President Obama has been alternating between ignoring the Libya war and denying there is one. His latest utterance underscores the administration’s muddled approach:

President Barack Obama acknowledged Tuesday that the joint military operation under way in Libya to protect civilians could continue as long Col. Muammar Qadhafi remains in control in Tripoli, but the president also insisted that the U.S. contribution to keep the Libyan dictator’s regime in check would be limited.

“As long as Qadhafi remains in power — unless he changes his approach provides the Libyan people the opportunity to express themselves freely and there are significant reforms by the Libyan government, and he steps down — there’s still going to be a potential threat to the Libyan people,” Obama told reporters at a news conference here, his final stop on a five-day tour of Latin America. “We will continue to support the efforts to protect the Libyan people, but we will not be in the lead.

This is as disingenuous as it is misguided. We are leading, that is coordinating, the effort, and our failure to remove Moammar Gaddafi will be a defeat for America, not simply for Obama’s beloved “international community.”

And frankly, when a liberal president loses Jon Stewart, something’s really gone off the rails: