Questions on White House vetting procedures re-emerge after Jones fiasco

It's one of those issues that just won't go away largely because President Obama has appointed barely half of the executive branch employees he's supposed to, and so many of those that he has appointed have had ethics problems or received "waivers" for the lobbying activities.

The whole czar system is a vetting disaster waiting to happen as Volokh's Ilya Somin points out:

Jones' ridiculous beliefs probably aren't typical of those of the administration's many other czars. However, the fact that a person like him could be appointed to an important czar position does highlight one of the weaknesses of the czar system: by circumventing the normal appointment and confirmation process, it makes it more likely that a poorly qualified person or one with ridiculous policy views will be put in charge of important issues.

And in Jones case as well as for other czars, they were not required to fill out the questionnaire that other Obama appointees were forced to do - or so the White House is saying, per Allahpundit at Hot Air:

This reeks of plausible deniability. If they knew, however vaguely, that he was tainted, why wouldn't they follow up with a thorough vetting via the questionnaire to find out just how tainted he was? Answer: Because they didn't want to know, and they certainly didn't want to create any documents that would prove that they did. Copping to incompetence in the background check is less politically damaging than copping to putting a Truther on the payroll with full knowledge of his past, so that's how they're going to spin this. Plain and simple, they've been playing dumb about this guy since the moment they hired him.

Indeed, a former Bush administration official tells Politico's Ben Smith:

During the Bush Administration any White House staffer with policymaking or public responsibilities would have undergone substantial vetting. At a minimum, the potential hire would have been asked the umbrella question "is there anything in your background that -- fairly or unfairly -- might be used to cause embarrasment to you or the President." In, addition, anyone with a West Wing office had to undergo a national security background investigation based on the SF-86 form in order to get a permanent badge. That form includes very detailed questions about associations with anti-government groups. If Jones was asked either set of questions, the information that led to his resignation should have been disclosed.

When Van Jones was first appointed, the White House issued a press release from the CEQ and followed up with a blog entry about his hiring. He was not a second tier behind the scenes advisor. Jones also appeared on a panel with Vice President Biden shortly before his appointment, and was publicy praised by senior advisor Valerie Jarrett who noted that the White House had been following Jones' career for some time. If the 43 lawyers in the White House Counsel's Office, and the staff of the White House Political Affairs Office, didn't flag any of the controversy around Jones before now, someone needs to vet the vetting operation.

Incredible. Of course, the administration has been saying for months that the reason they are so slow in naming executive branch employees is because their vetting process is so thorough. Turns out, there appears to be more incompetence at work than any desire for caution.

By the way, that former Bushie says that "Van Jones' issues would probably have been flagged if he had simply been looking for a date on E-Harmony or Match.Com." This certainly points to the idea that the White House was fully aware of Jones' ludicrous views and gave him a pass anyway. I don't know whether to laugh at the cosmic incompetence and tone deafness that this represents or be terrified of who else they might have working close to the president.


Hat Tip: Jennifer Rubin






It's one of those issues that just won't go away largely because President Obama has appointed barely half of the executive branch employees he's supposed to, and so many of those that he has appointed have had ethics problems or received "waivers" for the lobbying activities.

The whole czar system is a vetting disaster waiting to happen as Volokh's Ilya Somin points out:

Jones' ridiculous beliefs probably aren't typical of those of the administration's many other czars. However, the fact that a person like him could be appointed to an important czar position does highlight one of the weaknesses of the czar system: by circumventing the normal appointment and confirmation process, it makes it more likely that a poorly qualified person or one with ridiculous policy views will be put in charge of important issues.

And in Jones case as well as for other czars, they were not required to fill out the questionnaire that other Obama appointees were forced to do - or so the White House is saying, per Allahpundit at Hot Air:

This reeks of plausible deniability. If they knew, however vaguely, that he was tainted, why wouldn't they follow up with a thorough vetting via the questionnaire to find out just how tainted he was? Answer: Because they didn't want to know, and they certainly didn't want to create any documents that would prove that they did. Copping to incompetence in the background check is less politically damaging than copping to putting a Truther on the payroll with full knowledge of his past, so that's how they're going to spin this. Plain and simple, they've been playing dumb about this guy since the moment they hired him.

Indeed, a former Bush administration official tells Politico's Ben Smith:

During the Bush Administration any White House staffer with policymaking or public responsibilities would have undergone substantial vetting. At a minimum, the potential hire would have been asked the umbrella question "is there anything in your background that -- fairly or unfairly -- might be used to cause embarrasment to you or the President." In, addition, anyone with a West Wing office had to undergo a national security background investigation based on the SF-86 form in order to get a permanent badge. That form includes very detailed questions about associations with anti-government groups. If Jones was asked either set of questions, the information that led to his resignation should have been disclosed.

When Van Jones was first appointed, the White House issued a press release from the CEQ and followed up with a blog entry about his hiring. He was not a second tier behind the scenes advisor. Jones also appeared on a panel with Vice President Biden shortly before his appointment, and was publicy praised by senior advisor Valerie Jarrett who noted that the White House had been following Jones' career for some time. If the 43 lawyers in the White House Counsel's Office, and the staff of the White House Political Affairs Office, didn't flag any of the controversy around Jones before now, someone needs to vet the vetting operation.

Incredible. Of course, the administration has been saying for months that the reason they are so slow in naming executive branch employees is because their vetting process is so thorough. Turns out, there appears to be more incompetence at work than any desire for caution.

By the way, that former Bushie says that "Van Jones' issues would probably have been flagged if he had simply been looking for a date on E-Harmony or Match.Com." This certainly points to the idea that the White House was fully aware of Jones' ludicrous views and gave him a pass anyway. I don't know whether to laugh at the cosmic incompetence and tone deafness that this represents or be terrified of who else they might have working close to the president.


Hat Tip: Jennifer Rubin