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Opinion | What we’ve already learned from the cognitive test Biden won’t take

President Biden’s refusal to undergo a cognitive evaluation is both medically flawed and a matter of political calculation — unless, of course, he fears the tests will reveal problems that would further jeopardize his candidacy.

Biden’s explanation for refusing to test is unconvincing. It is, frankly, an insult to voters who saw what they saw in the debate and elsewhere, and who reasonably want assurances that the president is capable of serving another four years in office.

“Look, I take a cognitive test every day. Every day I take that test. In everything I do. You know, I’m not just campaigning, I’m running the world,” he told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Friday.

Stephanopoulos asked three times if he could undergo a full neurological and cognitive exam. Three times the president refused. “Nobody told me I had to do it. Nobody told me,” Biden replied. “They told me it was OK.”

Would you accept this answer from your elderly father facing similar circumstances, or would you push him to seek medical attention? Of course, you would make sure he underwent a full examination, if only to ensure he was receiving the proper care. If Biden’s family is resisting taking that step, they are doing him a disservice.

By the way, this would be a reasonable request for anyone running for office at Biden’s (or, for that matter, Donald Trump’s) age. The presidency is especially stressful. Biden would be 82 upon assuming a second term and 86 upon leaving office.

That’s old, and older people deteriorate, cognitively and physically. This inescapable fact requires additional safeguards before and after electing someone of that age to the presidency.

By refusing to submit to a cognitive screening, Biden and his campaign are trapped in a contradiction of their own making.

Before the debate disaster, Biden’s repeated response to age-related concerns was simple: Look at meWe did it and what we saw was worrying.

The campaign has thus effectively acknowledged that it now has the burden of proving Biden’s fitness, but has declined to take the most sensible step toward achieving that goal.

Why? What is the reasonable argument, other than avoiding politically inconvenient results, for not doing so? And refusing to take the test is not the same as refusing to testify. It can and should be used against you in the court of public opinion.

It’s not enough to talk for 22 minutes with Stephanopoulos, who chose to limit his questions to issues like Biden’s qualifications and whether he would remain in the race. He asked no questions, and there have been few opportunities for interviewers to ask rigorous questions to test Biden’s ability to answer questions about economic policy, foreign affairs and other matters.

And while Biden’s performance was by no means disqualifying, it was not exactly reassuring either. “I don’t think I did, no” is not the optimal response to the question of whether Biden had watched the debate again.

And Biden’s response to the question of whether he understood how bad things were going in real time, well, that could have been typical Biden rambling, something those of us who have covered him have witnessed for years, or it could have been more.

Biden’s response, in full: “The whole preparation process was nobody’s fault, it was my fault. Nobody’s fault but my own. I prepared what I would normally do, sitting down, as I did upon my return, with foreign leaders or the National Security Council to get explicit details. And I realized, about halfway through that, you know, everyone — they quote me, the New York Times had scored me on 10 points before the debate, nine now, or whatever. The fact is, what I looked at, is that he also lied 28 times. I couldn’t — I mean, the way the debate played out, it was not my fault, nobody else’s, nobody else’s.”

To be a politician, to run for office and assume the presidency, is to live in a sphere of egocentrism and entitlement that most of us are not familiar with. Every successful political figure has an element of “only I can fix it.”

Biden has been admirably clear about the enormity of what is at stake in November, but he seemed decidedly reluctant to acknowledge the reality of his diminished abilities and the risks involved. In his view, polls are not as reliable as they used to be. Elected officials are always “a little worried.” For his part, Biden said, “I don’t think anyone is more qualified to be president or win this race than I am.”

If Biden remains on the ticket, as he has promised to do unless “the Lord Almighty comes down and says, ‘Joe, get out of the race,’” I will vote for Biden over Trump no matter what happens between now and Election Day. The risk of a weakened Biden is far lower than that of an empowered, re-elected Trump.

But many voters may be less sure than I am about that choice. We all deserve the most complete and up-to-date information about the president’s health. His unwillingness to provide it speaks volumes.