Washington, July 1 (ANI): The hard-hitting Vanity Fair piece on Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has touched off a blistering exchange of insults among high-profile Republicans, tearing open fresh wounds about leaks surrounding Palin.
Rival factions close to the McCain campaign have been feuding since last fall over Palin, usually waging the battle in the shadows with anonymous quotes.
Now, however, some of the most well known names in Republican politics are going on-the-record with personal attacks and blame casting.
William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard and at times an informal adviser to Sen. John McCain, touched off the latest back-and-forth Tuesday morning with a post on his magazine's blog criticizing the Todd Purdum-authored Palin story and pointing a finger at Steve Schmidt, McCain's campaign manager.
Kristol cited a passage in Purdum's piece in which "some top aides" were said to worry about the Alaska governor's "mental state" and the prospect that the Alaska governor may be suffering from post-partum depression following the birth of her son Trig.
"In fact, one aide who raised this possibility in the course of trashing Palin's mental state to others in the McCain-Palin campaign was Steve Schmidt," Kristol wrote.
Asked about the accusation, Schmidt fired back in an email: "I'm sure John McCain would be president today if only Bill Kristol had been in charge of the campaign."
"After all, his management of [former Vice President] Dan Quayle's public image as his chief of staff is still something that takes your breath away," Schmidt continued.
"His attack on me is categorically false."
Asked directly in a telephone interview if he brought up the prospect of Palin suffering from post-partum depression, Schmidt said: "His allegation that I was defaming Palin by alleging post-partum depression at the campaign headquarters is categorically untrue. In fact, I think it rises to the level of a slander because it's about the worst thing you can say about somebody who does what I do for a living."
Randy Scheunemann, a longtime foreign policy adviser to McCain who is also close to the Standard editor and was thought to be a Palin ally within the campaign, seconded Kristol's charge.Steve Schmidt has a congenital aversion to the truth," Scheunemann said.
"On two separate and distinct occasions, he speculated about about Governor Palin having post-partum depression, and on the second he threatened that if more negative publicity about the handling of Governor Palin emerged that he would leak his speculation [about post-partum depression] to the press. It was like meeting Tony Soprano."
Schmidt said Scheunemann's charges were "categorically untrue."
Scheunemann said Schmidt did try to fire him but added: "I've got a paystub through November 15th."
The vitriol also suggests the degree to which Palin remains a Rorschach test not simply to Republicans nationally but within a tight circle of elite operatives and commentators, many of whom seem ready to carry their arguments in 2012.
Schmidt, who has returned to his California-based political and public affairs consulting business, said that he "worked incredibly hard during the campaign to defend Sarah Palin and her family against a lot of attacks that I thought then and think today were very unfair."
Responding to Schmidt's counter-attack, Kristol directly fingered Schmidt: "It's simply a fact that when the going got tough, Steve Schmidt trashed Sarah Palin, both within the campaign and (on background) to journalists. This was after Steve took credit for the Palin pick when, at first, he thought it made him look good. John McCain deserved better."
The nasty back-and-forth between the two well-known Republicans and re-litigating of internal backbiting underscores the degree to which the internecine and very personal battle over last fall's ticket between those seen as Palin allies and Palin detractors still rages on nearly six months into President Obama's term. (ANI)