Politeness died a loud death Tuesday night on a debate stage at Hofstra University.

In the space of 90 minutes, President Obama and Mitt Romney proved one thing to anyone watching: Even two men competing to be the most powerful person in the world can turn into bickering children.

Here’s a sample of the “conversation”between the candidates that night:

Obama: “Not true, Governor Romney.”

Romney: “So how much did you cut?”

Obama: “Not true.”

Romney: “How much did you cut them by, then?”

Obama: “Governor, we have actually produced more oil — ”

Romney: “No, no. How much did you cut licenses and permits on federal land and federal waters?”

Obama: “Governor Romney, here’s what we did. There were a whole bunch of oil companies.”

Romney: “No, no, I had a question, and the question was how much did you cut them by?”

Democracy in action!

The takeaway from the debate for all but the most partisan voters was simple: Rudeness ruled.

Obama and Romney tried to reclaim some lost ground in the civility sweepstakes when they both appeared Thursday night at the Alfred E. Smith Dinner in New York City, a roast of sorts at which they poked fun at each other and themselves.

But the damage was done. Politeness in politics has been on life support for years, but Tuesday’s debate may have finally sealed its demise.

Manners, for watching your tenuous grip on politics slip completely, you had the worst week in Washington. Congrats, or something.

Have a candidate for the Worst Week in Washington? E-mail Chris Cillizza at

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