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eXile Classic / August 25, 2010
By Mark Ames


This classic “prank” first published in the summer of 1999 ranks as one of the eXile’s least-successful pranks (which paradoxically made it x-tra annoying) on our longtime nemesis Michael McFaul–formerly a top Clinton USAID official in Moscow, Carnegie Endowment and Hoover Institute tool, and currently Special Assistant to President Obama and Senior Director for Russia and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council.

Our fling with McFaul goes way back, and even though he’s an Obama bigshot, he hasn’t forgotten us, as revealed in the Wall Street Journal in 2008:

Michael McFaul, professor of political science and director of the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at Stanford University, and a frequent target of attacks from the Exile, said he was “sorry to see the paper go” though he didn’t always agree with its politics. The Exile frequently assailed Mr. McFaul for his 1970s-style haircut.

Indeed. And now…the prank:


It’s been awhile since the eXile played a prank on one of our nemeses. At first, we were too distracted. Then, we got lazy. Now, we’re so rusty, it’s like wondering if you can still get it up after a year of involuntary celibacy. Can we actually pull off another prank?

mcfaul obama

The answer, as you’ll see, is “basically no”. Our marketing team warned us in advance that we’d fail, so we devised a fool-proof prank that would succeed no matter what the outcome. First, we chose a villain whose psychology we are familiar with–winners who never make a wrong move in life, the types who have been plaguing our lives from the day we climbed onto our first jungle gym.

Secondly, we passed up on a few really choice pranks that could have made him look particularly asinine if he fell for them in favor of a silly, frivolous prank that says absolutely nothing about the victim–or, rather, that says everything about the nothingness of Michael McFaul.

So, without further to-do, meet this issue’s target. Professor Michael McFaul. Carnegie Endowment big wig. Member of the reactionary Hoover Institute think-tank in Shallow Alto. Key formulator of the Clinton Administration’s hysterical and disastrous reformophilia policy in Russia. Healthy head of Ph-balanced hair. And former college Ultimate Frisbee star. Yep, you heard us right: like a human golden retriever with a red bandana flapping in the wind, McFaul spent his Stanford undergrad years as a fiercely competitive Ultimate Frisbee star, completing his conversion into the Bay Area outdoorsy overachiever par excellence.

The reason we went after McFaul is because, to put it simply, he’s an asshole. Want proof? Last September 24th, in an Op-Ed piece published in the Washington Post, McFaul willed a curse on post-reform Russia. First, he predicted “produce shortages, rationing coupons and a black market” due to Primakov’s economic policies. Incredibly, just a few paragraphs later, McFaul displayed bone-chilling Nietzchean indifference towards the population he predicted would be starved half to death, instead reserving his support for the remains of Russia’s aristo-entrepreneurial class: “[…] Western assistance programs for macroeconomic stabilization such as International Monetary Fund loans must be suspended. At the same time […] programs that provide small business loans, projects that furnish information about Western markets, business training and exchange initiatives all should be expanded.” Thus Spoke McFaulathustra.

Initially, we wanted to see if we could catch McFaul in a moment of raw evil. One idea we had was to call him up, using a menacing Caucasian accent, offering to “take care of problem vis Exile people.” That problem, as we heard from reliable sources, is that McFaul is worried for his physical well-being after reading our “Arrest Michael McFaul” article a few issues back. Our caricatured Caucasian was going to offer McFaul some peace of mind. “Ees no problem, Meester McFaul. Ve take care of zem. Like zat! You don’t know anysing, vhat ve do. You leev normal life, ve take care of Exile problem. Like zat! Agreed?” But we knew that McFaul would scream and drop the phone on first mention of the eXile’s name. And that’s the only way he could win: by not speaking to us.

The back-up plan was to try to cajole him into agreeing to judge a Miss Plekhanov Institute beauty contest on the pretext that most of the rounds would involve the contestants being fully clothed, giving speeches in English on the benefits of market reforms and democracy, and showing their prowess with Microsoft Power Point. Only one competition would actually involve the young women prancing before judges in their bathing suits. “Zey can vear even ze body tongs, as you call zem,” our nerdy college-grad suck-up would say. “Vill be very exciting, Meester McFaul. Reformed Beauty Competition.” But this too would be bound to fail. McFaul’s brain is equipped with a politically-correct V-chip, and the minute “beauty contest” would register, the phone would be sure to go dead.


McFaul’s lifelong dream finally realized: A handshake!

