New se­nior gen­er­a­tion prov­ing more healthy than ex­pected

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - By Jen­nifer Harper

Get­ting older is get­ting bet­ter, ac­cord­ing to a re­port re­leased Dec. 5 by the Na­tional In­sti­tute on Ag­ing. Chronic dis­abil­ity among se­nior Amer­i­cans has “dropped dra­mati- cally” while health and daily func­tion have im­proved — good news for mil­lions of baby boomers as they fret over ad­vanc­ing years.

The per­cent­age of peo­ple older than 65 cop­ing with the ef­fects of heart dis­ease, arthri­tis, hy­per­ten­sion and other chronic health con­di­tions dropped from 27 per­cent in 1982 to 19 per­cent last year, the study found.

Dur­ing the same pe­riod, the num­ber of se­niors in nurs­ing homes or long-care in­sti­tu­tions “dropped dra­mat­i­cally” from 8 per­cent to 4 per­cent while the per­cent­age of the older pop­u­la­tion con­sid­ered “non-dis­abled” rose from 73 per­cent to 81 per­cent.

The com­bi­na­tion is fi­nan­cially for­tu­itous: Av­er­age Medi­care pay­ments fell in al­most all health cat­e­gories. In the next three years, the pro­jected sav­ings in Medi­care pay­ments will be

has rock­eted into con­tention like a rock star.

But the Democrats’ grow­ing pack of pres­i­den­tial hope­fuls is fraught with prob­lems. Mrs. Clin­ton re­mains one of the most po­lar­iz­ing po­lit­i­cal lead­ers in the coun­try, with nearly half of the vot­ers polled ear­lier this year say­ing they did not like her. Mr. Kerry, who hurt him­self in the fi­nal weeks of the midterm elec­tions when he told a joke that sug­gested only un­e­d­u­cated sol­diers ended up fight­ing the war in Iraq, has fallen in the polls since then.

And both Mr. Ed­wards and Mr. Obama have thin ex­peri- ence on their re­sumes. Mr. Ed­wards of North Carolina served only one term in the Se­nate, while Mr. Obama, who was elected in 2004 has been in the Se­nate for just two years, and has lit­tle or no leg­isla­tive ac­com­plish­ments of which to speak.

“I don’t think any­one is go­ing to doubt Hil­lary’s cre­den­tials. She cer­tainly was an ac­tivist first lady. On the other hand, there will be is­sues raised about her [lack of] for­eign-pol­icy ex­pe­ri­ence and gen­der,” said poll­ster John Zogby. “She does have prob­lems.”

“Right now, Barack Obama and John Ed­wards are both blank slates, empty slates,” Mr. Zogby said.

A na­tional poll of 530 reg­is­tered Demo­cratic vot­ers con­ducted last month by Opin­ion Re­search for CNN showed Mrs. Clin­ton fa­vored by 33 per­cent. Mr. Obama was in sec­ond place with 15 per­cent and Mr. Ed­wards and for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Al Gore were tied for third with 14 per­cent. Mr. Kerry, in the wake of what he called his “botched joke,” dropped from 12 per­cent in late Oc­to­ber to 7 per­cent.

“Worse news for Kerry: a ma­jor­ity of reg­is­tered Democrats say they do not want to see Kerry win the party’s nom­i­na­tion in 2008,” CNN said.

The rest of the pack of po­ten­tial can­di­dates were all in the low sin­gle dig­its, in­clud­ing re­tired Gen. Wesley Clark, Sen. Joseph R. Bi­den Jr. of Delaware, Gov. Bill Richard­son of New Mex­ico, Sen. Evan Bayh of In­di­ana and Iowa Gov. Tom Vil­sack, who on Nov. 30 be­came the first Demo­crat to for­mally an­nounce his pres­i­den­tial can­di­dacy.

As first lady in the Clin­ton White House, Mrs. Clin­ton had a rep­u­ta­tion as the most lib­eral fig­ure in her hus­band’s in­ner cir­cle. But dur­ing the past six years in the Se­nate she has rein­vented her po­lit­i­cal per­sona as more of cen­trist. She voted for the Iraq war res­o­lu­tion and re­buked Demo­cratic calls for a com­plete U.S. troop with­drawal.

The cen­trist Demo­cratic Lead­er­ship Coun­cil, which helped Bill Clin­ton put to­gether the agenda that helped him win the pres­i­dency, has been in her cor­ner, too, defin­ing her as one of them and giv­ing her prom­i­nent speak­ing roles at their po­lit­i­cal con­ven­tions.

“There has been an at­tempt at an im­age makeover in which she is at­tempt­ing to por­tray her­self as a cen­trist Demo­crat,” Mr. Zogby said.

But in the past few months, and par­tic­u­larly since the midterm elec­tions, most of the po­lit­i­cal buzz in the party has been about Mr. Obama and his an­nounce­ment that he is con­sid­er­ing a run for the pres­i­dency.

Mr. Obama re­port­edly has been talk­ing to top Demo­cratic cam­paign strate­gists, in­clud­ing John Nor­ris, the Des Moines Demo­crat who was the ar­chi­tect of Mr. Kerry’s come-from-be­hind win in the state’s 2004 del­e­gate­s­e­lec­tion cau­cuses.

Mr. Nor­ris said Mr. Obama “truly wanted to know what he had to do and when he had to do it,” to wage a com­pet­i­tive cam­paign in Iowa, po­lit­i­cal re­porter Thomas Beau­mont wrote two weeks ago in the Des Moines Reg­is­ter.

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