Team Trump smells blood in the water and is circling the seal. Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden only heightened already rampant speculation about the state of his health by leaving his basement Aug. 31 for a “campaign event” that saw him fly to Pittsburgh to speak to an empty room save for a handful of reporters who weren’t allowed to ask questions afterward.
President Trump has escalated his calls for drug testing before scheduled debates between the two, telling Fox News host Laura Ingraham in an interview that aired Sept. 1 that he believes Biden is “on some kind of an enhancement” to get him through public appearances. Meanwhile, his campaign is demanding that Biden provide “written confirmation” that he will participate in the debates at all. This is political manna from Heaven for the Republican incumbent, and it’s going to continue to be so until Biden actually shows up on a stage next to Trump.
Calling for a Drug Test
Trump made similar comments on drug testing in an Aug. 26 interview with Byron York of the Washington Examiner. The president said Biden clearly struggled in earlier Democratic primary debates but suddenly seemed far more vigorous in his March 15 one-on-one debate with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), his only remaining challenger for the party nomination at that time.
“I don’t know how he could have been so incompetent in his debate performances and then all of a sudden be OK against Bernie,” Trump told York. “My point is, if you go back and watch some of those numerous debates, he was so bad. He wasn’t even coherent. And against Bernie, he was. And we’re calling for a drug test.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has publicly advised Biden not to debate Trump, saying the president’s disregard for the truth would “belittle what the debates are supposed to be about.”
Pelosi’s words spurred the Trump campaign to send a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates seeking a commitment in writing from Biden on participating in the three scheduled debates. “We are concerned that arguments to eliminate debates have escalated and we now believe that re-stated written confirmation from the Biden campaign is needed to ensure that he will attend three debates in person,” the letter, written by former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, stated.
“Written assurance of Joe Biden’s attendance at debates is important because we have seen this act before,” Giuliani wrote. “There have been numerous instances of Biden saying one thing about a given topic in public, only to have his campaign come behind him and clean up his statements after the fact. While he may verbally give vague assertions of his intentions, there is no way of knowing what his handlers truly have planned for him.”
Is He or Isn’t He?
Biden fielded questions from the press following a briefing in Delaware on Sept. 2, two days after his trip to Pittsburgh. The 77-year-old former vice president appeared slow and demonstrably tired at times, but made no major slip-ups during the roughly 30-minute Q&A session. While the questions were not exactly soft, neither were they in the least way unexpected or anything that would force the candidate to be quick on his feet.
Biden was asked about the debates. “Is there anything that could dissuade you from participating and how have you begun to prepare?” a reporter queried.
“Well, I’ve begun to prepare by going over what the president has said, multiple lies he’s told,” Biden answered, echoing Pelosi’s claims about Trump. He continued:
“What I’d love to have is a crawler at the bottom of the screen, a fact-checker, you know, when we speak. If we really wanted to do something, I think that would make a great, great debate. If everything both of us said was instantly fact-checked by an agreed-to group of people out there, then we move forward. But that probably wouldn’t get very far in the debate.
“I’m looking forward to debating the president and I’m going to lay out as clearly as I can, what I think we have to do to bring this country back and build it back better.”
In other words, Biden gave a pat reply filled with boilerplate Democrat talking points and what Giuliani’s letter referred to as “vague assertions of his intentions.” By stressing Democrat framing about Trump’s inability to be truthful on a debate stage, he also very deliberately left himself the Pelosi escape hatch.
It’s a no-win situation for Democrats. The Trump campaign knows this and is reaping the rewards. If Biden continues to hem and haw while leading members of his party tell him not to debate, the appearance of abject weakness and utter lack of confidence by Democrats in their standard-bearer will be magnified all the more. And if he formally agrees to multiple showdowns with unconventionally gifted debater Trump, a doddering Biden faces a series of nationally televised catastrophes. He is stuck between two boulders, and Republicans are gleefully pushing them together.
Read more from Joe Schaeffer.