Obama is no Canute

Over at PowerLine, Steven Hayward has a key insight into Mitt Romney’s speech last night, but he made an unfortunate comparison:

No wonder the Democratic Party has largely lost the working class vote; when real people hear Obama talk, King Canute-like, about halting the rise of the oceans and healing the planet, they get it that he doesn’t actually care much about them and their practical problems much at all.  All the talk about creating new “green jobs” won’t cut it; ordinary citizens know better, even without the example of Solyndra.

Interestingly, I made a Canute comment last night with respect to the same line in Romney’s speech. Hayward, however, has Canute exactly wrong. Canute was not Obama’s predecessor in thinking that government power could halt the rise of the oceans; he was the cardinal opposite:

“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.”

So spoke King Canute the Great, the legend says, seated on his throne on the seashore, waves lapping round his feet. Canute had learned that his flattering courtiers claimed he was “So great, he could command the tides of the sea to go back”. Now Canute was not only a religious man, but also a clever politician. He knew his limitations – even if his courtiers did not – so he had his throne carried to the seashore and sat on it as the tide came in, commanding the waves to advance no further. When they didn’t, he had made his point that, though the deeds of kings might appear ‘great’ in the minds of men, they were as nothing in the face of God’s power.

I wrote about Obama and Canute on back in March:

Obama governs like a perverse King Canute who fervently believes that enough deficit spending, hope, and belief in the environmental justness of his cause and his own godlike power will allow him to sweep back the sea. Meanwhile, the rising tide of his spending lunacy threatens to engulf us all.

Jon Sanders / Director of Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...

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