VICE, the first significant biopic about a recent political figure of the 21st century, arrived in theaters over the Christmas holiday. The oddly fragmentary satirical jaunt through the life and times of Richard B. Cheney swerves from laugh out loud funny to horrifying to political lecture with little warning. But since the film has such a clear point of view about its subject, it's logical to ask, how real is VICE? Obviously, some of the sillier stuff is made up, and a few of the scenes are surrealist nonsense. But when it comes to history, how accurate are the facts presented?
Cheney is not the type of politician to let it all hang out. He's not like Trump, who has autobiographies and interviews and tweets. In fact, Cheney does very few interviews, and there are not a lot of history books written yet to document his life. Director Adam McKay says from the outset his team "did our f**king best" to piece together the facts of his subject's career. But there are definitely places where the film takes liberties with the truth.
Here is a list running down the bulk of the film's claims about Cheney and how real they are.
1. Cheney's Time At Yale
This part of Cheney's life is documented. He did flunk out of Yale and had a record of DUIs. Lynne's come-to-Jesus talk is actually a story he told in a rare 2015 interview.
2. Cheney & Donald Rumsfeld Under Nixon
Cheney and Rumsfeld did work together in this era. But both were deeply conservative, and the idea Cheney picked the GOP as a lark after meeting Rumsfeld is false.
3. Ford's Chief Of Staff
Cheney and Rumsfeld were untouched by Watergate, and therefore in position to be part of the Ford administration. Cheney was a highly respected member of Ford's cabinet and ran his 1976 campaign.
4. Representative Cheney
Cheney was Wyoming's sole congressional representative from 1978-89. The bit about Lynne winning it for him is conjecture. His voting record is edited to make him seem worse than he was. He voted for MLK Day in 1983, for instance. And there's no record of him husbanding the Fairness Doctrine repeal in 1987. He wasn't GOP Whip until 1989.
5. Cheney & The First Gulf War
The premise of VICE is Cheney was a virtual unknown until becoming W's VP. This is untrue. Cheney was the Secretary of Defense during the first Gulf War, and it made him *famous* in DC as a cool-headed, center-of-the-road pragmatist.
6. Cheney's Presidential Explorations
Did Cheney explore a presidential run? Maybe he considered it in 1996, but Clinton was popular. Most GOP contenders didn't bother until 2000.
But the Cheney family was fiercely protective of Mary Cheney, and (from the outside) seemed accepting of her LGBTQ lifestyle, despite the stated GOP anti-marriage platform.
7. Cheney & The Unitary Executive Theory
8. Cheney & 9/11
All of this is well-documented, and the film sticks to the facts, from Cheney ordering Bush to stay in the air, to the whole "undisclosed location" stuff.
9. Cheney's Heart
Cheney did have five heart attacks throughout his life, and a heart transplant in 2012.
10. Liz Cheney
Did Cheney tell Liz to betray her sister in the name of winning his old congressional seat? No one knows for sure, but they did publicly defend her for doing it.