WASHINGTON — This year at the Golden Globes, there was no Meryl Streep calling out Donald Trump for his attacks on journalists and mocking of the disabled. There was no Oprah Winfrey, offering up an inspirational contrast to the rhetoric coming out of the White House.
In fact, there weren’t all that many references to Trump at all, save for a couple of mentions of the border wall.
Instead, the most biting comment was reserved for former Vice President Dick Cheney, hardly a surprise as he is the subject of Adam McKay’s award-season favorite “Vice.” When he accepted the prize for lead actor in a musical or comedy film for his role as Cheney, Christian Bale said, “Thank you to Satan for giving me inspiration on how to play this role.”
He also said McKay, in casting Cheney, wanted to find “somebody that can be absolutely charisma-free and reviled by everybody,” and that he will be “cornering the market on the charisma-free a–holes.”
I’ve seen some ridiculously ignorant comments on various news sites praising Bale and this “musical/comedy” (there’s a reason it falls in this category- it’s fictionalized drama/satire/propaganda, not an accurate docu-drama, folks). And many of these comments don’t seem to realize the movie took great liberties with pushing a partisan perspective. Like this idiot:
I saw Vice yesterday. I have a deeper level of contempt for Cheney now. Well done Christian Bale!
A pathetic “fact-check” by USA Today. Liz Cheney, of course, defended her father, via Twitter.
A number of liberals, progressives, leftists, Democrats, and even some conservatives have bought into the narrative that George W. Bush was a puppet of Cheney’s; that Cheney was the one who ran the presidency. This is a myth. Certainly Bush appreciated Cheney’s vast experience and gave his ear to it. Cheney made the VP slot mean something. But there is no mistaking the fact that George W. Bush was the decider and ran his own presidency. The fact that Bush did not give Scooter Libby a presidential pardon was a source of great consternation and division between Bush and Cheney.
Another liberal fantasy is the notion that Cheney profited millions over Halliburton contracts and the Iraq War. Factcheck.org in 2004:
The ad isn’t subtle. It says, “As vice president, Dick Cheney received $2 million from Halliburton. Halliburton got billions in no bid contracts in Iraq. Dick Cheney got $2 million. What did we get?” And it implies that Cheney lied to the public when he said in a TV interview that “I have no financial interest in Halliburton of any kind.”
But as we document here, Cheney has insulated himself financially from whatever might happen to Halliburton. The Kerry ad misstates the facts.
To start, the $2 million figure is wrong. It is true that Cheney has received just under $2 million from Halliburton since his election, but nearly $1.6 million of that total was paid before Cheney actually took office on Jan. 20, 2001. Saying Cheney got that much “as vice president” is simply false.
We asked Cheney’s personal attorney to document that, and he did, supplying several documents never released publicly before:
- A Halliburton pay statement dated Jan 2, 2001 shows just under $147,579 was paid that day as “elect defrl payou,” meaning payout of salary from the company’s Elective Deferral Plan. That was salary Cheney had earned in 1999, but which he had chosen previously to receive in five installments spread over five years.
- Another pay statement dated Jan. 18 shows $1,451,398 was paid that day under the company’s “Incentive Plan C” for senior executives. That was Cheney’s incentive compensation — bonus money — paid on the basis of the company’s performance in 2000. Cheney had formally resigned from the company the previous September to campaign full time, but the amount of his bonus couldn’t be calculated until the full year’s financial results were known.
Cheney’s personal financial disclosure forms, together with the pay statements just mentioned, show that Cheney has received $398,548 in deferred salary from Halliburton “as vice president.” And of course, all of that is money he earned when he was the company’s chief executive officer. Cheney was due to receive another payment in 2004, and a final payment in 2005.
The Kerry ad isn’t the only place the false $2 million figure appears. The Democratic National Committee also gets it wrong on their Web site. The dates of the Halliburton payments don’t appear on Cheney’s personal financial disclosure form from 2001, and the DNC assumed — incorrectly as we have shown — that all the 2001 payment were made after he took office.
