Mr. Obama’s performance in his televised speech to the country about his Libyan policy Monday night was in some ways reminiscent of the actor Frank Morgan’s portrayal of Professor Marvel in the classic film, “The Wizard of Oz.”

When Mr. Obama insisted the role of America will be extremely limited and quickly recede into virtual nothingness, it sounded like the Wizard’s palace guard (that is to say, himself) when he insists, “Orders are, nobody can see the Great Oz, not nobody, not no how...NOT NOBODY, NOT NO HOW!”

When Mr. Obama excoriated Col. Muammar Qaddafi, he seemed like the Wizard’s projection of a fiery giant head when he berated the Tin Man as “you clinking, clanking, clattering collection of collagenous junk!”

When Mr. Obama talked about consulting with allies, he sounded like the Wizard standing in that hot-air balloon emblazoned with “State Fair Omaha,” telling the people of Oz he was embarking on “a hazardous and technically unexplainable journey into the outer stratosphere to confer, converse, and otherwise hobnob with my brother wizards.”

Then there was the Wizard’s plaintive cry when his balloon accidentally rose and Dorothy begged not to be left behind: “I don't know how it works!” Apparently Mr. Obama doesn’t either. Only it is not a balloon’s operation, but our nation’s leadership of the world that the president doesn’t understand.

The Professor makes his appearance early in the movie when, as Dorothy flees home and a storm approaches, she stumbles on his carnival wagon. Painted on its side is a legend apropos of Mr. Obama: “Professor Marvel: Acclaimed by The Crowned Heads of Europe.” Underneath it reads, “Also Juggling And Sleight of Hand.”

More juggling and sleight of hand by Mr. Obama in his speeches will simply diminish America’s credibility in the world.

Let us hope good things happen in Libya, that Qaddafi is removed from power, the opposition prevails, and a secular regime friendly to the United States emerges on the southern edge of the Mediterranean. These outcomes will have to be largely the work of others. President Obama signaled Monday he will dirty his hands as little as possible with the hard, patient work of American leadership in the world.

Karl Rove is a former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush. He is a Fox News contributor and author of "Courage and Consequence" (Threshold Editions, 2010).