Is Gingrich or Romney the true heir of Reagan? Depends on which aspect of Reagan’s legacy you regard as central.

So Gingrich and Romney are fighting over which one is the true heir of Ronald Reagan. (And Sarah Palin thinks the Romneyites and the media are being mean to poor widdle Newtie.) Seems to me that depends on which aspect of the Reagan legacy you’re counting.

If you liked the idea of running a cocaine-dealing operation out of the White House basement, then Romney the CEO should be the better bet. But if what you really admire is selling weapons to Iran to finance an illegal war in Nicaragua, that’s the kind of hare-brained scheme that comes naturally to Gingrich but would never occur to Romney.

But the real essence of Reagan, it seems to me, was his post-modernism. Remember the woman who bought an orange with Food Stamps and a bottle of vodka with the change? Utterly impossible, of course. But that didn’t matter to Reagan; it was a good line, and he read it well, and its truth-value was utterly irrelevant.

In that regard, Romney wins the Reagan Look-Alike Contest hands-down. Gingrich tells his share of whoppers, but you get the sense (at least I do) that he knows he’s lying, and feels slightly bad about it. Romney, like Reagan, seems to regard politics as a truth-free zone, where you can say “I approve this message” one day and claim you never heard it the next, without even blushing.