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Biden Defends His Mental Acuity And Physical Stamina

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks with ABC's George Stephanopoulos in a one-on-one interview aired on July 5, 2024.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks with ABC's George Stephanopoulos in a one-on-one interview aired on July 5, 2024.

U.S. President Joe Biden, with his five-decade political career and 2024 reelection campaign on the brink, insisted in a nationally televised interview Friday that he has both the mental acuity and physical stamina to win the election against former President Donald Trump and to run the country for another four years.

"I'm the most qualified person and I know how to get things done," Biden told ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos in a 22-minute interview. Earlier Friday he assured a rally of about 300 supporters in the Midwestern political battleground state of Wisconsin, "I am staying in the race."

Some Democratic lawmakers in Washington privately – and increasingly publicly – have voiced concerns that Biden, at 81, no longer has the mental and physical capacity to take on Trump over the four months leading to the November 5 election, let alone govern the country over the next four years.

But Biden told Stephanopoulos, "If the Lord Almighty came down and said, 'Joe, get out of the race,' I’d get out of the race. But the Lord Almighty is not coming down."

The Democrats' fear that Biden's time in power is nearing the end have mounted since Biden appeared confused and halting during his debate with Trump a week ago, at times losing his train of thought and unable to mount a sustained attack on Trump or consistently defend his 3½-year tenure in office.

"I was exhausted," he said of the debate night. "I was feeling terrible … a bad cold." He said his poor performance was "nobody's fault but mine. It was a bad episode."

But Biden was alert on Friday and answered Stephanopoulos' questions with little hesitation. He was eager to attack Trump.

"Trump is a pathological liar," Biden contended, adding for emphasis, "The man is a congenital liar." Biden cited news accounts that said Trump had told 28 lies during the 90-minute debate.

Stephanopoulos said Trump turned down a chance to also sit for an interview with ABC.

The news anchor, one of the most prominent journalists in the United States, asked Biden whether he had ever had a neurological test, and Biden responded by saying, "I get a full neurological test every day," dealing with world and domestic issues.

Asked whether he had ever had a cognitive test, the president responded, "No one has said I need to."

With Biden's poor debate performance, numerous polls have shown Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, pulling ahead in the contest. After Biden won in 2020, it will be the first time the same two major party candidates have opposed each other in consecutive U.S. presidential elections since 1956.

But Biden took issue with Stephanopoulos' contention that he was falling behind.

"All the pollsters I talk to say it's a toss-up," Biden said.

Biden assured his supporters at the rally in Madison, Wisconsin, "I am running, and I'm going to win again."

"I beat Donald Trump," a forceful Biden said, as the crowd cheered and waved campaign signs. "I will beat him again."

Three major U.S. newspapers, The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, have reported in recent days that Biden's mental lapses have become more frequent in recent months, with some Western officials saying they noted his apparent decline at the recent G-7 summit in Italy.

Biden's delivery and sharpness in answering Stephanopoulos' questions were sure to be parsed, not only by Trump and his aides, but by Democrats wondering whether their candidate is up to taking on Trump, who is 78, and himself has sometimes misspoken.

At the rally, Biden played off his own missteps, quoting one of Trump's campaign comments, when Trump said, "George Washington's army won the revolution by taking control of the airports from the British."

As the crowd laughed, Biden continued, "Talk about me misspeaking."

The White House realized the high stakes of the interview with the ABC anchor. Biden press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that "millions of Americans" were expected to watch.

Most Democrats have held fast in their support for Biden and his running mate, Vice President Kamala Harris, but some have been suggesting the party would be better off with Biden dropping out and Harris taking his place as the presidential standard bearer.

The national Democratic Party is holding its quadrennial nominating convention in August, leaving the party little time to settle on its presidential nominee.

At least three Democrats in the House of Representatives have called for Biden to step down as the nominee, with Representative Seth Moulton of Massachusetts expressing his concerns in a Thursday radio interview and joining Representatives Lloyd Doggett of Texas and Raúl Grijalva of Arizona in seeking an alternative.

"President Biden has done enormous service to our country, but now is the time for him to follow in one of our founding fathers', George Washington's, footsteps and step aside to let new leaders rise up and run against Donald Trump," Moulton told radio station WBUR.

While not going that far, Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey said in a carefully worded statement Friday that Biden now has a decision to make on "the best way forward."

"Over the coming days, I urge him to listen to the American people and carefully evaluate whether he remains our best hope to defeat Donald Trump," Healey said. "Whatever President Biden decides, I am committed to doing everything in my power to defeat Donald Trump."