During the debt ceiling fiasco last year, many liberals were claiming that Obama is a conservative. This view was particularly popular at Firedoglake.
That Summer was truly the dog days. The GOP were using the threat of default as blackmail for huge budget cuts. In retrospect it's clear Obama is not on the Right.
He's a liberal, probably a centrist one. What really provoked the conservatives were comments he had made in 2008 about being a transformation President. There was also a debate about whether the country is Center-Right or Center-Left.
What it really comes down to is the President's plan from the start has been to transform the country to a (moderate) Center-Left consensus.
Of course you have to play the political hand you're dealt. This is why back in 2011 he had to talk about budget deficits-the GOP had something of a mandate after 2010, though as usual they exaggerated it and overplayed their hand as they had in the 90s with the government shutdown.
If you read David Corn's Showdown, it's clear that the President had a plan from the start of the 2010 loss. He never planned to merely settle for triangulation as Clinton had to do in the 90s(because the country is much riper for liberalism now than it was then).
Obama's idea of transformation is the idea of turning the 30 year trend towards more and more conservative government-smaller government. However Rome wasn't built in a day.
You have to play the political hand you're dealt. If the country isn't ready for it you can't go beyond that. The President's long term goal is for an ideological transformation. Victory in November will take us a long way towards this.
Reagan transformed the country. In this sense Obama has strived to be another Reagan-a Democratic one.
What was naive about the firebaggers is that they expected Obama to achieve it all over night. It's interesting that Clinton said he actually holds the President in higher regard now than in 2008.
I supported him in 2008, of course, but what's interesting is I actually am more enthusiastic about him personally now than then. Maybe it's because I saw all the attacks on him. I saw the GOP try to destroy him-just as they did Clinton-while you had all the liberals turn on him rather than fight for him.
When the dust clears we saw him achieve what no Democrat had achieved since FDR-healthcare along with some very significant bank regulation in Dodd-Frank.
While some have argued that neither goes far enough it's enough that they are written into law. In time after Americans begin to see the fruits of them they can be improved on or expanded in different ways.