Brazilians like impeachment. Americans should take note.

Mrs. Clinton’s personal corruption is worrying, and it is almost certain that we will spend some non-trivial part of the coming Clinton administration unraveling her self-serving lies about her dealings with everyone from pushy petro-sheiks to Hollywood moguls to Russian oligarchs.

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But what is truly more worrying is that we have for the past several decades been establishing a series of precedents that give American presidents and legislators the power to do legally that which would in most ordinary circumstances be a crime, or at least a dereliction of duty. It bears keeping in mind how quickly this sort of thing can escalate: In 2008, Senator Obama was bemoaning the PATRIOT Act, which allegedly empowered our spooks to sneak at peak at your library card; by 2011, President Obama was ordering the assassination of American citizens abroad. For years, Obama insisted that he did not have the power to unilaterally suspend enforcement of U.S. immigration law — “I am not a king,” he said. At some point in the following years, he apparently acquired a crown and did just that.

Does anybody think that when (to take one likely example) unfunded public-sector pension liabilities torpedo Democratic strongholds in Illinois and California, President Clinton will resist the urge to engage in a little pedaladas fiscais of her own? What do you imagine the conversation will be like in Washington the day before the first Social Security check bounces? Will Washington respond to a newfound commitment to probity and rectitude, or with shenanigans that would make a Third World potentate blush to contemplate?

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In impeaching Rouseff, the Brazilians have taken one small step toward building a better and more prosperous society, one with a truly accountable government. We should consider taking similar steps.

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