I turned on my TV to watch the second scheduled presidential debate and instead saw an old-fashioned street brawl break out ("Obama takes an aggressive stand," Oct. 17). Both participants were an embarrassment. The so-called debate convinced me that the two-party system in our country is irrevocably broken and needs to be fixed sooner rather than later.

President Obama and former governor Mitt Romney aren't totally to blame for their performance. Over the years the media have bent and twisted the protocol of the debates, which were originally instituted to discuss issues, not to get into verbal skirmishes full of half-truths, embellishments of the truth and, worst of all, full-throated denigration of one's opponent. Years ago there was a modicum of respect for debate opponents. That concept has now totally vanished.

It wasn't that long ago that substantive presidential debates were the rule. Somehow during the last 30 years the debates' purpose radically changed; they are now forums for rude interruptions, character-bashing and unabashed lying. They have truly devolved into a theater of the absurd.

As American citizens we deserve better than this. I was personally ashamed of the calamity I witnessed, and I think millions of Americans felt the same.

Patrick R. Lynch, Nottingham