One of the few things that’s eased the (practically insupportable, thanks for asking) tension for me these past few endless, stress-ridden weeks has been watching a certain strain of conservative (the one that’s long since forgotten that there are relationships between people outside of brutal domination, accepting think tank stipends, getting into the right clubs and grovelling) turning on each other.

F’rinstance:

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin called former aides of Sen. John McCain "jerks" for circulating unflattering stories about her since the Republican ticket lost its bid for the White House Tuesday.

The stories, which have been attributed to unnamed sources within the McCain campaign, include claims that Palin did not know Africa was a continent instead of a country, or which countries are part of the North American Free Trade Agreement, despite touting her familiarity with neighboring Canada.

"Those were taken out of context and that’s cruel," Palin said. "It’s mean-spirited. It’s immature. It’s unprofessional and those guys are jerks if they came away with it, taking things out of context, and then tried to spread something on national news."

One source involved in preparing Palin for interviews and the vice-presidential debate told CNN "she had not paid attention to a single policy debate that’s gone on in this country for 10 years."

No worries, though: the mighty right blogosphere has her back. RedState is pleased to announce it is engaging in a special project: Operation Leper.

We’re tracking down all the people from the McCain campaign now whispering smears against Governor Palin to Carl Cameron and others. Michelle Malkin has the details.

We intend to constantly remind the base about these people, monitor who they are working for, and, when 2012 rolls around, see which candidates hire them. Naturally then, you’ll see us go to war against those candidates.

It is our expressed intention to make these few people political lepers.

They’ll just have to be stuck at CBS with Katie’s failed ratings.

Initial list:

  1. Nicolle Wallace
  2. Steve Schmidt

Note: I’ve deleted McKinnon. I trust the source, but I’m getting very strong denials from other people I trust and McKinnon is very adamantly denying it. We’ve confirmed the other two.

OK, I have to admit, I’m all over the leading lights of the right blogosphere going all out to purge these people from the party (go figure that nice principled Mr. McKinnon wiggled out somehow), but it seems like an unlikely pastime for them. What’s up with that?

Well, let’s start with Ms. Malkin’s details

The anonymous trashing of Sarah Palin by blabbermouth McCain aides who are leaking to Fox News is disgusting. Absolutely disgusting.

Let’s assume the rumor-mongers are telling the truth for a moment. Who does it damn more: Sarah Palin or McCain and his vetters who green-lighted her for the vice presidential nomination? Don’t need an Ivy League degree to figure that one out. [gee whiz, bitter much?]

Sarah Palin worked her heart out. She energized tens of thousands to come out who would have otherwise stayed home. She touched countless families. I didn’t agree with everything she said on the campaign trail. But two fundamental conservative stands she took mattered greatly to me: She vigorously defended the Second Amendment and the sanctity of life more eloquently in practice than any of the educated conservative aristocracy.

And she did it all with a tirelessness and infectious optimism that defied the shameless, bottomless attempts by elites in both parties to bring her and her family down.

Shame on the smearers who don’t have the balls to show their faces.

Um. OK. So maybe it’s true what they’re saying about Sarah Palin, but she has babies and shoots stuff and Nicolle Wallace doesn’t have testicles or make babies. Not too useful. Also she quotes some guy who’s unclear on the distinction between a towel and a bathrobe. Also not useful.

I’m here for you. Here’s the state of play. 

So, Governor Palin? Was the discovery (or she wasn’t: they’re kind of not embracing it these days) of conservative pundits from the National Review and the Weekly Standard, prominently including Bill Kristol and Fred Barnes, and some prominent Christian fundamentalists.

Unfortunately, she didn’t make as good an impression on the crispy young professionals of the permanent Republican campaign machine 

Almost from the very beginning, the Palin pick created tension.

…Meanwhile, Palin’s debate prep was going miserably, to the point where Schmidt had to peel off from McCain (who was having his own challenges responding to the financial crisis) and join Nicolle’s husband Mark Wallace in simplifying Palin’s prep so as to avert catastrophe. The latter efforts resulted in what one senior adviser would describe to me with palpable relief as "a campaign-saving performance."

I’m sympathetic to Eskew and Wallace, and not just because they’re decent people. They’ve held their tongue from leaking what a couple of McCain higher-ups have told me-namely, that Palin simply knew nothing about national and international issues. Which meant, as one such adviser said to me: "Letting Sarah be Sarah may not be such a good thing." It’s a grim binary choice, but apparently it came down to whether to make Palin look like a scripted robot or an unscripted ignoramus. I was told that Palin chafed at being defined by her discomfiting performances in the Couric, Charlie Gibson, and Sean Hannity interviews. She wanted to get back out there and do more. Well, if you’re Eskew and Wallace, what do you say to that? Your responsibility isn’t the care and feeding of Sarah Palin’s ego; it’s the furtherance of John McCain’s quest for the presidency.