So we decided to corner him into the most trivial, dorky, frivolous conversation as possible, knowing that so long as we were nice, his Stanford-trained manners would force him to humor us. Having learned that McFaul’s sport in college was Ultimate Frisbee, we tried to coax him into hanging out with and playing with Moscow’s expatriate Ultimate Frisbee team–which McFaul, better than anyone, would have to know would be an excruciating experience and a monumental waste of time–the biggest sin of all to his kind. The key here, folks, is to annoy one of the Beigeocracy’s barons just enough to induce heart burn. And you know what? We think we did it!

The most inane part was that we tried to fake a Texan drawl to disguise our true identities. There was no logic in choosing a Texas accent, except, of course, the logic that comes after two days of railing out on heavily-cut Latvian meth. The results were disastrously slapstick. Our unconvincing Texas accent kept slipping into a coastal California accent, before veering a few hundred miles east into Bakersfield, then zipping across the deserts to Texas, before being re-teleported straight back into Santa Cruz again. A few times, we couldn’t pronounce anything more than pure meth-garble; other times, it was as if a middle-aged Malaysian immigrant possessed the eXile’s voice, and just as quickly, disappeared. None of this seemed to bother McFaul, who earnestly engaged us and even showed some genuine interest in our expat Ultimate Frisbee league. Once, he even tried to chum up by emulating our grossly inauthentic Texas dialect. That’s just the kind of guy he is. Earnest. Centrist. Caffeine-free. And, underneath it all, just obtuse enough to look like the Ultimate McFool.

What follows is an exact transcript of the conversation held with Michael McFaul in his Washington, DC office at the Carnegie Foundation at roughly 5pm EST on July 13th, 1999.

6 Minutes of Mike McFaul's Time

Exile: [Scared] Uh, hello?

McFaul: Yes.

Exile: [Scared Texan accent] Can I, uh, speak to Michael McFaul please?

McFaul: Yes, this is him.

Exile: [Lazy Texan accent] Oh hi, Mr. McFaul. I’m-uh, sorry to be, uh, botherin’ you, I gotta kinda strange question for yuh. My name is Tom Reiter and I’m, uh, actually callin’ about Ultimate Frisbee, uh, a club that we have out here in Moscow. [Texan accent vanishes and a Santa Cruz accent replaces it.] I’m calling from Moscow? And I know that you come back and forth here from…

McFaul: [dramatically, expressing weariness] Oh, yeah.

Exile: [Santa Cruz accent] And I heard through the vine, through the Ultimate Frisbee vine, that you’re a helluva player yourself. And, uh, [Texan accent returns] we’re, uh, havin’ a big, sorta, end-a’ the summer, uh, Ultimate Frisbee game. And some fellas’ll be comin’ up–actually, some expats from Prague ‘n such. And we’re tryin’ to collect ‘s many people as possible, and so I was wonderin’… [Weird Malaysian immigrant accent.] If you’re going to be here, if you be interested?

McFaul: [sighs dramatically] Uhhh. You know, even if I would, I couldn’t play. I blew out my knee about eight years ago.

Exile: [Texan accent] It wasn’t playin’ Frisbee, was it?

McFaul: It was playing basketball. But uh…

Exile: [Bakersfield Radio Shack sales assistant frying on speed accent.] Ithheeyuh… so, uh… So you’re not a Frisbee player anymore, then.

McFaul: I can’t physically do it, no.

Exile: [garbled]

McFaul: Unfortunately.

Exile: [Texan accent] Er, I’m just, eh, in charge ‘a tryin’ t’ collect…

McFaul: [chummy] Roundin’ up some folks?

Exile: Yeah. Huh-huh.

McFaul: [chuckles by means of sucking air through teeth]

Exile: [Santa Cruz accent] Wh-you-woun-chya-yeah… So, you were a Frisbee player? I mean we’re just [Texan accent] tryin’ t’ also t’–I don’t know if you’re into it–you know, we’re going to be havin’ a, like a big get-together at either Silver’s or Sally O’Brien’s as well, and jus’ kinda chewin’ the fat ‘n sharin’ Frisbee stories goin’ back t’our college days ‘n stuff.

McFaul: Uh-huh.

Exile: ‘N there’s a fella, Simon, a British feller who said he’d heard that you were a big player once.

