Clinton: White House Vetting Is 'Cumbersome' and Getting 'Worse'
By Glenn Kessler
At a town-hall meeting today at the U.S. Agency of International Development, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton lashed out at the slow pace of getting people vetted for administration jobs. As a slightly edited version of her full comments below makes clear, this is an issue she takes very personally.
She had hoped to come to the agency with the name of a nominee to head it -- reputedly Harvard professor Paul Farmer -- but the announcement was nixed by the White House, she said in response to a question from a USAID employee wondering when political leadership of the agemcy would be named.
Here are her comments:
"We have worked very hard with the White House on looking for a candidate who, number one, wants the job; and number two -- (laughter) -- I mean, it's been offered. (Laughter.)
"But most significantly, the clearance and vetting process is a nightmare. And it takes far longer than any of us would want to see. It is frustrating beyond words. I 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 someone will be nominated shortly. I was unable. ... The message came back, 'We're not ready.'
"I know that you and I share a very strong desire to get the political leadership in place, because once we get an administrator and a deputy, there are a lot of other positions to be filled. I mean, we've got a long way to go. I mean, as probably many of you know, we don't have all the positions at the State Department filled either.
"So I think anyone who has gone through it or looked at this process would tell you that every administration, it gets worse and it gets more cumbersome. And unfortunately, with everything going on in the nomination and confirmation process, it is just taking a long, long time. And some very good people just didn't want to be vetted. Not that they've done anything wrong, that when they looked at the burdens of it and the fact that people who aren't very well off -- I mean, it's not that they're poor, don't get me wrong, but they're not multimillionaires. You know, you have to hire lawyers; you have to hire accountants. I mean, it is ridiculous!
"I mean, I'll say that as somebody -- 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 -- (laughter). It's really burdensome.
"And then one of my all-time favorite questions: "Please tell us every foreign national you know" -- (laughter). ... Finally, I said, this is ridiculous! I can't even remember -- you know, 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!
"So you're sensing my frustration."
July 13, 2009; 5:14 PM ET
Categories: Hillary Rodham Clinton
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