Hail to the (New) Chief: Death With Dignity-Part III
So, what might be gleaned from the New Chief’s silent joining of Justice Scalia’s dissenting opinion in Gonzalez v. Oregon? First, as to be expected (at least for now), he is influenced more by his experiences as a former executive branch lawyer and member of the political elite than he is by any popular backlash against the unitary executive model.
Second, national interests trump state interests–even where there is ambiguity in the federal statute. His own questions at oral argument, particularly his concern for the uniformity and supremacy of federal law, suggested this outcome. Federalism is messy, and it appears he is unwilling to countenance too much muss. He, like Scalia, is willing to read Congress’ enumerated powers broadly (and the core of state’s rights narrowly in advance of national interests)–even when the strongest interest appears to be in cultivating moral standards. This is bad news for proponents of interstitial federalism.
Third, his willingness to sign Scalia’s dissent in toto–and thereby subjugate his own ego in a high-profile matter–shows that he is as savvy as his confirmation hearings suggested. The practice of writing separately has almost become a custom with the Rehnquist Court. He is willing to buck this trend, to allow Scalia to speak for this coalition on this day with a single voice, and to build his alliances carefully–starting with his natural friends.