Ruth Marcus is right that Obama relies far too much on the rhetorical device of the “false choice”. He’s made it a cliché. Obama’s speciality, she says, is the false false choice:
Set up two unacceptable extremes that no one is seriously advocating and position yourself as the champion of the reasonable middle ground between these unidentified straw men.
Thus, Obama on health care, stretching back to the presidential campaign: “I reject the tired old debate that says we have to choose between two extremes: government-run health care with higher taxes – or insurance companies without rules denying people coverage,” he said in 2008. “That’s a false choice.” It’s also a choice that no one – certainly no other politician – was proposing.
She helpfully identifies two other varieties: the false choice that is not in fact a false choice but a real choice that is difficult (for instance, what to do in Libya); and, a Republican favorite, the false choice that is mere wishful thinking (as in, we do not have to choose between tax cuts and deficit reduction, because we can have both).