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Obama Touts the Money We'll Save with Health Reforms, While We Quietly Spend Billions on Bush's Wars

The debates over health care reform and the war in Afghanistan are dogged by the same questions: What is the cost to us? How have our priorities changed?

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The costs, both tangible and symbolic, outweigh the benefits.

A little way into Obama's health care speech Wednesday, Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., shouted, "You lie!" from the Senate floor. His words were the culmination of a month of raucous, town-hall-style meetings in which critics of reform toted guns, made comparisons to Nazism and faxed threats to politicians. The yelling was viewed as offensive: a lapse in the official pomp that is supposed to permeate political processes in Washington.

But it also held significant implications for the new neoconservative war paradigm. Indeed, during the Bush administration, Afghanistan and Iraq were treated as bombastic "shock and awe" fetes -- parades of unabashed American "prowess."

Eight years after 9/11, Wilson's outburst represents the official transition from "shock and awe war narratives" to those of "shock and awe domestic policy" (see also: 'birthers,' Judge Sonia Sotomayor's Senate hearing, etc.).

This switch, which has yanked America's attention away from an increasingly deadly and costly war, is the right's largest triumph of 2009, intentional or not.

In November 1969, President Richard Nixon, enduring a boiling point of criticism over the war in Vietnam, addressed what he called a "silent majority" of pro-war Americans.

"I believe that one of the reasons for the deep division about Vietnam is that many Americans have lost confidence in what their government has told them about our policy," he said. "The American people cannot and should not be asked to support a policy which involves the overriding issues of war and peace unless they know the truth about that policy."

Almost exactly 40 years after these words were uttered, Obama closed his health care speech with the affirmation that Americans "can do great things, and that here and now we will meet history's test."

Perhaps. But with the country tangled in a seemingly open-ended war -- a war whose disguises manifest in drone attacks and convoluted partial "reforms," as well as domestic "shock and awe" tactics -- one can't help but wonder who makes up the new "silent majority."