Bill Keller is used to being a public punching bag following the publication of his magazine essays. But the former New York Times executive editor reached new heights in bipartisan fury today for his somber recollection of his stewardship of The Times during the run-up to the Iraq War, a period in which the newspaper drew fire for its series of "exclusives" on weapsons of mass destruction and lack of scrutiny of the Bush administration's rhetoric. (Keller has been the newspaper's top editor since 2003 after a stint as an opinion columnist and senior writer for the magazine that started in 2001.)
In his essay published today, Keller clearly expresses regret for the paper's record during those years and his own hawkish support for the Iraq war—a position he partially attributes to his paternal instincts at the time:
I remember a mounting protective instinct, heightened by the birth of my second daughter almost exactly nine months after the attacks. Something dreadful was loose in the world, and the urge to stop it, to do something — to prove something — was overriding a career-long schooling in the virtues of caution and skepticism.
Keller mentions several of the columns he wrote in the aftermath of 9/11, but he leaves out one that was particularly fear-inducing: a nearly 8,000-word New York Times Magazine feature called "Nuclear Nightmares," whose graphic description of what the detonation of a one-kiloton nuclear bomb in Times Square would do made more than one New Yorker question their real estate choices. However, to a broad range of pundits, from liberal to conservative to libertarian, the essay struck a raw nerve. Here are their range of reasons: