A DELAYED FOOD FIGHT…. I’ve only read excerpts of Todd Purdum’s Vanity Fair piece on Sarah Palin, but it relies on McCain campaign aides to cast the Alaska governor in a very unflattering light. “They can’t quite believe that for two frantic months last fall, caught in a Bermuda Triangle of a campaign, they worked their tails off to try to elect as vice president of the United States someone who, by mid-October, they believed for certain was nowhere near ready for the job, and might never be,” the article reports.

The piece seems to have had an immediate impact. Indeed, the article has apparently instigated something of a food fight among some leading figures in the Republican establishment.

A hard-hitting piece on Sarah Palin in the new Vanity Fair has touched off a blistering exchange of insults among high-profile Republicans over last year’s GOP ticket — tearing open fresh wounds about leaks surrounding Palin and revealing for the first time some of the internal wars that paralyzed the campaign in its final days.

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.

Shortly after Purdum’s Vanity Fair piece was posted online, it got ugly. Bill Kristol, for example, went after Steve Schmidt, McCain’s campaign manager. Schmidt responded that Kristol’s “management of Dan Quayle’s public image as his chief of staff is still something that takes your breath away.” Schmidt added that Kristol’s allegations about him “rises to the level of a slander” and noted that Kristol is “in the business of ad hominem insults and criticism.”

Randy Scheunemann quickly weighed in, taking Kristol’s side, and blasting Schmidt’s “congenital aversion to the truth.”

The back-and-forth continued yesterday, with personal attacks, questioned motives, and increasingly serious allegations.

I expected more of this late last year, when the finger-pointing made more sense. The full-blown intra-party civil war never came to fruition, but it seems there’s some pent up hostility among leading figures.

I’m not in a position to say who’s telling the truth, who’s lying, who’s leaking, or who’s right. But reading about all of this reinforced one unshakable observation: I’m awfully glad these folks aren’t running the country right now.

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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.