Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden said he can “hardly wait” to compare his cognitive ability with President Donald Trump’s in upcoming debates. Meanwhile, the New York Times does not appear to share Biden’s confidence in taking on Trump and is demanding preconditions for debates.
Last week, at his first press conference in three months, Biden was asked by Fox News’s Doug McKelway if he had been tested for any degree of cognitive decline, to which he responded, “I’ve been tested, I’m constantly tested. Look, all you’ve got to do is watch me and I can hardly wait to compare my cognitive capability to the cognitive capability of the man I’m running against.”
In a recent interview with Vanity Fair, Biden once again expressed his eagerness to debate Trump, saying, “I can hardly wait to get onto the stage with Donald Trump.”
However, the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman does not seem to share Biden’s eagerness.
In an op-ed appearing in the Times Tuesday, Friedman expressed concern about Biden debating Trump, suggesting he only do so if two unprecedented preconditions are met in advance.
“First, Biden should declare that he will take part in a debate only if Trump releases his tax returns for 2016 through 2018,” Friedman writes.
“And second, Biden should insist that a real-time fact-checking team, approved by both candidates, be hired by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates,” with the team reporting on any misleading or dishonest statements before the debate’s conclusion.
Friedman claims that he is concerned that due to “Biden being a responsible individual and role model” by staying within proximity of his home since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, he has been unable to engage with large groups of voters.
“Therefore the three scheduled televised debates, which will garner huge audiences, will carry more weight for him than ever.”
Friedman believes the two conditions are unlikely to be met by Trump, thereby giving Biden the necessary excuse to avoid a debate, as he imagines Trump responding to these conditions by protesting. “Fine. Let Trump cancel. Let Trump look American voters in the eye and say: ‘There will be no debate, because I should be able to continue hiding my tax returns from you all, … because I should be able to make any statement I want without any independent fact-checking,’” writes Friedman.
As a result, Friedman continues, Biden could retort, “Well, that’s not a debate then, that’s a circus. If that’s what you want, why don’t we just arm wrestle or flip a coin to see who wins?”
Friedman concludes by making clear that only under such unprecedented conditions would a debate be worthy of Biden’s participation.
“Otherwise,” writes Friedman, “Joe, stay in your basement.”
Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein.