President Barack Obama will arrive in Fresno, California today to meet local communities to discuss the severe drought-one of the worst in recorded history. California has seen water allocations to farmers cut to zero. Analysts have puzzled over why the President would make the trip, since his party’s environmental policies are blamed by farmers for prioritizing fish populations over farms. Fresno is also the heart of the Central Valley and therefore solid Republican territory, far from the liberal coastal cities where Obama does his fundraising.
There is, of course, the possibility that the President just might want to meet with victims of the drought, as he met with victims of Hurricane Sandy. But that 2012 trip occurred right before a presidential election, with an obvious payoff. (The President had barely bothered to visit victims of Hurricane Isaac several months before.) It is not clear what the poetical payoff of a visit to the Central Valley might be, since neither Senator is up for re-election, and while there are a few vulnerable Democrats in the state, it is too early for Obama to provide help.
The answer to the riddle is provided later in the president’s schedule. Following his trip to Fresno, he will go to Palm Springs to meet with King Abdullah of Jordan to discuss the Syrian civil war, the Iranian negotiations, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and other issues. But there was no need for Obama to meet Abdullah in Palm Springs: as the Times of Israel notes, Abdullah was already in Washington, DC and the two could easily have met there instead. The Times also notes that the president is expected to play golf over the long weekend.
And there you have it. President Obama just has to get a game of golf in. While the rest of the East Cost hunkers down under a slew of snowstorms, he is going to take Air Force One to the sunny California desert. If he has to get in an appearance with the struggling farmers and unemployed agricultural workers of the Central Valley, so be it. He’s not above this sort of expensive diversion, and the U.S. media won’t hold him accountable. King Abdullah won’t be too put off by the long trip. In Jordan he, too, can do whatever he wants. It’s good to be king.