Joe Biden(left) and Donald Trump
Joe Biden(left) and Donald Trump

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump demanded on Sunday that his Democratic rival Joe Biden take a drug test either before or after the pair’s first debate on Tuesday, in his latest salvo against his opponent’s mental acuity.

“I will be strongly demanding a Drug Test of Sleepy Joe Biden prior to, or after, the Debate on Tuesday night,” Trump tweeted.

“Naturally, I will agree to take one also. His Debate performances have been record setting UNEVEN, to put it mildly. Only drugs could have caused this discrepancy???” he continued, without offering any evidence for the claim.

According to US media reports, on Saturday their teams finalised the conditions for the debate, to be moderated by Fox News reporter Chris Wallace, including forgoing the traditional handshake and with only a small audience due to Covid-19 restrictions. The condition of a drugs test was not mentioned. Both septuagenarians are prone to blunders and gaffes when speaking.

But the 74-year-old Trump has spent months denigrating 77-year-old Biden’s mental state, and suggested several times in recent weeks without any evidence that the former vice president may be using unspecified drugs to boost his performance.

For the most part Biden has shrugged the accusations off, calling for voters to observe the two men together.

“Watch me. Look at us both,” he said in an August interview with ABC.

On Saturday Biden said he expects “personal attacks and lies” from the president during the debate, likening Trump to Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels.

Tuesday’s clash in Cleveland, Ohio, the first of three 90-minute debates, represents the first time voters will have the chance to see the candidates facing off against one another directly.There was no immediate response from Biden to the Sunday tweet, though the former vice president was set to speak to reporters at 12:15pm.

He has shrugged off such accusations from Trump in the past. On Saturday said he expects “personal attacks and lies” from the president, likening Trump to Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels.

The former vice president has until recently stayed close to his Delaware home due to the challenges of campaigning in person safely during a pandemic.

Trump, meanwhile, has been flouting his own government’s social distancing guidelines to speak frequently at mass rallies where participants are often tightly packed with few masks in sight, as he criss-crosses battleground states on Air Force One.

The Covid-19 restrictions place even more weight on Tuesday’s 90-minute debate, the first of three, with millions of Americans weighing two men who each depict the other as an existential threat to the country.

Trump sees his nomination of Barrett to the Supreme Court — potentially tilting the court to the right for years — as a fundamental boost to his troubled re-election campaign.

He told Fox & Friends Sunday the Senate will “easily” confirm Barrett before the election, despite furious Democratic opposition. But the live TV debate will be a wild card.

Trump needs to break through the bad news of 200,000 coronavirus deaths, the long-lasting economic fallout, and widespread fatigue at the constant upheaval roiling his administration.

Published in Dawn, September 28th, 2020