Wallace may or may not have been involved, but some folks chose to assume she was

Palin and her family’s $150,000 clothing tab is turning out to be the shopping spree from hell, consuming all sorts of energy that might have been put to better use garnering votes.

When Palin addressed the issue in a campaign rally the other day, claiming that she hasn’t even worn most of the clothes and that in any case, they do not belong to her, some unnamed McCain advisers got angry with their vice presidential nominee.

They claimed she is looking out for her own interests at the expense of McCain’s. (Can we just say, though, that we are smitten by the phrase “rogue diva”?)

Now, though, there appears to be a move afoot to place blame where everyone is enjoying putting it this season: on the Bush White House. Well, not exactly the Bush White House, but with someone who came to the McCain campaign on a path that lead through the Bush White House.

The current favorite fall guy or gal is Nicolle Wallace, the former Bush White House communications director who left her post as political analyst on CBS Evening News last May to join the McCain campaign. She’s under fire for the VP candidate’s $150,000 wardrobe disaster.

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd got the ball rolling Sunday when she wrote that "dunderheaded aides, led by the former Bushies Nicolle Wallace and Tracey Schmitt (Palin’s traveling press secretary), costumed their Eliza Doolittle for a ball when she should have been dressing for a bailout.

On Monday, Weekly Standard editor Fred Barnes alleged on the Fox News network that sources in the McCain campaign blamed Wallace for the clothing purchases, and leveled a rather drastic accusation against her:

“The person who went and bought the clothes and, as I understand it put the clothes on her credit card, went to Saks and Neiman Marcus … the staffer who did that has been a coward, and has not stepped forward and said ‘I made a mistake, I bought these clothes, I shouldn’t have. It’s been an embarrassment to the campaign, and to Sarah Palin and to John McCain. I hurt the campaign. I am sorry. It was my fault.’ Instead, she has allowed Sarah Palin to take the whole hit.”

Barnes had to apologize

Palin backers’  counterattack on John MCCain’s staff over Sarah Palin’s wardrobe flap continues, as Weekly Standard executive editor Fred Barnes, echoing Bill Kristol, demanded today that a McCain staffer step up and take blame for buying Palin the expensive clothes. He blamed a specific, female staffer for the mess.

He then said was talking about McCain advisor Nicolle Wallace, who has been a focus of Palin’s admirers’ ire.

Wallace fired back in an email to me that Barnes is "incorrect" that she charged the clothes to her card, and "incorrect that I went to any stores."

Public records suggested that another Republican operative, Jeff Larson, paid for the clothes.

Barnes had to apologize. Maureen Dowd, on the other hand, appears to be unrepentant about multiple columns trashing Wallace. Dowd being Dowd, though, it wasn’t over politics, as such

Add Maureen Dowd, the Pulitzer-winning columnist for the NY Times, to the list of media types who have fallen out bitterly with John McCain. The McCain campaign has barred her from flying in the McCain and Palin press planes, even though major media outlets routinely pay thousands to the campaigns every day for travel and expenses (and also begs the question, why didn’t her media colleagues Man Up and get her aboard anyway?)

It all started when Maureen covered an Aug. 30 McCain-Palin rally in Washington, Pa., then wasn’t let on the McCain plane afterward, forcing her to overnight at a Pittsburgh airport hotel while the traveling press went on without her.

"I had had a great  relationship with John McCain for 16 years, through columns he liked and didn’t like. So at first I thought it was a mistake and doublechecked with the press office. They said I was banned from both planes for ‘the foreseeable future.’ Then [McCain spokeswoman] Nicolle Wallace was gloating about it to reporters on the Palin plane," Dowd wrote in an email.

Kristol’s fellow PNAC (the folks who brought you the Iraq war) boardmember Randy Scheuneman was equally hostile (although less overt)

Randy Scheunemann, a senior foreign policy adviser to John McCain, was fired from the Arizona senator’s campaign last week for what one aide called "trashing" the campaign staff, three senior McCain advisers tell CNN.

One of the aides tells CNN that campaign manager Rick Davis fired Scheunemann after determining that he had been in direct contact with journalists spreading "disinformation" about campaign aides, including Nicolle Wallace and other officials. (Update: Davis denies the claim.)

"He was positioning himself with Palin at the expense of John McCain’s campaign message," said one of the aides.

Senior campaign officials blame Schuenemann specifically for stories about the way Wallace and chief campaign strategist Steve Schmidt mishandled Palin’s rollout — stories that the campaign says threw them off message in the critical final weeks of the campaign.

although he says he wasn’t, but David Frum

Erm. Did I mention that Ann Althouse was having a feud with Jon Swift? Really, It’s much easier to explain. Although I think I’ll let him do it