McFaul: [confidently] Yeah, I used to play at Stanford. Uh… it’s been awhile. So, when’s your tournament? Or…

Exile: [Middle American accent] Well, it’s the second to the last week in uh, August. [Texan] And, uh, we’re gettin, as I said, some people, expatriates from Prague? They’re comin’ out. And they’re also workin’ on getting some, uh, some other expatriates from Budapest.

McFaul: [dramatic grunt to show keen interest, the kind of grunt usually accompanied by slow nodding of the head] Hu-uh!

Exile: [Texas/Santa Cruz hybrid] And, uh, then there’s somebody–you know there’s been, uh, not as many expats here as there used to be, so it’s kinda, we have to scrounge a little bit harder to, you know…

McFaul: I see. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha. [That is, exactly seven earnest, hearty, yet measured grunts of laughter before pausing to breathe.]

Exile: [Texan] Times ‘r tough. Uh-huh-huh. As you may know.

McFaul: Yeah I do. Tough.

Exile: [chuckles] And uh, so uh, so yeah, we’re gonna, we’re gonna play, uh, a few, [Texan accent returns] a sortofa round robin thang. And then at the end of the week we’re gonna have a kind of a blowout–just get together ‘n chew the fat.

McFaul: [Exact same dramatic grunt as above intended to communicate his keen interest.] Hu-uh!

Exile: And, wouldja be interested in, uh, comin’ to that? Should we contact you, will you be in town then?

McFaul: Ummm, I would be interested, but I won’t be in town in August. I won’t get there until September.

Exile: [Malaysian immigrant accent] Uh. Oh. Vacation.

McFaul: That’s right.

Exile: [Texan accent] Well, all right! Well, thanks f’r yer time anyway, and uh…

McFaul: And thank you for calling.

Exile: Okay.

McFaul: All right, take care.

Exile: Bye-bye.

McFaul: Bye-bye.

[McFaul hangs up first.]

Golly that was swell! In his attempt to sound human and reach out to the people, he comes across as less human than ever before. At least we’ll have the satisfaction of having stolen five minutes of his life and posting it for all to see. That, and knowing that this totally frivolous prank will cause him at least a week’s worth of nervous ailments, made it worth the hassle. “I just don’t get it,” he’ll say. “Why would those guys do something as silly as this? How is this supposed to be funny?” It just is, Mike. Cuz we said so.

Mark Ames is the author of Going Postal, and the co-author of The eXile: Sex, Drugs and Libel in the New Russia (Grove).


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Add your own

  • 1. Iok Sotot, Eater of Souls  |  August 26th, 2010 at 6:13 am

    So if a prank goes nowhere, write the whole thing up anyway and I’ll mock myself by trying to think up a comment here. I guess these protocols have to be developed when you’re playing these games.

  • 2. Connors  |  August 26th, 2010 at 7:41 am

    I think you should’ve gone with the Caucasian offering to take out the eXile. That was funnier. May not have lasted long, but still funnier.

  • 3. General Foods  |  August 26th, 2010 at 10:09 am

    You should have claimed to be David Remnick, and asked if you could count on McFaul’s support for the coming attack on Iran.

  • 4. Yuri  |  August 26th, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Ames, didnt your mother teach you not to pick on the retarded?

  • 5. Anonymous  |  August 26th, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    This is the first time I have seriously considered unsubscribing from that paltry $6.95 a month I was once so happy to give. If you’re too old to mount vicious, successful attacks on these assholes, and nobody but me bothers to read your painstaking exposes about things like Victorville real estate in the 1980s and public-private water reservoir partnerships, then what are you all going to do with yourselves? OD? Or are you all still writing good stuff on The Beast and Alternet, and just not bothering to cross-post it here anymore?

  • 6. RobertD  |  August 26th, 2010 at 10:36 pm

    Ahh… the good old days.

    Can’t a bit of the old school Exile style mayhem be unleashed again in the US?

    And how about a re-post of the by now mythical(possibly non-existent?) Gorbachev prank, when he was supposedly invited to become the “Perestroika Co-ordinator” for the New York Yankees?

  • 7. zhubajie  |  September 2nd, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    Why not take a dump just outside the office of some Bush admin creep? Like Yoo or Rice?

  • 8. foreverpest  |  May 13th, 2011 at 1:49 am

    Explain to me how I came across this looking for a nail salon named “Chip N’ Nails”.

  • 9. G.A.  |  February 1st, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    Is this Groundhog Day? Why do I keep posting comments here? Am I hoping to provide some more free entertainment to your readers? Watch out for that next step, it’s a doozy!

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