The first time I watched a presidential debate as a young adult, I was surprised by what a far cry it was from my middle school debate class—and not in a good way. I saw almost nothing of what I'd learned about constructing a valid argument, forming a refutation, cross-examination or any other debate skill on the presidential debate stage, and I was confused. Why did I have to learn those rules and guidelines if the people competing for the highest office in the nation didn't even use them in a nationally televised debate?

That was my impression during the "normal" era of politics. This week's presidential debate dropped the bar so low we might as well call it six feet under. I'm not sure if we hit rock bottom, but it feels like we're darn close.

My two teens watched the presidential debate with me. Normally, I would have grabbed this opportunity to discuss with them the issues presented to the candidates, point out the ways politicians use language to make their policies sound good, and how they frame things to make their opponents' policies look bad. I would have walked them through an analysis of the debate, probably lamenting the lack of formal debate practices—that's nothing new—but still discussing the nuances of what made each candidate's performance weaker or stronger. I wouldn't have tried to steer their opinions of the candidates one way or the other, but allowed them to evaluate on their own.

This debate offered no such opportunities. It was a train wreck, and there's no getting around the fact that it was a train wreck because the President of the United States made it one.

And it saddens me as much as it enrages me. I want my children to be able to respect the president. Even if they disagree with his policies, even if they think he's in the wrong on various issues, I want them to be able to respect the leader of our country as a leader.

But they can't. I can't. And that sucks.

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Courtesy of Back on My Feet
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Having graduated in the top 10% of Reserve Officer Training Corp (ROTC) cadets nationwide in 2012, Pat Robinson was ready to take on a career in the Air Force full speed ahead.

Despite her stellar performance in the classroom and training grounds, Robinson feared other habits she'd picked up at Ohio University had sent her down the wrong tracks.

First stationed near Panama City, Florida, Robinson became reliant on alcohol while serving as an air battle manager student. After barnstorming through Atlanta's nightclubs on New Year's Eve, Robinson failed a drug test and lied to her commanding officer about the results.

Eleven months later, she was dismissed. Feeling ashamed and directionless, Robinson briefly returned home to Cleveland before venturing west to look for work in San Francisco.

After a brief stint working at a paint store, Robinson found herself without a source of income and was relegated to living in her car. Robinson's garbage can soon became littered with parking tickets and her car was towed. Golden Gate Park's cool grass soon replaced her bed.

"My substance abuse spiraled very quickly," Robinson said. "You name it, I probably used it. Very quickly I contracted HIV and Hepatitis C. I was arrested again and again and was finally charged and sentenced to substance abuse treatment."

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