Thursday, November 13, 2008

Obama Administration's Vetting Questionnaire: Cuts Like a Knife

This is the typical combination of traditional vetting and political acid-testing that occurs with White House hiring; I'm not sure why it makes's front page.  A 63-item questionnaire covering every little detail (except drug use) is something that is justified for people seeking one of the 7,000 or so jobs for which the transition team has to find warm bodies.  After all, many of these positions have a political component and require the jobholder to support the views and policies of the president.  Not to mention the fact that many of them will work in within jogging distance of the president himself, making security a factor.

So, it's okay to dig deep into an applicant for this kind of job.  Right?  Maybe delving into past lovers, personal diaries and gun ownership is over the top, but there is no absolute right to privacy when seeking employment.  Questions about the invasiveness of this questionnaire should be asked of the chief of staff appointee, Rahm Emanuel, but don't expect much enlightenment from the answers. 

Will this establish a new standard for the private sector (do we really have a private sector anymore?) in their own hiring practices.  In truth, any other employer would be vulnerable to charges if they even posed these questions in a casual discussion, much less a job interview.

In rough terms, however, investigation of an applicant's background is rational, but how the administration will actually use the information to make hiring choices is what should receive the greatest amount of scrutiny.  With the track record Team Obama has been blazing so far in the its use of strong-arm tactics and a style of internal policing that one would expect from an authoritarian ruler, don't be surprised if information obtained from these applications finds its way into the publics hands.   

There is one question that simply jumps off the page and remains enigmatic after a lot of pondering:

28) Have you or your spouse at any time held property... the title to which contained any restrictive covenant based on race, sex, ethnic background, religion or sexual orientation?

Can someone (attorneys are welcome) please explain the purpose of this question?  Having some experience in mortgage finance, I have had some contact with titles to real property, but I have never seen any document - private or otherwise - which restrains the owner on any of the aforementioned bases.  Are there people who assume title to property or assets with the restrictions .  Would a country club membership to, let's say, Augusta National, qualify?  The question is ambiguous enough to require legal advice prior to, during - and probably after - answering.

50) Please list any claims of sexual harassment of [sic] other workplace misconduct, made against you or any employee supervised by you, including the resolution of the matter.

Well, there goes William Jefferson Clinton's bid to become the next ambassador to United Nations, or even Thailand for that matter.

It appears that we have elected a president with the charm of Kennedy, the ideology of Carter and the paranoia of Nixon. 

God bless America.


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