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.
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.