The $398,548 Halliburton has paid to Cheney while in office is all deferred compensation, a common practice that high-salaried executives use to reduce their tax bills by spreading income over several years. In Cheney’s case, he signed a Halliburton form in December of 1998 choosing to have 50% of his salary for the next year, and 90% of any bonus money for that year, spread out over five years. (As it turned out, there was no bonus for 1999.) We asked Cheney’s personal attorney to document the deferral agreement as well, and he supplied us with a copy of the form, posted here publicly for the first time.
Legally, Halliburton can’t increase or reduce the amount of the deferred compensation no matter what Cheney does as vice president. So Cheney’s deferred payments from Halliburton wouldn’t increase no matter how much money the company makes, or how many government contracts it receives.
On the other hand, there is a possibility that if the company went bankrupt it would be unable to pay. That raises the theoretical possibility of a conflict of interest — if the public interest somehow demanded that Cheney take action that would hurt Halliburton it could conceivably end up costing him money personally. So to insulate himself from that possible conflict, Cheney purchased an insurance policy (which cost him $14,903) that promises to pay him all the deferred compensation that Halliburton owes him even if the company goes bust and refuses to pay. The policy does contain escape clauses allowing the insurance company to refuse payment in the unlikely events that Cheney files a claim resulting “directly or indirectly” from a change in law or regulation, or from a “prepackaged” bankruptcy in which creditors agree on terms prior to filing. But otherwise it ensures Cheney will get what Halliburton owes him should it go under.
Cheney aides supplied a copy of that policy to us — blacking out only some personal information about Cheney — which we have posted here publicly for the first time.
That still would leave the possibility that Cheney could profit from his Halliburton stock options if the company’s stock rises in value. However, Cheney and his wife Lynne have assigned any future profits from their stock options in Halliburton and several other companies to charity. And we’re not just taking the Cheney’s word for this — we asked for a copy of the legal agreement they signed, which we post here publicly for the first time.
The “Gift Trust Agreement” the Cheney’s signed two days before he took office turns over power of attorney to a trust administrator to sell the options at some future time and to give the after-tax profits to three charities. The agreement specifies that 40% will go to the University of Wyoming (Cheney’s home state), 40% will go to George Washington University’s medical faculty to be used for tax-exempt charitable purposes, and 20% will go to Capital Partners for Education, a charity that provides financial aid for low-income students in Washington, DC to attend private and religious schools.
The agreement states that it is “irrevocable and may not be terminated, waived or amended,” so the Cheney’s can’t take back their options later.
The options owned by the Cheney’s have been valued at nearly $8 million, his attorney says. Such valuations are rough estimates only — the actual value will depend on what happens to stock prices in the future, which of course can’t be known beforehand. But it is clear that giving up rights to the future profits constitutes a significant financial sacrifice, and a sizable donation to the chosen charities.
Democrats have taken issue with Cheney’s statement to Tim Russert on NBC’s Meet the Press Sept. 14, 2003, when he said he had no “financial interest” in Halliburton:
Cheney (Sept. 14, 2003): I’ve severed all my ties with the company, gotten rid of all my financial interests. I have no financial interest in Halliburton of any kind and haven’t had now for over three years. And as vice president, I have absolutely no influence of, involvement of, knowledge of in any way, shape or form of contracts led by the Corps of Engineers or anybody else in the federal government.
Shortly after that, Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg released a legal analysis he’d requested from the Congressional Research Service. Without naming Cheney, the memo concluded a federal official in his position — with deferred compensation covered by insurance, and stock options whose after-tax profits had been assigned to charity — would still retain an “interest” that must be reported on an official’s annual disclosure forms. And in fact, Cheney does report his options and deferred salary each year.
But the memo reached no firm conclusion as to whether such options or salary constitute an “interest” that would pose a legal conflict. It said “it is not clear” whether assigning option profits to charity would theoretically remove a potential conflict, adding, “no specific published rulings were found on the subject.” And it said that insuring deferred compensation “might” remove it as a problem under conflict of interest laws.
