As he was en route to his private golf club in Virginia Sunday morning, President Donald Trump called for Joe Biden to take a drug test before or after Tuesday’s presidential debate. It marks the latest instance in which the commander in chief has claimed, without providing a shred of evidence, that the former vice president has used drugs for public appearances. “I will agree to take one also,” he tweeted.
The tweet came at a time when Trump is busy trying to lower expectations for his performance in the debate after years in which the president has characterized his opponent as “sleepy” and barely able to string two thoughts together. Some strategists say the Trump campaign may have inadvertently handed Biden a strong advantage ahead of the debate by lowering expectations so much that he will come out ahead no matter what happens. Even a merely decent debate performance by the former vice president could end up looking like a big win.
Trump has been busy trying to change the narrative recently, as he has insisted that Biden will do well in the debate. On Friday, for example, Trump repeatedly told supporters at a rally in Newport News, Virginia, that Biden would do well in the debate. “They said ‘How do you think he’s going to do in the debate?’ I think good,” Trump said. “He’s been doing it for 47 years. I think he’s going to do good.” Trump then blamed the media and said that even if Biden “does just OK … they’re going to say it was the single greatest debate performance in history.”
It seems part of the effort to improve expectations for Biden is to accuse him of taking drugs. “I think there’s probably—possibly—drugs involved,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News host Jeanine Pirro earlier this month. “That’s what I hear. I mean, there’s possibly drugs. I don’t know how you can go from being so bad where you can’t even get out a sentence … ” Trump did not finish that sentence.
The commander in chief seems to have a mild obsession with drugs and debates. In 2016, Trump had also called for a drug test before a debate, suggesting his then-rival, Hillary Clinton, may have been using drugs to improve her debate performance. “I don’t know what’s going on with her,” he said at an October 2016 campaign rally. “She was all pumped up at the beginning and at the end, it was like, ‘take me down.’ ”
Support our 2020 coverage
Slate is covering the election issues that matter to you. Support our work with a Slate Plus membership. You’ll also get a suite of great benefits.Join Slate Plus