The Cable

Clinton complains of "nightmare" vetting process

At a town hall meeting at USAID this morning, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton complained of a "nightmare" White House vetting process that prevented her from being able to announce the prospective USAID administrator, as she had hoped.

"The question that I think many of us have is:  When will we be getting political leadership in our agency?" an apparent USAID employee asked Clinton. "And I think we'd also like to hear from you why it's taking so long."

"Let me say, it's not for lack of trying," Clinton responded, according to the transcript. "We have worked very hard with the White House on looking for a candidate who, number one, wants the job and, number two - I mean, it's been offered.  But most significantly, the process, 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've 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 an someone will be nominated shortly, and I was unable - you know, it just was - the message came back, 'We're not ready.'"

As previously reported, global health care pioneer Dr. Paul Farmer, a co-founder of the NGO Partners in Health, is expected to be named USAID administrator, and is currently undergoing the long vetting process, according to an administration official who spoke to The Cable last week.

After meeting with Clinton to discuss the prospective job in late May, Farmer was asked to fill out a stack of initial forms for the vet, that included listing all of the foreigners he has come into contact with in the past several years; the endeavor would take Farmer, who spends much of his time working abroad in places including Haiti, Rwanda and Peru, most of Obama's first term, a colleague relayed at the time. An official with Partners in Health told The Cable last week that as far as he knew, Farmer was a candidate for the USAID job.


The Cable

Obama White House powwow with American Jewish groups

As part of the White House effort to reach out to faith based and community groups and sustain support for his policies, President Barack Obama meets with representatives of American Jewish groups at the White House this afternoon. Domestic issues -- health care, SCOTUS nominee Sonia Sotomayor, and the economy -- will be on the agenda, as well as Obama's policies to the Middle East, Iran and on curbing settlements. "It will be an opportunity to make support for his Middle East policies even greater," a representative of one group invited to attend said.

Two left leaning groups, J-Street and Americans for Peace Now, have been invited to attend an Obama White House Jewish outreach powwow for the first time, another group rep attending noted. "Numerous meetings at the White House, first meeting with the President," J Street's Jeremy Ben-Ami said. Among those expected to attend today's 3pm meeting:

  • Jeremy Ben-Ami, executive director, J Street
  • Debra DeLee, president and CEO, Americans for Peace Now
  • Ira Forman, CEO, National Jewish Democratic Council
  • Abe Foxman, national director, Anti-Defamation League
  • Marla Gilson, Washington director, Hadassah
  • Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice-chair, Conference of Presidents
  • Jason Isaacson, Washington director, AJCommittee
  • Kathy Manning, incoming chair, UJC
  • Nancy Ratzan, president, National Council of Jewish Women
  • Lee Rosenberg, president-elect, American Israel Public Affairs Committee
  • Stephen Savitsky, president, Orthodox Union
  • Alan Solow, chair, Conference of Presidents
  • David Victor, president, AIPAC
  • Andrea Weinstein, chair, JCPA
  • Rabbi Steven Wernick, executive vice-president, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
  • Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president, Union for Reform Judaism

U.S. Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell is expected to head back to Israel and the region the week after next, an administration official said yesterday to continue his work on comprehensive Middle East peace talks. Also expected to go on the trip is Mitchell deputy Fred Hof, who will be reportedly trying to get Israel-Syria peace talks off the ground.