“Sarkozy….has acquired a reputation as a man of action…who speaks his mind on controversial issues, while Chirac is often seen as reigning more than ruling, speaking obtusely and saying little to offend.”
In this case, the word they meant to use is anybody’s guess. Mainly obscurely, I’d think, with some mix of abstrusely, opaquely, and obliquely. A couple of weeks back, the NYT had something like “discrete inquiries.”
Neither of these has joined the growing class of close-enough-for-Jazz misnomers that people would now think you picky or technical for correcting.
“Diffusing a crisis,” for example, is already common and well-established.