The Spectacle Blog

The Declining Presidency of Barack Obama

By on 2.4.14 | 5:05PM

Canute the Great was a Viking leader and an 11th-century King of England. Legend has it that once he overheard his flattering royal advisors brag that their king was "so great, he could command the tides of the sea to go back."

These courtiers’ extravagant claims remind me of our own president, Barack Obama. Back in 2008, he claimed that future generations of Americans would look back on his election and say, “this was the moment when…we began to provide jobs for the jobless…when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.” No speech in American politics has contained more hubris than Obama’s 47 seconds.

Sadly, it was a quick fall for our president.

Fox News reports:

President Obama, in the first of potentially many executive actions tied to his State of the Union address, will unilaterally increase the minimum wage for workers under new federal contracts to $10.10 an hour, from $7.25, in an effort to build momentum for a minimum wage hike for all Americans. The executive order, which had been pushed by progressive Democratic lawmakers, applies to all contractors performing services for the federal government and would affect more than 2 million employees, according to an administration official.

Well, he did say that we’d look back and see his election as the moment when we started providing “jobs for the jobless.” Raising the minimum wage for workers would be a step in the right direction, right?

Not so fast. 

Turns out, his unilateral declaration doesn’t apply to existing contracts. Plus, very few contractors pay the minimum wage to their workers anyway. In other words, this raises the minimum wage for nearly no one.

I feel a little like I did when Healthcare.gov failed so spectacularly. I didn’t know whether to celebrate because the enactment of his misguided policies were thwarted or to simply stand by and marvel at the incompetence.   

Similarly, his “minimum wage” declaration is once again evidence of his complete impotency. 

It does nothing.

And, once again, I’m glad for his ineffectiveness. As an American, I believe in the free market—that entry level workers will make more money and have more opportunities if the government keeps its hands out of the pockets of business owners.

But a part of me wonders, if—as he’s signing an ineffectual executive order—the president remembers his grandiose promises and is embarrassed. I mean, seriously. He promised that his election will be when the “when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal?” 

Give me a break.

That brings me back to King Canute. When he overheard his courtiers’ flattery, he devised a plan. He commanded that his throne be taken to the seashore to actually test their claim that he was powerful enough to control the tide. As he was seated on his newly positioned throne, the waves whipped around his feet.

King Canute knew his limitations—even if his admirers and supporters did not.

As the tide came, he—in what I imagine to be a loud voice—commanded the tide to stop. “Advance no further!”

When the waves, of course, continued to come, the king looked around and declared, “Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings. For there is none worthy of the name but God, whom heaven, earth, and sea obey."

In other words, Obama’s arrogance shows he’s no Canute.

Though, he does fancy himself a king.

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