominee has lunch with TERRORIST!' (When in reality, the person was in a room with someone they never met, and that person has a cousin who spent a summer in Pakistan in a hotel with a 'suspected' terrorist).

    The bottom line is that when the administration does not vet every little aspect of a person's life, they are called incompetent. When they do, they are called ridiculous bureaucrats. Just can't win...

    July 13, 2009 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  6. Steve, Columbia SC

    If they would consider someone who owns a firearm, then they could have filled the position the day after Obama became president.

    July 13, 2009 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  7. Another Obama system that is a failure.....

    just like his economic policies which are driving unemployment up and forcing more foreclosures every day, this vetting process is also
    a disaster....

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

    How in the world do you get "Obama process ridiculous, Clinton says" as a ticker for this story? I'm pretty sure her comments weren't directed specifically toward Obama. It is very easy to see she most likely meant that our adversarial, petty, two-party system has fallen to this level. I don't think that is Obama's fault. More importantly, look what you get when you don't properly investigate...Sarah Palin...a true embarrassment to Alaska and the United States.

    July 13, 2009 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  9. Alicia

    Okay the title on the home page read like she was criticizing President Obama saying Clinton says Obama process 'ridiculous'.

    Turns out that she is criticizing how the bar is too high. Especially the taxes. Two people can do a tax return, each will have a different result.

    I agree with Madame Secretary.

    **I wonder if President Clinton has a smirk that can't be wiped off his face considering Sanford, Newt and Ensign thought President Clinton was evil. LOL Turns out that at least President Clinton can run the country and still fool around, unlike the Republicans. LOL

    July 13, 2009 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  10. GOP, you picked the wrong guy..and gal!

    I voted Obama, but yes I must admit I think the process is...well ridiculous.

    July 13, 2009 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  11. Timber

    Obama is trying to make Hillary's life difficult. What a jerk!

    July 13, 2009 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  12. Daniel

    What's even more pathetic is that through this "very" rigorous vetting process, the Obama administration still blundered. Our own Secretary of the Treasury didn't pay his own taxes! What's more frustrating is the level of incompetence in this administration.

    July 13, 2009 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  13. once upon a horse

    and as a Democrat herself SOS Clinton should be well aware that the only hope the Republicans have is for the Obama administration to make mistakes so they can pounce upon them. They already did that with the earlier non tax payers who were supposed to be vetted so why take that risk again. Doesn't seem like the GOP is concerned about the vetting process, just the results of it.

    July 13, 2009 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  14. European-American

    You think this red tape is bad, wait until you need to see a doctor under government healthcare.

    July 13, 2009 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  15. Jon in Mass.

    Hey, a Democrat critizing a sitting Democratic president they serve. Perhaps if some of that was tried by Republicans over the past eight years, we may not have been in the mess we were now....or more likely said Republican would have been fired, like we've seen before...

    July 13, 2009 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  16. White Lotus

    Pretty cool how Billary spoke off the cuff in a way. I love it when politicians tell it like it is. Too bad Biden isn't doing it anymore after they asked him to tone it down a bit. That was fun.

    July 13, 2009 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  17. Chris

    very misleading title! It sounds as if she is saying Obama is rediculous, but she is saying the PROCESS is. She is not speaking out against her president/boss, but against all the hoops they have to jump through to find all these skeletons people have buried in the weirdest places.

    July 13, 2009 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  18. Kay

    Funny...but if the vetting wasn't that thorough, people would still complain about it. Whatever Obama does he can't win with some people.

    July 13, 2009 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  19. Brian

    Sadly, if it weren't for all the shady politicians who came before and the huge number of well-connected crooks working in the private and public sectors, maybe this extensive vetting wouldn't be necessary. But alas, the country we live in now has seen its values and integrity flushed down the toilet by a generation of opportunistic, greedy jackals.

    People can criticize this administration for its deliberate approach to its appointments, but at least we're finally getting a decent, law abiding crew in there!

    July 13, 2009 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  20. martin

    its kinda funny that they go through all this and they still have so many nominees who don't pay taxes and so many nominees that withdraw

    its a sign of the Obama administration – ineffective, inefficient, and wasteful

    all it does is stimulate the jobs of lobbyists, vetters, and lawyers.

    July 13, 2009 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  21. mike kaplan

    This is a stupid non-story.
    The headline makes it sound like Hillary is complaining about "the Obama process".....and in the actual article, she says that the red tape just gets worse with every administration. CNN is trying to make this into some kind of feud, where HIllary is unhappy in the O. administration. But that's not what the story actually says.

    Nice reporting, dummies.

    July 13, 2009 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  22. Tim

    She's entitled to her opinion. I'm sure there aren't any hard feelings. Better safe than sorry.

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

    We (the people) and the media, created this long process. After the Watergate scandel, nobody (in government) was trusted so the vetting process got worse. With 24/7 news these days, they are always digging for a story, no matter how small. Some mistake or mis-statement some nominee made 20-30 years ago is made into front page headlines. You get what you pay for.

    July 13, 2009 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  24. Yendor

    That's the result of the over-zealous right looking for ANYTHING to criticize about the president. Not to mention that Hillary still feels the job should have been hers. It is refreshing to finally see someone competent in the Whitehouse.

    July 13, 2009 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  25. DX in TX

    We can thank George W. Bush for this one remember Harriet Miers....not to mention the other boneheads that caused embarrassment to this great country....

    Thanks Dubya

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