CLASS ACT, ALL THE WAY…. On Friday, publius — Hilzoy’s Obsidian Wings co-blogger and someone I’ve known for several years — had a blog post criticizing something National Review‘s Ed Whelan wrote. As blog criticisms go, the piece was acerbic but hardly outrageous — Whelan made an observation about judges pondering policy outcomes, and publius referenced a Volokh item that took issue with Whelan’s assumptions.

Whelan, publius said, is “a smart guy with outstanding legal credentials,” adding, “He just enjoys playing the role of know-nothing demagogue.” The same post referenced a quote from Anonymous Liberal, describing Whelan as “essentially a legal hitman.”

Yesterday, Whelan decided to help prove the point.

So there you have it — I’ve been officially outed by Ed Whelan. I would never have done that to my harshest critic in a million years, but oh well.

And to be clear — the proximate cause was that Whelan got mad that I criticized him in a blog post. More specifically, he’s mad that Eugene Volokh made him look rather silly — and he’s lashing out at me for pointing that out, and publishing my name.

Even by the standards of conservative bloggers, this is surprisingly cheap, petty, and unnecessary.

In email correspondence between the two, publius, who has guest-blogged for me here at Political Animal, explained to Whelan that he uses a pseudonym for “private, family, and professional” reasons. Whelan published his name anyway, because he could. In an email to publius, he asked, “Now who’s the hitman”?

Under the circumstances, the rhetorical question seems rather ironic.

Whelan’s feelings of frustration are not surprising. There have been a number of bloggers, including publius, who’ve challenged his arguments of late, and at times exposed Whelan’s errors of fact and judgment. For someone with Whelan’s background — former Deputy Assistant Attorney General, former Supreme Court clerk, successful attorney — that must be exasperating.

But to respond in such a childish and cruel way makes Whelan look far worse than any critique from publius could have.

In a post last night, A.L., noting the “Hannity-esque” partisanship of Whelan’s recent efforts, added, “…I think that’s why he’s so thin-skinned. Getting called out on your hackery is tough if you’re someone who takes pride in your intelligence. It’s embarrassing. So Whelan reacted by lashing out and ‘outing’ one of his most thoughtful and persistent critics. It’s school-yard bully kind of stuff. An act of extreme insecurity.”

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.