Other than performing a rain dance, there is little politicians can do right now to coax water from the skies. But they can do something about hundreds of billions of gallons of water that are not pumping for the sake a 3-inch fish that may not even be endangered.
The Endangered Species Act permits a special committee to review cases in which protection of species might be outweighed by other considerations. The president could call for the committee to convene. He could instruct the director of the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider the evidence (there were allegations of zealotry on the part of the bureaucrats). Or he could endorse legislation proposed by George Radanovich, R-Calif., that would fund a fish hatchery to replace any smelt killed by the pumps.
Instead, the president traveled to Fresno, Calif., in order to sermonize about climate change. When ordinary folks point to, say, the coldest winter in decades and wonder about warming, they are silenced with a great chorus of "weather is not climate" from the usual keepers of conventional wisdom. It doesn't often work the other way. The president lectured: "We have to be clear: A changing climate means that weather-related disasters like droughts, wildfires, storms, floods are potentially going to be costlier and they're going to be harsher ... scientific evidence shows that a changing climate is going to make them more intense."
This bit of opportunism was too much for Justin Gillis of The New York Times (yes, The New York Times). "While a trend of increasing drought that may be linked to global warming has been documented in some regions," he wrote, " ... there is no scientific consensus yet that it is a worldwide phenomenon. Nor is there definitive evidence that it is causing California's problems." In fact, Gillis wrote, many believe that global warming should make California wetter, not drier.
Millions of California's poorest will be out of work as farms lie fallow. Poverty will increase. Farmers will tap wells that may run dry, with consequences for the long-term viability of the world's most fecund farmland. Prices of fruits and vegetables (so encouraged by Mrs. Obama) will rise.
These are the small problems of small people. The "too talented" president is made for bigger things.