What is at issue here is not some sacred moral value, such as "In God We Trust." Domestic politics or the affairs of nations are not an avocation for angels. But the coin of this imperfect realm is credibility. Sydney Greenstreet's Kasper Gutman explained the terms of trade in "The Maltese Falcon": "I must tell you what I know, but you won't tell me what you know. That is hardly equitable, sir. I don't think we can do business along those lines."
Bluntly, Mr. Obama's partners are concluding that they cannot do business with him. They don't trust him. Whether it's the Saudis, the Syrian rebels, the French, the Iraqis, the unpivoted Asians or the congressional Republicans, they've all had their fill of coming up on the short end with so mercurial a U.S. president.
And when that happens, the world's important business doesn't get done. It sits in a dangerous and volatile vacuum.
Then there is Mr. Obama's bond with the American people, which is diminishing with the failed rollout of the Affordable Care Act.
ObamaCare is the central processing unit of the Obama presidency's belief system. Now the believers are wondering why the administration suppressed knowledge of the huge program's problems when hundreds of tech workers for the project had to know this mess would happen Oct. 1.
Rather than level with the public, the government's most senior health-care official, Kathleen Sebelius, spent days spewing ludicrous and incredible happy talk about the failure, while refusing to provide basic information about its cause.
If here and abroad, politicians, the public and the press conclude that Mr. Obama can't play it straight, his second-term accomplishments will lie only in doing business with the world's most cynical, untrustworthy partners. The American people are the ones who will end up on the short end of those deals.