WASHINGTON – Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said he invites comparisons with US President Donald Trump on their mental fitness, saying it’s a “legitimate question” given their ages, and that if elected, he is open to the possibility of seeking a second term.
“Watch me, Mr. President. Watch me,” Mr Biden, 77, said in an interview with ABC News broadcast Sunday night (Aug 24). “Look at us both. Look at us both, what we say, what we do, what we control, what we know, what kind of shape we’re in. Come on.”
Asked whether he was leaving open the possibility of serving two terms, Mr Biden said, “Absolutely.”
Mr Biden would be 78 on Inauguration Day, making him the oldest president ever to serve. The previous mark is held by Ronald Reagan, who was 77 when he left office. If Mr Trump, 74, were to win a second term, he would surpass that mark.
Mr Trump has made Mr Biden’s fitness for office a central line of attack in his re-election campaign, calling the Democratic nominee “confused” and “diminished,” among other things.
Mr Biden scoffed at those characterisations, but acknowledged the validity of the fitness question.
“Look, I think it’s a legitimate question to ask anybody over 70 years old whether or not they’re fit and whether they’re ready.”
The former vice-president has described himself as a “transition” candidate to a younger generation of Democrats. He said he would focus on grooming younger candidates for House and Senate races, even in states where Democrats haven’t traditionally done well.
“We haven’t spent nearly enough time building the bench in the Democratic Party,” he said. “And that’s about raising people up. And that’s what I’m about.”
The Democratic nominee also defended his largely virtual campaign, saying he is confident he can defeat Mr Trump while relying on a largely virtual campaign.
“We’re going to follow the science, what the scientists tell us,” Mr Biden said. “We’ve been able to travel places when we’ve been able to do it in a way that we don’t cause the congregation of large numbers of people.”
Mr Trump, who has kept up a busy travel schedule, has mocked Mr Biden for conducting virtual campaign events from the basement of his Delaware home.
“Guess what? I have left my basement,” Mr Biden said. “In the meantime, 500 million people have watched what I’ve done out of my basement. And guess what? People are listening. People are listening. It’s about being responsible.”
The former vice-president also pushed back against Republican efforts to tie him to progressives’ calls to defund local police departments, which have gained traction across the country in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in police custody.
“I don’t want to defund police departments,” Mr Biden said. “I think they need more help, they need more assistance, but that, look, there are unethical senators, there are unethical presidents, there are unethical doctors, unethical lawyers, unethical prosecutors, there are unethical cops. They should be rooted out.”
He also said he didn’t feel pressure to name Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate because she’s a black woman, but that “government should look like the people, look like the country.”
Ms Harris is the first Black and Indian-American woman on a major party presidential ticket.
“I cannot understand and fully appreciate what it means to walk in her shoes, to be an African-American woman, with Indian-American background, a child of immigrants,” he said. “She can’t assume exactly what it’s like to walk in my shoes. What we do know is we have the same value set.”