Commentary: Hannity gets it wrong on California water woes

The Fresno BeeSeptember 21, 2009 

Sean Hannity came to the San Joaquin Valley a few days ago and did what he does best. He exaggerated, distorted and turned a complex situation into a hysterical rant.

But I'll give the Fox News right-wing shouter this: citing all the wrong reasons, he unintentionally fingered the right culprit for the economic disaster unfolding on the Valley's west side and in Northern California.

To hear Hannity and his cast of local enablers tell it, farmers and farmworkers in the Westlands Water District are suffering the pain of a water shortage caused by activist federal judges, the delta smelt and President Barack Obama's administration.

Not much of that — or anything else he said — is true. But, in fact, the federal government does bear much of the responsibility for the mess entangling the west side, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the decline of salmon along California's coast.

Decades ago, federal authorities promised more water to farmers than they could deliver. They compounded the mistake by offering subsidies and incentives that encouraged small farmers to become mega-farmers.

Then they turned around and — again with incentives — encouraged small fishermen to build bigger boats and bigger fleets, further endangering salmon.

The whole time, few in the federal bureaucracy had either the wisdom or the courage to ask how much water would be needed to sustain California's fish and wildlife, much less the state's population growth.

Hannity, of course, didn't say this. He's incapable of anything but shouting, mugging to his fans and palming off his made-to-fit lies and omissions as facts.

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