Mike Pence on how Biden can dispel public unease about cognitive decline: 'Square up' and debate

'The American people are entitled to see two people who are applying for the job of leader of the free world on the stage together,' says the vice president.

Updated: August 9, 2020 - 11:47am

Vice President Mike Pence has a challenge and some advice for the man trying to replace President Trump. With talk swirling around about Joe Biden's decline in cognitive function, Pence has a way for him to clear the whole matter up. 

"I can't speak to some of what's being discussed about him today, but the antidote is to be on that stage, to square up and be willing to debate President Donald Trump," Pence said in a sit-down interview Thursday in Largo, Fla. "The American people deserve nothing less."

For decades, Joe Biden has acknowledged his propensity to commit verbal gaffes, but during his run for the presidency in 2020, the gaffes have become far more frequent  — and no laughing matter. Just recently, CBS correspondent Errol Barnett asked him if he had taken a cognitive test.

"Why the hell would I take a test? Come on, man," Biden snapped, before issuing a bizarre challenge to his questioner: "That's like saying you, before you got on this program, you take a test where you're taking cocaine or not. What do you think? Huh? Are you a junkie?" 

Biden ended the conversation by stumbling badly and repeatedly through a specific line about how he wanted the American public to judge his mental fitness.

As it stands now, the Commission on Presidential Debates has scheduled three debates starting in late September and running through October. Biden spokesman TJ Ducklo says the candidate will be there, but others like former White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart say he should forgo them. In addition, a New York Times op-ed stated, "The debates have never made sense as a test for presidential leadership."

The current vice president sees a trend coming from liberals. "We need to have presidential debates," Pence said. "We're already hearing some leading liberal voices in the media, some leading liberal Democrat activists, they're actually advocating that we would have a presidential election without debates. They're suggesting that Joe Biden take a pass on debates … The American people are entitled to see two people who are applying for the job of leader of the free world on the stage together."

Whether the debates ultimately take place or not, we know that come Nov. 3, a general election will be held, even if it is shaping up to be different from all the rest. There's a push by Democrats across the country for massive mail-in balloting, citing COVID-19 as the reason. It has the vice president concerned about fairness. 

"Democrat governors around the country, using the excuse of the coronavirus pandemic, are talking about mailing ballots to literally everyone in their state, with no safeguard for the integrity of the process," Pence said. 

Mail-in balloting on that large a scale is much different than the smaller and more regulated absentee ballot process, argues Pence. 

"We have a long tradition in this country of absentee balloting, and the American people know the difference between that and the kind of universal mail-in voting that's being advocated by Democrat governors around the country," he said. "With absentee balloting, you have to apply for a ballot, you have to give a reason, and your signature is checked. There's great integrity to that voting system."

With questions lingering about voting veracity, these issues appear headed to the courts. Pence says the administration is itching for the fight, believing that the principle of one person, one vote is at the center of America’s democracy.

"That's why you're going to see this president and our administration head straight to the courthouse," Pence vowed. "We're going to oppose universal mail-in voting, even while we encourage and respect the great tradition of absentee balloting, and we're going to win that fight. I truly do believe it. We're going to lean into the courts at every level."

Awaiting them on the legal battlefield ready to engage will be the Democrat's' own army of election lawyers.

"It's crystal clear that Donald Trump and the RNC are going to do everything they can to block access to voting," said Chris Meagher, deputy communications director for the Democratic National Committee. "Given Trump's failed response to this pandemic, how he's tanked the economy, and how he's out of touch with reality, that’s the only way they can win. But we will fight back against their un-democratic GOP tactics, either through litigation or our on-the-ground voter protection infrastructure, to do everything we can to make sure every single eligible voter can exercise their constitutional right to make their voice heard."

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