John Adams once called the vice-presidency "the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived." The current vice president, Dick Cheney, has managed to make good use of it, however, as a popular scapegoat for the worst malfeasances of the Bush Administration. While the New York Times does not quite suggest that Cheney is President Bush's puppeteer, a reader of "Mr. Cheney's Imperial Presidency" could be excused for thinking that while the vice president was a bad apple, the president and the rest of the members of his administration.

Virtually from the time he chose himself to be Mr. Bush's running mate in 2000, Dick Cheney has spearheaded an extraordinary expansion of the powers of the presidency - from writing energy policy behind closed doors with oil executives to abrogating longstanding treaties and using the 9/11 attacks as a pretext to invade Iraq, scrap the Geneva Conventions and spy on American citizens.

It is important to remember that while Cheney has more power than many of his predecessors, he is still ultimately subject to the authority of President Bush. Each of the policies that the Times lambasts Cheney for initiating were supported and advanced by Bush. Since it is the responsibility of a leader to determine when the ideas of his subordinates are unachievable, based on suspect evidence, or are simply illegal, it is wrong to place the blame on Cheney.

Indeed, one could argue that the Bush Administration finds the popular conception of Cheney as evil to be politically useful. The public assumes that the Administration's most unpopular policies are the result of the influence of Cheney, so the president's approval ratings remain relatively high. This deflection of responsibility allows the bad policy decisions to continue, since the vice president's actions are buffered from public opinion.