We understand Barack Obama’s appeal. It’s almost impossible not to like him. Like his tireless supporter Oprah Winfrey, he has an air about him that exudes candor and sincerity and real concern. And those things aren’t insignificant.

In history, the direction of America has been changed by political leaders who have strong personalities that make their mark on the country: the noble Washington, Honest Abe, the sunny Ronald Reagan.

The difference, of course, is that the political leaders who changed the direction of the culture are men who shared the nation’s founding principles and stick to them.

Douglas Kmiec, a Pepperdine University professor who made his name in the Reagan administration, at the University of Notre Dame and as dean of The Catholic University of America law school, says Obama is such a person, and so is supporting him for president.

He calls him a person of “integrity, intelligence and genuine good will” who “as best as it is humanly possible” will “respect and accommodate” those who disagree with him.

But Obama doesn’t just disagree with certain opponents. His record fundamentally disagrees with the nation’s founding principles.

The best summing up of the nation’s founding principles is in the Declaration of Independence itself: “We hold that all men are created equal … endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights … among these are life ...”

Obama’s votes have him on record as believing that some people don’t have the right to life — not just the unborn, but those in the process of being born (he supports partial-birth abortion) and those who have been born accidentally during an abortion (he has helped preserve the practice of “live-birth abortion” ever since he was in the Illinois Legislature).

He also doesn’t think that alert but brain-damaged people like Terri Schiavo have the right to life — he calls voting to protect her the biggest mistake he made in the Senate.

Kmiec says that Obama isn’t pro-abortion because he doesn’t actively promote abortion, but only allows for women to choose it.

That’s not true. Obama doesn’t just want abortion to be a choice. He wants all Americans to pay for abortions, whether we choose to or not.

A President Obama would bring us the Freedom of Choice Act, a bill that if enacted would prevent any federal, state or local government entity from restricting access to abortion. It would strike down virtually every state law on abortion.

The stated aim of this legislation is to “end the abortion wars,” by allowing abortion-on-demand in all nine months of pregnancy for any reason and without any restrictions nationwide.

This would eradicate state and federal laws that the majority of Americans support — such as requirements that licensed physicians perform abortions, fully-informed consent, and parental involvement — and prevent states from enacting similar protective measures in the future.

An addition, President Obama would also bring us:

• federally funded embryonic stem-cell research, fatal experiments on the tiniest human beings.

• federally funded clone-and-kill research,

• federally funded abortion on demand,

• taxpayer-funded abortion in military hospitals,

• U.S. taxpayer-funded international abortions disguised as aid, and

• taxpayer-funded nationalized health care, which in other countries has meant bureaucrats determine that limited resources go where they can do “the most good.”

So the system will simply refuse to cover high-risk pregnancies or humane end-of-life care for the elderly and the dying.

Kmiec has said that abortion isn’t necessarily the preeminent issue of our day, because there are other evils to deal with.

The U.S. bishops have given us three reasons why abortion must especially be opposed.

First, because it is intrinsically evil, and thus must “always be rejected and opposed and must never be supported or condoned.” State-sponsored killing is an intrinsic evil that outranks nearly everything else.

Second, the right to life is “the most fundamental human good and the condition for all others.”

Third, “A legal system that violates the basic right to life on the grounds of choice is fundamentally flawed.”

We understand why someone would want to support Obama. He’s a likeable guy. And the alternative, John McCain, can seem less likeable and more in the mold of Washington politics as usual.

But in this case, actions speak louder than words. There are many positions of McCain’s that Catholics will disagree with. But he does have a 100% pro-life voting record, one he has sustained over a long career.

Americans used to know the lesson by heart: Don’t be sweet-talked by politicians who seem wonderful but reject what your nation stands for. We would dearly love for Obama to change to be that politician. That would be change we could believe in.