A number of questions went unanswered during last night’s vice presidential debate. That’s not atypical. Candidates come to these affairs with specific points they hope to sandwich in, and the rigid structure of the Q & A sometimes prevents that from happening.
But there was one question that moderator Susan Page asked that voters might have benefited from hearing the answer to. That question, which she put first to Pence, was this:
One of you will make history on January 20th. You will be the Vice President to the oldest President the United States has ever had. Donald Trump will be 74 years old on inauguration day. Joe Biden will be 78 years old. That already has raised concerns among some voters, concerns that have been sharpened by President Trump’s hospitalization in recent days. Vice President Pence, have you had a conversation or reached an agreement with President Trump about safeguards or procedures when it comes to the issue of presidential disability? And if not, do you think you should?
Mike Pence chose not to answer, returning instead to the previous subject, coronavirus.
Page then put the question to Kamala Harris, who also elected not to answer, addressing instead the momentousness of her being the first woman of color to run for the vice presidency on a major party ticket.
Page tried again:
Neither President Trump, nor Vice President Biden has released a sort of detailed health information that had become the modern norm until the 2016 election. And in recent days, President Trump’s doctors have given misleading answers, or refused to answer basic questions about his health. And my question to each of you in turn is, is this information voters deserve to know? Vice President Pence, would you like to go first?
Pence again dodged the question, using the time to thank Trump supporters for the prayers and concern they expressed during his recent hospitalization.
Harris did likewise, clumsily pivoting to Donald Trump’s taxes.
Page was right. Answers to basic questions about health would provide information voters deserve to know. Voters might benefit from knowing, for example, that Donald Trump is clinically obese and could stand to lose 10 to 15 pounds, but is otherwise healthy. They might also benefit from knowing that although Biden’s doctor describes him as “healthy and vigorous and nowhere near slowing down,” his most recent physical was in 2019. At the time, Dr. Stuart Olshansky. who administered the exam, added one caveat: “The only test that hasn’t been done is the cognitive functioning test.”
Olshansky dismissed the urgency of that test by noting that “the fact that he’s on the campaign trail and meeting a rigorous travel and meeting schedule probably would suffice as a replacement for the formal test for cognitive functioning,”
But in recent months Biden’s campaign schedule has anything but vigorous, with the Democratic nominee still spending much of his time hunkered down in his basement bunker. And there are abundant reasons to question his cognitive health. Such as his forgetting the name of the president he served under, which happened on two separate occasions.
You wouldn’t learn any of this from the mainstream media, which have scrupulously avoided running clips of Biden’s mental lapses.
It might have proved instructive indeed for viewers of the debate to learn more about the health of the candidates.