Mallard Fillmore's recent take on the President's rhetorical strategies:
This is an argument about arguments — namely, that scare tactics are bad, but it's worse to be a hypocrite about using them. So the score tally goes: Republicans -1 for using scare tactics, Obama +1 for chastising them for using the tactic. Obama -1 for using scare tactics, and -1 for being a hypocrite about using them. (And +1 for Fillmore for pointing out the scare tactic, and +1 for pointing out the hypocrisy.)
Now, a question. Surely arguing that policy X will have bad consequences (or not following policy X will have the bad consequences) appeals to people's fears, but (a) so long as those things are bad and worth fearing, and (b) X is a crucial element in either avoiding or bringing about those consequences, aren't arguments from fear also good arguments from prudence? The scare tactic is not composed of simply pointing out that something bad will happen if we don't do something — it's comprised in shutting down discussion about what is the best way to avoid the bad consequences. Take for example the insurance salesman who says something like: people your age often can get sick and die with no warning — that's why you need St. Bartholomew Insurance to take care of your family if that happens. The fact of the sudden death may mean that you should get insurance, but it certainly doesn't mean that you should get St. Bartholomew Ins. We don't get why the Republicans or Obama are using scare tactics here, but it is a real question for us when we're being scared to accept a conclusion that doesn't follow.