Actually, the plain language of the Office of Government Ethics regulations on this matter seems clear enough. The regulations state: “The term financial interest means the potential for gain or loss to the employee . . . as a result of governmental action on the particular matter.” So by removing the “potential for gain or loss” Cheney has solid grounds to argue that he has removed any “financial interest” that would pose a conflict under federal regulations.
Conflict of Interest
It is important to note here that Cheney could legally have held onto his Halliburton stock options, and no law required him to buy insurance against the possibility that Halliburton wouldn’t pay the deferred compensation it owes him. Both the President and Vice President are specifically exempted from federal conflict-of-interest laws, for one thing, as are members of Congress and federal judges.
And even federal officials who are covered by the law may legally own a financial interest in a company, provided they formally recuse themselves — stand aside — from making decisions that would have a “direct and predictable effect on that interest.” And Cheney says he’s done just that.
Cheney says he takes no part in matters relating to Halliburton, and so far we’ve seen no credible allegation to the contrary. Time magazine reported in its June 7 edition that an e-mail from an unnamed Army Corps of Engineers official stated that a contract to be given to Halliburton in March 2003 “has been coordinated w VP’s [Vice President’s] office.” But it wasn’t clear who wrote that e-mail, whether the author had direct knowledge or was just repeating hearsay, or even what was meant by the word “coordinated,” which could mean no more than that somebody in Cheney’s office was being kept informed of contract talks.
Indeed, a few days later it was revealed that Cheney’s chief of staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby was informed in advance that Halliburton was going to receive an earlier contract in the fall of 2002 — to secretly plan post-war repair of Iraq’s oil facilities. But being informed of a decision after it is made is a far cry from taking part in making it. And according to the White House, Libby didn’t even pass on the information to Cheney anyway.
charitable givings. They’ve donated millions. Yet somehow Cheney is seen as greedy, selfish, and the spawn of Satan?
As much as Bush is still hated by the left and deemed a war criminal and buffoon, Darth Cheney is seen as the evil mastermind of the Bush regime; and hated twice as hard. Blamed for the Iraq War, cooking up the intelligence with Wolfowitz and Feith. Blamed for enhanced interrogations. It’s all based upon Cheney Derangement Syndrome and not grounded in facts.
Liberals think he has no heart. Literally. And decry that he, at his age, was the recipient of a donor heart instead of it going to someone more “worthy” and “deserving”.
the movie is not an attempt to convert anyone to a new way of thinking; the audience for this sort of film is likely already sympathetic to the most obvious of McKay’s theses, which is that Dick Cheney is a heartless guy.
The initial warning is given before Vice even starts, in an onscreen note: It’s a “true story,” we’re told. But it’s hard to be strictly factually accurate, the note adds, because Dick Cheney is such a secretive bastard. So it’s really Cheney’s fault if anything in the movie happens to be wrong.
Yet at the end a character will break the fourth wall to assert that the whole thing is factual and say, sarcastically, “Because I have the ability to understand facts, that makes me a liberal?” That sounds like an invitation to consider the facts and logic of Vice. I accept.
Near the start, writer-director Adam McKay, who somehow segued from Will Ferrell movies to this InfoWars-style garbage dump, implies that Cheney’s father-in-law murdered his mother-in-law by drowning her in a lake. Huh? What does this have to do with Cheney? Is there more evidence for this than is presented in the movie, which is none? The movie’s Lynne Cheney, played by Amy Adams, also seems to think her dad murdered her mom. Does Lynne Cheney actually think this?
After dropping some light murder innuendo, McKay just bustles on. Dick Cheney (into whom Christian Bale disappears) is portrayed as a dirtbag who was kicked out of Yale for boozing and brawling. When he first arrives in Washington, he asks others what he is supposed to believe, because all he knows is that he wants to work for a charismatic White House official, Donald Rumsfeld (played as a sort of Machiavellian yokel by Steve Carell). Having Cheney ask someone what his philosophy should be is the kind of lazy screenwriting that typifies the film: It’s easiest for McKay to just put left-wing fantasy dialogue in the mouths of his characters.
