In the wake of the IRS’s admission that it had "inappropriately" targeted conservative groups, the obvious question arises: Where was the watchdog media while this gross constitutional violation was going on? 

Spoiler alert: They were urging the IRS on. 

Especially egregious was the New York Times. Not only was the Times fully aware of the IRS assault on the Tea Party, it applauded it. In an editorial published in March 2012, the Times urged on the government to even more zealous pursuit of miscreants, calling on the IRS not to "flinch from its efforts" to "thoroughly investigate" and "root out" activists who it called "blatant offenders."

 In light of the IRS apology, this editorial makes for chilling reading. All that’s missing was a full-throated denunciation of Emmanuel Goldstein and the other "enemies of the people."

Taxpayers should be encouraged by complaints from Tea Party chapters applying for nonprofit tax status at being asked by the Internal Revenue Service to prove they are "social welfare" organizations and not the political activists they so obviously are.

Tea Party supporters claim they are being politically harassed with extensive I.R.S. questionnaires. But the service properly contends that it must ensure that these groups are "primarily" engaged in social welfare, not political campaigning, to merit tax exemption under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code.

Such I.R.S. inquiries are long overdue and should be applied across the board to the growing number of organizations, allied with the major political parties, that are also ludicrously posing as "social welfare" groups. …

These groups, which already have 501(c)(4) status, should be as thoroughly investigated as any Tea Party chapter applying for that tax exempt status. So should two other blatant offenders: the conservative American Action Network, a "social welfare" claimant reported by the Center for Public Integrity to have spent more than 80 percent of its expenditures on the 2010 elections; and Americans Elect, a third-party effort enjoying "social welfare" secrecy as it secures ballot space across the nation.

All these groups should be operating as political organizations required to disclose their donors under the law. Blatant abuses of tax law and common sense are part of the laissez-faire dynamic that is driving the 2012 campaigns. The I.R.S. must not flinch from its duty to enforce the tax code and root out political operatives who are abusing the law and conning taxpayers and voters.

All of this is quite extraordinary for those of us who remember when the media -- and in particular, the New York Times -- sought to expose and combat just this sort of abuse of executive power. But times change and there are few examples of the transition of the media from watchdog to palace guard than the Gray Lady’s call for an even more zealous IRS harassment of political speech.

(Not surprisingly, the Times does not headline Friday’s apology, consigning it to an inside page in the Saturday edition.)
Final thought: As embarrassing as this Times editorial now reads, it is thoroughly consistent with President Obama’s advice just this week that students should brush off fears of government tyranny and instead fear their fellow citizens more than an overreaching State.