From there it was only a short time until it was a scandale -- and it went beyond the usual Krugman-watch suspects. Even the anonymous ultra-leftist 'Atrios' commented on it critically on his Eschaton blog. What could even he say but, 'Now This is Shrill!' On Thursday it broke into print, with Josh Gersten's front-page story for the New York Sun. So what could the Times do but put some distance between itself and Krugman?By no stretch of the imagination is Atrios an "ultra-leftist". Luskin wouldn't appear to have the faintest concept of what a radical leftist actually looks like, but here's a hint: Atrios ain't it. (Neither is Krugman, as is readily obvious when one compares Krugman and pretty much anybody on the radical left, many of which hate him.) Even if he were an ultra leftist, though, calling Krugman "shrill" is a joke. It's intended to satirize the attitudes and language of the hard right, and obviously does so quite well.
Second, I'd just like to point out that the flap over the cover is abominably stupid. Donald Luskin writes for the NRO, which prominently features Ann Coulter's book. Ann, of course, will pack more hate into one column (the latest features accusations that the Democrats are genocidal) than an entire bookshelf of Krugman covers. (He's also drawn the comparison between Krugman and Hitler on his own site. Don't have a link, but I may add one later.) He who is without sin...
In any case, this is all meaningless folderal. It's a game, and the name of the game is "invalidating criticism of the President". We've already seen it with the full-court press against "Bush haters", and attacking this cover is merely another tactic supporting the overall strategy. The idea that someone may legitimately hate Bush for what he's done or what he represents goes unmentioned, and for a good reason: they know that most people are probably divided on Bush, believing that he's screwed up but also believing that he's the best choice to deal with the terrorist threat. By trying to play up critics as irrational, they make the latter aspect look like the more rational one, and allow people to reconcile their conflicted attitude towards the president by saying "well, I'm a rational being, and if that attitude's irrational I can ignore it". The funny thing is, it's like a chinese finger trap, because the more Bush screws up, the more strident the criticism, and the easier it is to attack them for being "irrational".
Coupled with the natural forgiveness that the American public has towards the president due to the ceremonial aspects of the role of Head of State, and you've basically got Bush's reelection strategy. You've also got the core of the Dean strategy: harness the anger to get volunteers on the streets and the base to the voting booths, and rely on the low turnout of swing voters to keep them from voting against him due to the fear of his strong stand. To extend the analogy, he intends to snap that trap in two.