- The Washington Times
Tuesday, June 21, 2016

President Obama has begun subtly to campaign for Hillary Clinton by putting a happy face on economic progress during his administration, touting everything from federally funded scientific advances to new rules for the commercial use of drones.

At a series of events this week that the White House says highlight American creativity and innovation, Mr. Obama is talking up the ongoing — albeit slow — economic expansion, growth of high-tech manufacturing and what he claims as Obamacare’s added benefit of boosting productivity.

“Healthier workers are more productive workers, not to mention better consumers. And more affordable health care makes it easier for your businesses to add jobs and pay a good wage,” Mr. Obama said in a speech Monday to a government-sponsored business summit in Washington.

The rosy picture painted by Mr. Obama glosses over concerns about stagnant wages for many working Americans and a painfully low rate of economic growth.

The economy is always a key issue in presidential campaigns. But the issue has added weight when a political party has the daunting task of trying to hold onto the White House for a third term, as Mrs. Clinton is attempting.

She has to run on continuing the economic progress achieved by Mr. Obama, and she has some ownership of the Obama economy, having served as his secretary of state for four years.

The end of the primary season is the traditional time for an outgoing president to begin crafting a narrative for his legacy. But Mr. Obama’s sustained focus on business innovations and the economy this week coincided with Mrs. Clinton, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, delivering back-to-back speeches on the economy.

“It’s good for his legacy and it’s good for Hillary’s campaign. I don’t think they are mutually exclusive,” said Democratic strategist Craig Varoga. “It clearly fits into a narrative that’s good for her, which is that the economy has improved, and it shouldn’t be given over to someone with reckless tendencies.”

That was the thrust of Mrs. Clinton’s speech Tuesday in Columbus, Ohio, where she warned that likely Republican nominee Donald Trump would be “dangerous” for the economy and risked a repeat of the Great Recession that Mr. Obama pulled the county out of.

Mrs. Clinton, whom Mr. Obama endorsed earlier this month, is scheduled to outline her economic policies in a speech Wednesday in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The White House effort included the release of an “impact report” that listed 100 examples of Mr. Obama’s leadership in science, technology and innovation.

The list included:

Elevating the quality and rigor of the science, technology and innovation advice in the White House.

Launching the first-ever Social and Behavioral Sciences Team to harness behavioral science insights that help improve federal programs and save taxpayer dollars.

Making the research and experimentation tax credit permanent for the first time side it was established in the 1980s.

Expanding opportunities, including those efforts listed on CitizenScience.gov, for research agencies to work with citizen scientists and use crowdsourcing approaches.

Launching the TechHire Initiative in March 2015 to equip people from all backgrounds with the skills they need to fill the more than 600,000 open tech jobs.

The White House said that the announcement Tuesday of new rules for the commercial use of drones was another example of “how our innovative progress over the last seven and a half years has helped continue to make our economy the strongest and most durable in the world.”

The arrival of the Federal Aviation Administration’s long-delayed rules for commercial drones is expected to rapidly expand the use of the unmanned aircraft in a variety of industries, including movie, agriculture and real estate.

However, some businesses with an eye on using drones were leery of an onslaught of federal regulations, which began with the FAA’s new 624-page guidebook for drones.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest downplayed those concerns and stuck to the script about innovation and economic progress.

“The president has made clear that the future success of our economy will depend on our ability to continue to innovate,” he said at the daily White House press briefing. “The competitive advantage that the United States has long had over the rest of the world is our potential that’s built in to innovate and to pursue new ideas and new ways of doing things. And this is certainly a good example of that.”

Mr. Obama will cap the week of business-themed events with a panel discussion Friday with Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg at a global entrepreneurship summit at Stanford University.

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