“Run Against Me”: Defiant Biden Digs In, Challenges Critics Within Party

President Joe Biden insisted again Monday he would not quit the US election race, as the White House denied he had Parkinson’s disease following a disastrous debate performance.

The 81-year-old dared Democratic critics to either challenge him at next month’s party convention in Chicago or back him against Donald Trump in November’s vote.

The president lashed out in both a letter to Congress and a rare call to a television program, at the start of a critical week that includes a NATO summit in Washington where he will face fresh scrutiny.

“I am firmly committed to staying in the race,” Biden wrote in the letter.

“It is time to come together, move forward as a unified party and defeat Donald Trump,” he said. “It’s time for it to end.”

The embattled president followed up by phoning into MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” television program to say he was “getting so frustrated by the elites” in the party.

“Any of these guys that don’t think I should run — run against me. Announce for president, challenge me at the convention,” he added.

Trump has been uncharacteristically quiet since the debate but he did speak out Monday on Fox News to say he thinks Biden will resist the pressure and stay in the race.

“He’s got an ego and he doesn’t want to quit,” Trump said in an interview with Sean Hannity.

But even as he doubled down, the pressure mounted on the oldest president in US history. 

Congressman Adam Smith, the senior Democrat on the US House Armed Services Committee, became the sixth Democratic lawmaker to publicly say Biden should step aside. 

“I think it’s become clear he’s not the best person to carry the Democratic message,” he told CNN.

Other senior Democrats voiced support for Biden, however.

“I made clear that day after the debate publicly that I support President Joe Biden and the Democratic ticket. My position has not changed,” House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries told CNN.

Parkinson’s denial

Biden’s blitz was a clear attempt to lay to rest the spiralling concerns over his health following the June 27 debate against Republican Trump, whom he trails in the polls.

During the debate, Biden repeatedly lost his train of thought, stared blankly and spoke at times incoherently and with a raspy voice. Biden has blamed jetlag and a cold.

The White House has also felt the pressure, with tense exchanges at a press briefing on Monday.

Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called for “respect” while journalists challenged her refusal to confirm reports that a Parkinson’s specialist visited the White House eight times.

The visits by Kevin Cannard, a neurologist from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center where Biden receives his medicals, were recorded in publicly available visitor logs.

“Has the President been treated for Parkinson’s? No. Is he being treated for Parkinson’s? No, he’s not. Is he taking medication for Parkinson’s? No,” Jean-Pierre said.

On Monday night the White House went so far as to release a letter from Biden’s personal doctor, Kevin O’Connor, insisting that the president had not seen a neurologist outside his three annual medicals.

The White House also denied reports that NATO allies attending this week’s 75th-anniversary summit in Washington had shown concerns about Biden.

“We’re not picking up any signs of that from our allies at all,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

But NATO leaders have been seeking reassurance in any case amid polls forecasting a November victory for Trump. 

The former president has long criticized the defense alliance, voiced admiration for Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, and insisted he could bring about a quick end to the war in Ukraine.

‘All in’

The NATO summit begins on Tuesday, the same day that Democrats, returning to Capitol Hill from a brief recess, hold a caucus meeting where Biden’s fate will be discussed.

The Democrat lags behind Trump in most polls even though his rival was recently convicted of a felony in a porn star hush money case.

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