I agree the LEAF shifter could be more intuitive. While it meets the letter of the US FMVSS of position order, it is unusual enough to trip most people up at first (with the exception of Prius drivers). In a regular automatic, you sometimes pull back, and sometimes push forward to get to the R position. At least the LEAF is dead-nuts consistent with R always a push-forward movement, and D always a pull-back movement.
Having previously owned a 2004 Prius, the LEAF shifter feels no different to me. It is, however, easier to quickly access as it is always at hand, whereas the Prius shifter was more of a finger-stretch-from-the-steering-wheel.
If Nissan re-oriented the shift positions at this point, there could be confusion from LEAF drivers already accustomed to the current setup, especially two-LEAF households and valets. Really, it would need to be a re-imagining of the shifter altogether. I like the BMW i3's setup: roll forward to D, backwards for R. It's also different enough to not be confused with other stalks on the column. I test-drove an i3 for a few days and found the twist-grip shifter to be quite intuitive and satisfying. The only knock against it was the illuminated PRND position indicators could be hidden behind the steering wheel, and some people would find the momentary action confusing vs. if it physically stayed in the selected position.
As to the Cruise Control on/off switch, it's likely there for safety, so it's not "live" until you enable it. However, other cars I've driven remember that it is enabled between restarts.
2016 LEAF SV