Joseph R. Biden pushed back against the notion he is not fit to be president on Sunday after President Trump and his Republican allies have repeatedly questioned the former vice president’s mental capacity.
Mr. Trump’s campaign released an ad last week showing clips of Mr. Biden appearing to lose his train of thought while campaigning in 2020 — comparing the blunders to older clips of Mr. Biden speaking pointedly about five years ago.
The ad, which was released during the Democratic National Convention, is titled, “What happened to Joe Biden.”
Mr. Biden, though, just laughed off the suggestion he’s lost any of his mental capabilities.
“Watch me,” Mr. Biden told the American people in an interview on Sunday with ABC News.
The Democratic presidential nominee would be the oldest president to be sworn in on Inauguration Day at 78 if he defeats Mr. Trump in November. He said it’s fair to question a candidate’s age — but Mr. Biden pushed back against questions about his mental fitness.
The former vice president also pledged to listen to scientists about the COVID-19 pandemic if he is elected, saying he’s willing to shut the country down again and issue a nationwide mask mandate if that’s what scientists suggested.
The comments came during Mr. Biden’s first joint interview Sunday with his running mate California Sen. Kamala D. Harris, where they criticized the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic.
The president is not to blame for the coronavirus, Mr. Biden said, but he suggested Mr. Trump has failed to get the pandemic under control.
“We can’t get the country moving until we control the virus — that is the fundamental flaw of this administration’s thinking,” Mr. Biden told ABC.
He went on to say if Mr. Trump would have acted a week earlier, about 37,000 lives could have been saved, pointing to an analysis by Columbia University Medical School.
However, in January Mr. Biden called the president’s decision to ban travel from China — where the virus originated in January — xenophobic. The former director of the Centers for Disease Control Dr. Tom Frieden, however, acknowledged the travel ban against China made a difference, giving more time for the U.S. to prepare for COVID cases.
Still, Mr. Biden stressed the next president must listen to scientists when handling the outbreak, saying the incoming administration will determine the trajectory of the U.S. for the next decade.
“I have an overwhelming sense of obligation,” Mr. Biden said. “The character of the country is on the ballot. So much is at stake.”
More than 176,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 since the first case hit the nation at the end of January, and there’s currently 5.68 million infected with the virus.
Ms. Harris, meanwhile, told ABC that between Mr. Biden’s nearly five decades political career and her experience as a prosecutor and former attorney general of California, they’re ready to take on the nation’s problems as soon as they enter the White House.
“Between us, we have the ability to really meet the American people — where they are and address their fears and their hopes and their dreams,” she said.
The California Democrat joined Mr. Biden’s campaign despite criticizing him during the Democratic primary for his handling of racial issues like busing.
“I believe in his perspective,” Ms. Harris said of her support of Mr. Biden, adding he’s “progressive” and was one of the first Democrats to support gay marriage and to tap a black woman as a running mate.
She also addressed Mr. Biden’s comment during a campaign interview earlier this year, where he said if a Black voter doesn’t support him, “You ain’t Black.”
“When Joe and I talked about the state of Black America, he has a deep sense of awareness and knowledge about racial disparities,” she said.
“Joe speaks the words — and actually knows how to say the words — Black Lives Matter. Contrary to what the current president of the United States says, who sews hate and division,” Ms. Harris added.