Many people think Obama is a phony. They also think that he is amazingly shallow or ignorant on important policy issues. One of these is climate change, which Obama is repackaging this week, taking on natural gas as well as coal.
Another is the worsening California drought, which he uses shamelessly to pitch his half-baked ideas on global warming. The two are related at least in the public mind and politics.
Joe Del Bosque has joined these ranks.
Let’s do a fast rewind. In February 2014, President Barack Obama arrived on Air Force One with Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein aboard in Fresno, California, en route to a golf weekend in Palm Springs. The entourage helicoptered west, before a long presidential motorcade moved on to Los Banos. On farmland capable of producing at least a million melons, empty as far as the eye could see, joined by Gov. Jerry Brown, the President linked California’s lack of rain to climate change and carbon pollution.
Next to him in a cowboy hat stood a rugged grower, Joe Del Bosque, who farms 2,000 acres of cantaloupe, asparagus, and almonds, and who no doubt appealed to White House stagecraft and diversity teams.
Del Bosque has since become the face of California drought. In recent weeks, NBC and MSNBC have broadcast from his fields.
Now — still facing fallow fields and pulling up his asparagus — he tells his sad story that Holly Bailey reports at Yahoo:
Ever conscious of the cameras, the president’s advance team asked Del Bosque to move in his John Deere tractor and a few bales of hay for Obama’s backdrop. Photographs of the event ran in newspapers all over the country the next day — Obama, Brown and the Del Bosques standing on the couple’s dry, cracked land.
Del Bosque’s plight then and now provides a cautionary tale of political nihilism and policy failure.
We “have to start rethinking how we approach water for decades to come,” Obama said. “Unless and until we do more to combat carbon pollution that causes climate change, this trend is going to get worse, and the hard truth is even if we do take action on climate change, carbon pollution has built up in our atmosphere for decades.” Bailey continues:
But as Obama spoke, Del Bosque started to feel like a prop. While the president didn’t come to the region empty-handed — he offered millions in disaster relief, including aid to food banks to support laid-off farm workers — Obama pointedly declined to wade into the contentious debate over water.…
Instead Obama used the event to call attention to another subject that he views key to his legacy: climate change — warning California’s drought and other harsh weather patterns like it are likely to get worse unless something is done about global warming.
“I didn’t hear anything that was going to help us,” Del Bosque says. “I don’t think he really understood.”
California farmers argue with good cause that environmental regulations and other government restrictions limit the Central Valley’s access to what little water the region actually does have. Discounting agrarian self-interest and nostalgia, environmental zealots in California are legion — and powerful. They paralyze good policy and legislative reform. There are other issues too: metro demand and overpopulation; shifts to higher profit crops, especially water-hungry nuts; capricious water rights and unjust pricing.
None of this matters to the president and his stage managers. What counts are grand gestures, hammering climate-change goals that are open to question, impossible to effect, and are potentially crippling in the global economy.
Since the field theater in 2014, California and the West’s crazy-train water policies and grower distress remain essentially unchanged, except for metro rationing designed largely to build political consciousness.
According to the Yahoo report, Del Bosque never heard from the White House after his meeting with Obama. He seems surprised and hurt by this, unable to discern how Team Obama operates in this and many other policy spheres.
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