Many conservatives who know better have constructed an odd justification in the 2012 presidential primary for supporting the man who makes Bill Clinton look like a model of impulse control. It goes like this: Newt Gingrich did a magnificent job getting the GOP back into the House majority and defeating HillaryCare 17 years ago. His acerbic wit and mental dexterity would make for a hugely entertaining debate with President Obama. Therefore, he should be our nominee.

This is silliness on stilts. The American people — the ones who will vote in the general election — don’t give a darn about 1994. Moreover, the huge ideological inconsistencies, the character flaws and the ever-present danger of self-immolation make Gingrich probably the worst possible nominee to go up against the search-and-destroy Obama reelection campaign. And should he, by some miracle, get to the Oval Office, do we really imagine the presidency would be any different than his speakership (disorganized, frenetic, disloyal to conservatives, gaffe-prone and all about HIM)?

This is worse than the now-fading mass delusion that Herman Cain was a serious presidential choice. In Gingrich’s case most of those spinning the case for his nomination know all too well the faults that would be debilitating as a nominee and then as president.

Conservatives can be appreciative of Gingrich’s pre-speakership efforts on behalf of the GOP. They can enjoy his wit. They can do all that and still recognize that Gingrich’s nomination would ensure chaos and defeat for the GOP, and acceptance of a candidate’s every whim would become the GOP’s official policy.

This is not necessarily an argument for Mitt Romney. For those who can’t abide Romney ( who, let’s be candid, is no more conservative or consistent than Gingrich) there are principled conservatives who have a grasp of policy, such as Rick Santorum and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.). While less articulate and policy-adept, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is certainly more conservative than Gingrich and has not led his party into ruin. But Gingrich? For talk-show entertainers, contrarians and the horde of Washington insiders whom Gingrich has courted for more than 20 years (flattering them with his attention and peppering them with policy ideas), Gingrich is an attractive pick. For a party desperate to unite the conservative movement and win the White House he would be a disaster, just as he was as soon as he got the speakership.