Did you watch the Vice Presidential debate?

While the parameters of the job differ from presidency to presidency, ranging from figurehead representing our nation at various obligations of state to true governing partner, there is the very real possibility of suddenly ascending to the highest office in the land.

Just take a look at our not-too-distant past. We had two beloved presidents die in office — one by illness, one by bullets — and their Vice Presidents made significant changes to our country and the world in their own presidencies.

Harry Truman, at the time of FDR’s death, had been pretty much left out of the governing loop. He didn’t even know details of our atomic weaponry program. Ironically, most people remember him as the President who dropped two atomic bombs on Japan to finally put an end to WWII. But, he also instituted far-ranging foreign and domestic programs.

His accomplishments included expanding Social Security and enacting the full Employment Program. He assisted in the founding of the United Nations, created The Truman Doctrine to contain communism, passed the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe and he oversaw the creation of NATO.

Unlike Truman, Lyndon Johnson’s learning curve was very much smaller after the shots rang out in Dallas. His presidency, while marred by our escalating involvement in Vietnam, ushered in what is referred to as “The Great Society,” including The War on Poverty, the Civil Rights Act, the Medicare Amendment to Social Security and the Open Housing Law.

In both examples, powerful changes took place because a President died and his Vice President took office.

The Vice President does matter and this debate was the only chance we will get to see the candidates, facing each other, giving us some insight into who they are.

In the broad scope of the campaigns, I doubt that many voters’ minds were changed. Attacks and counterattacks inhibited much of any substance being revealed, until the very end when the issue of abortion was raised and we could really see the two men for who they are instead of mouth pieces defending their candidate while trying to destroy the other.

We caught a glimpse of two men with very differing views on the matter, who finally seemed comfortable on that stage explaining their approaches, relating their feelings and reasoning on the abortion issue.

This is what debates should be about, how the questions should be answered. I’m so tired of the dense fog of peripheral nonsense. I want to “see” the candidates, get a picture of the real person, not a V.P. attack dog or a “defender of the boss.” Neither man seemed comfortable in that role. Yet, when they discussed a specific issue and their own views, we finally were able to dissipate the fog and see the man.

The decision is still unclear as to whether or not this debate made a difference.

But, my decision is that the Vice President does matter.

Wendy J. Levenfeld is a published novelist, playwright and columnist. Send comments to wendylevenfeld@gmail.com. Visit Wendy’s website at www.wendylevenfeld.com.

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