He skirted the controversy about harsh interrogations with a facile “As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals” — when there are times when that painful choice cannot be “rejected.”
Safire is missing the point entirely here. It's not that Obama was looking for a nice turn of phrase here: he was saying that the choice is always rejected. Torture is always wrong. Etc. But Safire chose to see that line through a prism that is willing to sacrifice liberty in order to gain security, and we should all remember what Ben Franklin has to say about that.
(Full disclosure: I still have a grudge against Safire from the time he partially blamed the decline of marriage on "nubile women postponing weddings to pursue careers.")