A reader writes:
I have always thought that Barack is a natural conservative and that he might do well in the Republican party, albeit the sparse Rockefeller wing. I think his conservative trait manifests itself in both his foreign and domestic policies as well as his personal style as a politician.
On foreign policy, I will describe Barack as a rational hawk in the mold of the elder Bush and Powell. The way he has handled his opposition to the Iraq war speaks to this. Even though he opposed the war from the start, he has been careful not to sound stupidly anti-war like the folks on the far left and has given the military and the commander-in-chief the benefit of the doubt by mostly funding the war. His position of appropriately escalating the conflict in Afghanistan is also consistent with this view.
On domestic policy, I think Barack struggles to fit into the big government wing of the Democratic party. His experience as a community organizer informs him about the limits of what government can do.
For example, in education, he believes that no amount of federal spending can help without strong parental involvement. Even his urban agenda is somewhat conservative in nature -- identify at-risk pregnant women and provide assistance and support to them so that their children are prepared to lead independent lives instead of becoming a part of the welfare state. I think you observed it when you said in your essay that "I attended an Obama speech in Washington on tax policy that underwhelmed on delivery" -- his heart is not simply where he thinks there is a government hand-out for every problem. Notice how far behind he lags Hillary and John Edwards when it comes to developing new programs. Even on the issue of health insurance, his conservative demeanor is very clear -- he is the only one among the top three not to require a mandate.
Personally and stylistically, I also see him as a good fit for the Republican party. Unlike some folks on the far-left, he actually beliefs that there is a role for faith in the public square and actually enjoys talking about his faith. He also values consistency as a strong character trait which leads me to wonder if he can ever do well in the Democratic party where he has to answer to all of their interest groups?
I don't agree with all this, but I do agree that Obama is not a classic leftist: far too interesting and nuanced for that. His opposition to the Iraq war was largely realist and pragmatic.