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Biden vs. Trump. Is a debate fair game to test mental acuity?

Presidential debates matter, but not always in the ways that the participants think. Seven years after the first ones, in 1960, Richard Nixon admitted that he felt his lack of proper makeup was a big factor in his losing the 1960 election to JFK. In reality, there was probably no amount of makeup that would have helped Nixon overcome the radiant clarity of his opponent. 

In perhaps the most famous moment of presidential debates, between President Reagan, then age 73, and former Vice President Walter Mondale, Reagan famously said, ‘I want you to know also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.’ 

What may easily be overlooked in this seminal moment in debate history is not only the way that Reagan turned a seeming disadvantage into an advantage, but also the charm and humor and ease with which he did so. I am one who always felt Reagan’s acting skills were underrated, and they always served him well as president.

Flash forward to now, and this week’s upcoming CNN Presidential Debate simulcast on Fox Newsbetween former President Donald Trump and current President Joe Biden. If last weekend’s rally in Philadelphia is any indication, where Trump made cognitive comparisons between his unscripted dynamic Teleprompter-free style and Biden’s more wooden, halting manner (Trump also said Biden falls off the stage, etc.), it is clear that Trump intends to use both humor and bluster to attack his opponent directly.

But should President Biden’s or President Trump’s mental acuity or cognitive ability be fair game during the CNN Presidential Debate and what about their respective ages? (Trump is 78, Biden is 81). 

The debate is a chance for Trump to show his strength: Gov. Doug Burgum

The answer is that mental acuity should be on the docket but not age. Ability and fitness to serve are important in leadership positions but are not always directly proportional to age. Keep in mind that we are talking about the highest office in the land, and that, despite a multitude of presidential advisers, mental alacrity remains at the top of the list when it comes to the rapid decisions necessary to protect this country, especially in a crisis. 

I think that Trump has a point when he says his unscripted articulations speaks to the point of cognitive prowess. When I interviewed him in 2020, he had no notes, did not seek the questions in advance, and in fact it was his complex, nuanced answers that impressed me, far more than his self-proclaimed results of a cognitive test of recall, ‘person, woman, man, camera, TV.’ 

When it comes to President Biden, the concerns come not from age or what the White House says are ‘doctored videos,’ or ‘cheap fakes,’ but more of a sense of increasing hesitancy, periods of confusion or problems of recall where he temporarily forgets the names of leaders including most recently Department of Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas.

Should a debate be a forum to test cognitive ability and executive function, should the two debaters be able to contest what each other says directly, or should this be a debate in terms of dueling soliloquies only? I think the answer is obvious. We need to see the candidates in sharp contrast, with the more direct the interactions the better. 

President Biden is a good debater, as is former President Trump. President Biden’s last physical a few months ago lists him in excellent physical condition but does not specifically include cognitive testing or an MRI of the brain, and Trump has not recently released such testing either. But a debate is a good forum to assess alacrity, nimbleness, command, wisdom, and yes, even humor and wit. 

Charisma and personality have always influenced voters from the days of Reagan back to JFK, where no amount of makeup could have helped a wooden perspiring Nixon. And then, as now, the voters will decide.

This post appeared first on FOX NEWS