10/05/2010 03:57 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

D.C. GOPers Attack Conservative Voters for Questioning Pentagon Waste

Over the last few months, we've seen some serious -- and potentially groundbreaking -- fractures in the old consensus over defense spending. In particular, we've seen the rise of rank-and-file conservatives who have been more willing to connect their deficit grievances with the bloated Pentagon budget. Indeed, I saw this firsthand when I interviewed top-tier Republican congressional candidate Ryan Frazier on AM760 -- a veteran, he said that we need to look seriously at defense spending cuts.

Now, though, the blowback is starting. As the Atlantic's Marc Ambinder reports:

In an op-ed to be published in the Wall Street Journal, the heads of the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the Foreign Policy Initiative warn that there will not be "long-term prosperity" if the US military is "hollowed out" and can't defend the country.

Although the op-ed, written by FPI's Bill Kristol, AEI's Arthur C. Brooks and Heritage's Edward Fuelner, sets up the Obama administration as its foil, the real purpose to nudge Tea Party conservatives back into line on defense spending, according to a Republican strategist who is working on the program.

Ambinder quotes a D.C. Republican strategist saying that "The goal is to make sure we're not boxed on by both sides" -- ie. by liberals and conservative critics of Pentagon waste.

This, of course, is why this new scrutiny of defense spending is so important -- precisely because it has the potential to attract a powerful transpartisan coalition of both anti-militarist liberals and deficit hawk conservatives. The Establishment Republicans in Washington -- who, mind you, represent no mass audience but do represent huge amounts of money -- realize this potential threat to their military-industrial sugar daddies. And so they are starting to fight back.

But the battle has already started -- and it is a battle progressives and honest conservatives can win.