He does this even more notoriously with the young Antonin Scalia when the then-future Supreme Court justice says, “If you, like myself, happen to believe in Article II of the Constitution . . .” Hang on, “believe in Article II?” From the mouth of Antonin Scalia, the one American most famously opposed to treating the Constitution as a matter of “belief” or a mystical text? Scalia continues by telling young Cheney that Article II (which grants the president a lot of authority, especially in wartime) gives the chief executive the power of “absolute executive authority, and I mean absolute.” Article II does not, of course, say the president can do absolutely anything, and Scalia would never have said so. It’s the equivalent of a scene showing young Barack Obama joining the Communist Party of Kenya while praying to Allah.
But when it comes to conservatives, anything goes. Another early scene has Cheney expressing disbelief that President Nixon would bomb Cambodia because “it would be illegal” and Nixon would need congressional authority to carry out a military strike. These words sound like McKay’s, not Cheney’s, meant to signal the audience that Cheney learned early to abandon all protocols. But presidents bomb countries all the time. President Obama bombed Libya and Syria without congressional authorization. I’ll await McKay’s movie about why this was evil. McKay also slips in a few scenes bashing the guidelines of Bush-administration lawyer (and NRO contributor) John Yoo for determining what is torture, and then he tell us the memos remain “in Justice Department computers,” by which he means they were in effect throughout the Obama years. That Obama retained these policies is somehow Cheney’s fault. McKay is either unaware that presidents are able to do things differently from previous presidents or is saying that Obama is so mentally feeble that he fell for Cheney’s mind-control tricks. (Neither is the truth, of course: The truth is that the Bush-Cheney policies were smart tools for fighting terror, so Obama retained most of them.)
Cheney is to blame for the launch of ISIS because he publicly mentioned the name of terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, thus making him a superstar? (Al-Zarqawi was killed by U.S. forces in 2006, yet the subsequent deaths of hundreds of thousands at the hands of ISIS during the Obama years are, McKay implies, Cheney’s fault.) McKay simultaneously claims Cheney didn’t pay enough attention to Zarqawi and let him do anything he wanted for a year, then cuts to the 2005 London transit bombings. Yeah, remember when the Bush-Cheney administration was doing nothing about terrorism?
Vice claims that Bush started the Iraq War not because he (and Cheney) thought it was the right thing to do but because they needed a PR stunt to make Americans like their team. This logic is bizarre: The son of the president who enjoyed 90 percent approval ratings after winning his own war with Iraq, then got 38 percent of the vote when he ran for reelection the very next year, considered war with Iraq the best way to win reelection? McKay marvels at the sinister persuasion efforts of the Bush administration, which marks a bit of a change from that era, when Bush et al. were treated as colossal dummies by McKay et al. If the Iraq War was obviously an evil Republican plot to hoover up all of the oil and benefit Cheney’s Halliburton cronies, it’s strange that people like Hillary Clinton, Tony Blair, and Christopher Hitchens backed it.
I had thought we had heard the end of liberals’ obsession with waterboarding suspected terrorists and with imprisoning them at Guantanamo Bay, given that President Obama once assassinated an unarmed American teenager with a drone strike, killed other Americans with drones, and kept Guantanamo Bay open. But, no, McKay uses Vice to rage against “enhanced interrogation” techniques. If Cheney had simply assassinated instead of waterboarded those three suspected terrorists, and killed some innocent bystanders in the process, McKay would either have to be okay with that or simply clarify that things that are fine when Democrats do them are outrageous when Republicans do them. (McKay is, of course, a Democratic-party donor and fundraiser, and he provided propaganda assistance to the Obama administration.)
Debunking all of these feeble points again 15 years later is as tiresome for me as it is for you,