Whether we are talking about respect for a nation or for an individual, nothing undermines respect more than duplicity – saying one thing and acting differently.
I think it is a big reason why President Barack Obama's Tuesday speech to the nation, in which he attempted to explain why he has proposed military action in Syria, fell so flat.
The president cast his rationale for taking action in moral terms; he said a targeted strike against Syria would warn against the future use of poison gas, which killed 1,429 people in an Aug. 21 attack. But the very dubious moral record that this president has established, both regarding the sanctity of life and traditional moral principles, seriously undermines his credibility for moral leadership.
Obama called President Bashar Assad's use of poisonous gas against "a thousand people – including hundreds of children" a "crime against humanity."
He argued that "when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer in the long run, I believe we should act. That's what makes America different."
But, sadly, under this president's leadership, America is not different. And this credibility gap badly hurts our country's moral credibility at home and abroad.
Earlier this year, Obama became the first sitting president to address Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in America. He concluded his remarks to that group the same way he concluded his address to the nation about Syria, saying, "God bless you."
How can a president who appeals for God's blessing for America's largest abortion provider possibly be credible in justifying American military force abroad because of moral outrage?
If the use of chemicals to destroy children is what bothers this president, why does it not bother him that a growing percentage of abortions done in our nation are chemically induced using drugs? The most common is RU486, which became legal in 2000.
In 2008, according to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine, 32 percent of the early-term abortions performed in Planned Parenthood clinics, for which our president seeks God's blessing, were done using these abortion-inducing drugs.
Abortion-inducing drugs are included along with contraception that employers are mandated to provide free to employees under "Obamacare," the health reform law formally known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
In June, a bill was introduced in the House of Representatives – sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., with 184 co-sponsors – that would make abortion illegal after 20 weeks (five months). The legislation is called the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.
The bill includes this language: "By 8 weeks after fertilization, the unborn child reacts to touch. After 20 weeks, the unborn child reacts to stimuli that would be recognized as painful if applied to an adult human, for example, by recoiling."
The Obama administration wasted no time in issuing a statement noting opposition to this legislation and indicating, "If the president were presented with this legislation, his senior advisers would recommend that he veto this bill."
Perhaps abstract arguments can take place regarding the status of the unborn child in very early stages of pregnancy. But after five months, as the pregnancy enters the third trimester, the living, human status of the unborn child is clear and obvious. It takes a true moral callousness to deny this.
This president not only sits by and allows wanton murder of unborn children. He supports and endorses it, using dubious arguments about women's health and "reproductive rights."
The light of liberty cannot shine if it is not fueled by the light of consistent moral principle.
That light has been flickering in recent years. Children born and unborn, have been innocent victims in our own country. When this is happening at home, how can we expect to exercise moral judgment or command moral credibility and respect abroad?
We can't. And we need to wake up that this is the core problem from which we suffer today.
Star Parker is an author and president of CURE, Center for Urban Renewal and Education, in Washington, D.C. Contact her at www.urbancure.org.