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. jaye

    It's better to vet the nominees than to risk having one of them be a "bad apple."
    If Bush had been vetted properly he wouldn't have been elected....or, re-elected!

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

    I guess it doesn't work if she got the SOS job!

    July 13, 2009 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  3. Mike S.

    I think it's great that Obama nominees have to go through a rigorous vetting process.

    The last president put his frat buddy in charge of FEMA, and look what happened.

    High standards are nothing to be apologetic about.

    July 13, 2009 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  4. Denna

    I don't blame President Obama for making sure that all of his nominees are properly vetted. You just know that the GOP is hoping that he will pick someone with some horror, large or small, in their background that does not come to light until after they are accepted. They don't call the President "No Drama Obama" for nothing. This man is not stupid.

    July 13, 2009 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  5. Stephen

    This is the price you pay to avoid major embarrassment or worse down the road. Its the political equivalent of measure twice (or two million times) cut once. I'd rather have it this way than have them rush the vetting and turn out Sarah Palin.

    July 13, 2009 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  6. Alex

    I'm very glad the Obama administration is thoroughly vetting and screening its potential nominees. The Bush and Clinton administrations were wretched examples of the opposite approach.

    July 13, 2009 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  7. Anonymous

    That picture is not from Monday's event.

    July 13, 2009 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  8. Louise in NC

    Secretary Clinton seems to want to go her own way and be an exception to the rule. Doesn't sound like a team player to me!! Lucky she's not wanting to be a Supreme Court Justice!!!

    July 13, 2009 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  9. Thin is in?

    This administration is the most gutless, spineless and factually the WORST in their first 6 months than any in history.

    Hillarity used to have my respect, but baseless and spineless claims like this are indeed laughable in fact we need to redefine "spineless".

    That's why so many tax cheats were BAGGED after the fact, in reality their vetting process is terrible much like their policies, but they arrogantly think the media will just go along with whatever they say and do, but they now are getting bcaklash from the non-sheep who can dig for themselves as the usual suspects (the MSM) "aint" going to do any digging.

    To actually blame the process for their owm ineptitude shows true uh, uh, uh, uh "audacity".

    July 13, 2009 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  10. Joseph in Chesapeake, VA

    I'd rather have it done right than rushed.

    July 13, 2009 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  11. Todd Ster

    I guess they forgot to "vet" Mr. Geithner.

    July 13, 2009 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  12. George Washington

    rediculous as the media's ENVY of Palin. as rediculous as the appointees not paying their taxes, of course until they are appointed a cabinet post. and America trys to tell Iran how to run their country.

    July 13, 2009 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  13. Mary

    And we still got a TAX cheat for Treasury! I think the problem is, the American taxpayers are sick of all the corruption in Washington, and it seems to be in speed mode since Obama took office. I was an Obama supporter...........but, no longer! No money sense, and no common sense.....my kids understand 'spending' better than Obama. In the future, I'm not interested in someone who speaks well. I want someone HONEST and COMMON SENSE!

    July 13, 2009 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  14. Hillary....you are OUT....

    Obama sent Biden to Iraq and has you dealing with the ousted Honduran President.....

    Do you get the message Hillary?????

    July 13, 2009 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  15. Ohio Dem

    About time one of us mindless zombies figured out things are going all wrong. I voted for Hill in the primary, I am now sad that I later voted for Obama. I am getting spent ($) out and tax fatigued, and I am not even the one getting taxed... yet!

    July 13, 2009 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  16. duddley been dun wrong

    Obviously the vetting process is a joke. Hillary got in didn't she???

    July 13, 2009 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  17. Missy

    The process has nothing to do with Big Government. It has everything to do with the probability that if the person did anything - ANYTHING - that even slightly hints of a remote possibility that it could maybe be construed as on the edge of impropriety, the public will find it and be outraged. Do we really need to give a flying leap if someone inhaled when he/she was 16? That's simply being 16 in one way or another. My Eagle Scout son, brilliant beyond words and with the straightest morale compass I've encountered, inhaled with a friend. So should that preclude him from politics if he decides to go that way? That's the world we've made. It's definitely a two-edged sword. It has saved us and it can also be pointless.

    July 13, 2009 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  18. Renee

    That tough, and yet they missed all those tax cheats? Something isn't quite adding up, no pun intended.

    July 13, 2009 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  19. Myron

    How did this get pinned on Obama? Nothing she said had anything to do with this specific administration. Security clearances are, and should always be, rigorous. And that's all Clinton was saying - it stinks, but that's the way it is. It's better for the government to use its resources doing a little bit of background checking now, rather than a lot of covering up later.

    July 13, 2009 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  20. Dan

    It's because most politicans are dirty!

    July 13, 2009 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  21. DC

    It's not clear that she is really blaming Obama for this. It is ridiculous but we've gotten to a point where stupid things that happened years and years ago become major issues if they are "uncovered" later. Simply the fact someone has paid a weekly maid in cash and not filed employment taxes for her would prevent them from seeking office. An arrest for being drunk when they were in college or smoking marijuana 20 years ago would not be allowed. It's all stupid.

    July 13, 2009 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  22. Nat, NYC

    I would have voted for Hillary in last election. She has more common sense than a Pro-Change Demagogue. Instead, I voted Republican, and now we have all got changes most people didn't ask for. Everything coud be very different if…

    July 13, 2009 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  23. David

    Whoever came up with the bright idea of listing all foreign nationals known is clearly isolationist and naive and was obviously not properly vetted himself.

    July 13, 2009 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  24. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    Put someone in charge of the government that never ran a darn thing in his life and this is what happens. The 'process' also appears not to work given the string of botched appointments of people under investigation or who can't seem to pay taxes.

    July 13, 2009 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  25. David

    Whoever came up with the bright idea of listing all foreign nationals known is clearly isolationist and naive and obviously was not properly vetted himself.

    July 13, 2009 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
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