President Trump took another page from his wildly unorthodox 2016 campaign playbook Wednesday and called for taking a pre-debate drug test with his Democratic opponent.
He did it in 2016, when he suggested without any evidence that Hillary Clinton had been on drugs during one of their debates and got attention by calling publicly for them both to be tested before their next face-off. And on Wednesday he tried it again.
In an interview with the Washington Examiner, Mr. Trump claimed to be suspicious about improvements in former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s performances during Democratic primary debates, particularly against Senator Bernie Sanders, and said that he thought they should both be tested for drugs before they debate next month.
“I don’t know how he could have been so incompetent in his debate performances and then all of a sudden be OK against Bernie,” Mr. Trump said in the interview. “My point is, if you go back and watch some of those numerous debates, he was so bad. He wasn’t even coherent. And against Bernie, he was. And we’re calling for a drug test.”
His baseless claim that Mr. Biden was incoherent in the primary debates had echoes of his attack on Mrs. Clinton four years ago. “We should take a drug test prior because I don’t know what’s going on with her,” he said then. “But at the beginning of her last debate — she was all pumped up at the beginning, and at the end it was like, ‘Oh, take me down.’ She could barely reach her car.”
Mr. Trump, who is known for floating outlandish ideas that he does not always follow up on, raised the prospect nearly a week after Mr. Biden delivered a widely praised address at the Democratic National Convention. Mr. Biden’s assured delivery led some political analysts to fault Mr. Trump and his campaign for having lowered expectations so much by repeatedly questioning Mr. Biden’s mental agility.
“We know it’s unbelievable to Donald Trump, but Joe Biden can speak honestly without a shot of truth serum,” Andrew Bates, a spokesman to Mr. Biden, said. “We’d like to see Trump do the same.”