The Wash Times’s scoop is getting all the buzz but you need to read it in the context of Mark Hemingway’s dirt-dishing post at NRO. Someone forwarded him a couple of key e-mail exchanges from during the campaign, one between Bill Kristol and stalwart Palin defender Randy Scheunemann and the other between a NYT reporter and McCain campaign manager Rick Davis. The upshot: Fingers a-pointin’ at Steve Schmidt, Nicolle Wallace, and her husband, all three of whom have been prime suspects in the Palin sniping since the campaign ended.

It would appear that Schmidt and Nicolle were the source for Bumiller peddling a false story about Scheunemann being fired.

Further, the number of people that could be described as “senior members” of the McCain campaign is small and by process of elimination it seems to point the finger at Schmidt and Wallace. “In the strict sense, [the senior members] would probably be four or five people: Wallace, Davis, Schmidt, [Mark] Salter, [Charlie] Black,” observes one campaign staffer. Later, advisers Salter and Davis went on record to the media saying that Scheunemann was not fired. And it seems unlikely that, in his capacity with the campaign, Black had the kind of relationship with the press that would facilitate the leaking.

Reached by phone, a McCain campaign staffer intimately familiar with the situation said he didn’t want to speculate on what he might have motivated Schmidt and possibly others to denigrate Palin to the media, but notes, “What people were talking about was how deeply flawed Palin was, rather than how deeply flawed the handling of Palin was, which was [the leakers’] strategic goal.”

Look again at the number of senior McCain people cited by Hemingway, now speculate away who the source for the Wash Times piece is:

But I asked one of the senior McCain campaign officials who worked closest with Palin what he thought of the article, by e-mail last night and then this morning over the phone. He e-mailed back immediately, calling the article “absolutely fascinating” and “completely riveting.”

“While the Palin camp is surely marshaling the torches and pitchforks and baying for blood by now, my hope is that somehow — against the odds — Palin is able to draw some sort of lesson out of all of this that helps her find a way to exist peacefully in the public space. It can’t be easy to spend every day under this kind of withering fire and I know that it is brutal on her family, who are generally good people that never asked for this,” the political operative wrote.

“You’d think that at some point, even Palin’s formidable armor of self-deception would so loudly clang against reality that she’d be forced to change. I doubt that though. Introspection doesn’t seem to be her strong-suit. But people can change. I hope she can too…for her sake and for our party’s.”…

“It’s more sad for me because I think she is a great political talent and could have a future or some sort of role but she has these demons that she can’t shake and I think its’ unfortunate she has this ability to disconnect herself from reality when things go wrong and she has this total lack of introspection,” he said.

It’s a he, so it’s not Wallace and it’s probably not Charlie Black. That leaves Schmidt, Salter, and Davis. Hmmm. Serious question: If the leakers aren’t telling the truth about her, what are they gaining by lying? No one seriously believes McCain crashed and burned because of Palin. It was the endless dopey stunts — suspending the campaign during the financial crisis, turning Joe the Plumber into a media star — in lieu of a strong policy platform that did him in. Simple self-interest would suggest that people like Schmidt, who are already tainted by having run a bad campaign, don’t want to get a rep for backstabbing too lest it hurt their chances at being hired by future candidates. So what’s the game here? It makes more sense to believe that the leakers truly do hate Palin and are looking to take revenge by bringing her down even at a cost to themselves than to think they’re calculatingly (and foolishly) trying to pass the buck for defeat onto her.

Oh, and if you think the McCain dish on Sarahcuda is over now, think again. Meggie Mac told the New York Daily News today that her forthcoming book will indeed include a chapter on Palin. Where do I go to pre-order?