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Barney Frank: You Wanna Talk About Spending, How About Iraq?

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In the public debate over the stimulus package, Democrats have found themselves largely on the defensive -- forced, at first, to explain the inclusion of business tax cuts at the Obama administration's behest, then asked to justify spending provisions that drew Republican ire.

On Sunday, Rep. Barney Frank did his best to flip those dynamics, playing a card that has largely -- somewhat surprisingly -- gone unused: the war in Iraq.

From his exchange on ABC's This Week with Sen. Jim DeMint:

DeMint: Let's not say it's a stimulus when it's a government spending plan. All of the things, the needs in our society, education, these are things we debate every year.

Frank: Spending can be stimulus. I don't understand.

DeMint: It's the largest spending bill in history and we're trying to call it a stimulus.

Frank: The largest spending bill in history is going to turn out to be the one in Iraq. If we're going to talk about spending, I have a problem when we leave out that extraordinary expensive, damaging war in Iraq, which has caused much more harm than good in my judgment. I don't understand from my conservative friends, building a road, building a school, helping to get health care, that's wasteful spending. But that war in Iraq, that's going to cost us over a trillion dollars, yeah, I wish we hadn't done that we would have been in a lot better shape fiscally.

There are differing opinions over just how much foreign wars have contributed to the current state of the economy. From a strictly numerical standpoint, the cost of Iraq constitutes a small portion of the GDP.

But the argument Frank makes is that in the context of chiding government spending, self-purported fiscal conservatives should not be entitled to selective memory. So when George Stephanopoulos jumped in to say the issue could be fodder for "a whole other show," the Massachusetts Democrat had none of it.

"That's the problem," said Frank. "The problem is we look at spending and say don't spend on highways or health care. Let's builds weapons to defeat the Soviet Union when we don't need them. Let's have hundreds of billions of dollars going to the military without a check. Unless everything is on the table, then you are going to have a disproportionate hit in some places."