Here’s something you don’t see every day, a classic bit of Internet adventure. Someone claiming to be Michael McFaul, Barack Obama’s chief Russia advisor, has posted two comments to Oleg Kozlovsky’s Facebook page under a post which Oleg also blogged in which he discussed a report quoting McFaul in the Kommersant newspaper; Kommersant reported that McFaul had said the U.S. would back away from pressuring Russian on human rights. On Facebook (screenshot after the jump for those without Facebook accounts) “Michael McFaul” wrote:
LR founder and publisher Kim Zigfeld has intiated a little dialogue with “McFaul” using our Facebook account, for those who are Facebook members and wish to follow it, for what it is worth. We’ve previously discussed McFaul’s alleged appeasing statements to Kommersant . Obviously, they tended to seriously undermine the impetus to stand up to Vladimir Putin’s dictatorship, and although McFaul claims not to have made them there is scant evidence of either he or Barack Obama saying anything to the contrary, directly challenging Putin on human rights, since Obama came to power. In other words, perhaps what’s most troubling about the McFaul quote was that it was credible, not whether it was actually true or not.
It’s pretty weird, to say the least, that Barack Obama’s top advisor on Russia would choose to disavow the Kommersant report for the first time in English on the blog of a Russian opposition activist rather than in the mainstream U.S. press, and even weirder that he would wait so long to do it. Of course, Facebook being what it is anyone can impersonate anyone, although the person calling himself “Michael McFaul” has been on Facebook for some time now and apparently no action has been taken to silence him.
Now we’re the first ones to admit that McFaul could easily be feeling rather betrayed by the Obama administration, and certainly could not say so publicly. His outburst on Facebook, if it was really him, would be consistent with such an attitude. But we’re not prepared to accept that. If McFaul doesn’t agree with the Obama administration’s craven silence on human rights and democracy issues, he should resign. And then he should say so, and challenge Obama to do better.
In any case, he has an absolute obligation to speak to the mainstream press and set the record straight on the Kommersant story, not sit around and hope somebody will notice a comment on Kozlovsky’s Facebook page.
The fact is, it shouldn’t be possible for anyone to believe McFaul or Obama would have said the things Kommersant reported. But they did. And they believed it beacause Obama’s positions on Russian human rights and democracy have been weak, craven, wishy-washy, uninformed and dangerous to both causes. They’ve given Putin the idea he can continue his crackdown with impunity, and he’s done so.
It’s McFaul’s fault, and it’s Obama’s. They have precious little time to change course before history marks them down as the Chamberlain regime of neo-Soviet times.
But Obama has little time to spare, of course. He’s busy with important things like Twittering. Yes, Twittering.