The Cult of the Hidden

Bob Novak remarks on Barack Obama and gun rights:

What may be Obama's authentic position on gun rights was revealed in early April when he told a closed-door Silicon Valley fundraiser that "bitter" small-town residents "cling" to the Bible and Second Amendment. That ran against his public assertion as a former constitutional law professor that the Constitution guarantees rights for individual gun owners, not just group rights for state militias. But his legal opinion forced Obama into a political corner.

Journalists, like biographers, try to go out and discover information that's not already widely known. One habit of this, on full display here, is a tendency to privilege the secret and unknown as "real" and the public and known as artifice. Thus, to Novak the real key to understanding Obama's thinking on gun regulations is not to consult his record as a legislator, candidate, and academic but rather to put all that to one side in favor of a not-really-on-point remark made behind what Obama thought were closed doors.

But when you get right down to it, there's no reason to accept this epistemology. Of course it's useful to add more information to the knowledge base. But to a very substantial extent the "real" John McCain is John McCain, the politician and public figure, just as the "real" Barack Obama is Barack Obama, the politician and public figure.