Bernie Sanders issues challenge to Biden: ‘Turn off the teleprompter’

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A top senator and onetime presidential rival for the White House challenged President Joe Biden to prove he is mentally fit to voters. 

During an interview with CNN on Monday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) refused to downplay concerns many top Democratic officials and political strategists have voiced about Biden’s mental state and his ability to win reelection. 

Joe Biden (left) and Bernie Sanders (right) greet one another before they participate in a Democratic presidential primary debate in 2020. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

“They’re worried about his age. They’re worried about his mental acuity,” Sanders told the network, referring to voters. “I think what he has got to do is get out there, interact with people, turn off the teleprompter. And people can make a judgment for themselves how well he is doing.”

Biden typically relies on a teleprompter to deliver his speeches. During appearances without a teleprompter, critics note the president often gives a halting and incoherent performance, even when he is given questions in advance. As Democrats watched the first presidential debate at the end of June, which was conducted without teleprompters, they were dismayed by Biden’s confused responses, rambling sentences, and garbled speech. 

The Vermont senator reiterated that Biden needs to have more spontaneous moments to prove to voters that he has the mental capacity to run the country. 

“What I think is best is for him to get out, to talk to people, to do town meetings, to do press conferences, and let the people decide,” Sanders said. “That‘s how I think you determine cognitive ability.”

Sanders launched his own bids for the White House in 2016 and 2020. The senator ultimately lost both races, first to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and then to Biden, even though he resonated with young progressives and leftist populists.

Sanders’s plea for Biden to exercise transparency comes after he accused top Democrats of rigging the primary process during his 2016 presidential campaign. At the time, Sanders accused Clinton of manipulating the Democratic presidential primary in her favor, using a joint fundraising agreement between the Democratic National Committee and her political allies to control DNC funds critical to winning the nomination.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton answer questions during a Democratic presidential primary debate on Feb. 4, 2016, in Durham, New Hampshire. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

These days, the New England senator is focused on making sure the country reelects Biden. While he admits that the concerns about Biden’s cognitive abilities are real, Sanders believes that, ultimately, the presidential race comes down to the issues. 

“You are voting for somebody on policy,” he said while defending the Democratic Party’s presumptive presidential nominee. “Who is going to improve your life?”

Sanders voiced concerns about Biden’s ability to articulate to voters the differences between the Democrats and former President Donald Trump on various policy topics, such as the environment and Social Security.  

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“The problem is, the president has not gotten out and contrasted his point of view representing working people with the Republicans,” the senator said.

Sanders strategized that if his former rival can manage to do that, “I think Biden’s going to do just fine.” 

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