VITAL SIGNSnMEDIAncrash and burn. Human beings are imperfect.nBut without some connectionnbetween rhetoric and reality, Americannconservatives will inevitably follow theirnBritish counterparts, whose leadingnspokesmen for “back to basics” initiativesnhave been discovered fathering illegiti­nThe Real RushnLimbaughnmate kids and having homosexual affairs.nSome might argue that it is possible tonbe a conservative without living oractingnlike one. hi this sense, conservatism hasnby Cliff Kincaidnbeen a major factor in Limbaugh’s success.nAs one conservative leader ex­nAnplained, “Limbaugh stepped into a vacu­nfter I authored a V^fashington Post arum where the American people wantednticle critical of Rush Limbaugh an alternative voice. He hit a nerve. Butnfrom a conservative perspective, William his success is not so much Limbaugh asnKristol of tlie Project on the Republican it is the result of the desire for an alterna­nFuture took me to task, telling a reporter tive.” For his part, Limbaugh deniesnthat I had judged the popular talk show being a “movement conservative.”nhost by “extreme standards.” Limbaugh,nhe said, is “plenty conservative for me.”nAt first, Limbaugh was funny and effectivenon a variety of social issues, suchnAmong other things, my article noted as homosexual rights and abortion. Nownthat Limbaugh, a staunch Reaganite, he rarely talks about them. Gone are thendidn’t vote for Reagan (he didn’t register “AIDS Updates,” poking fun at homo­nto vote until 1986, when he was 35); sexual promiscuity, the renditions ofnLimbaugh, a spokesman for family val­ “My Boy Lollypop” aimed at gay Conues,nhas been divorced twice; Limbaugh, gressman Barney Frank, and the “callernwho told a Christian magazine “Jesus abortions” dramatizing the pro-lifenis the answer,” doesn’t go to church and cause. But it gets worse. Not only has henwon’t discuss biblical issues on his given interviews to Playboy and Pent­nprograms; Limbaugh, an advocate of a house, he has appeared on a Hollywoodnstrong military and American interven- sitcom (produced by friends of the Clintionism,navoided the Vietnam War draft; tons, no less) and has even begun broad­nLimbaugh lias back-pedaled on social iscasting ads touting the l^ew York Timeslnsues such as abortion and homosexualnrights, though he emphasized them eadynin his career; Limbaugh refuses to correctnhis most serious errors, even thoughnhe describes himself as the “Epitome ofnMorality and Virtue”; and Limbaugh, annardent Republican and multimillionaire,ncontributed a paltry $1000 to the RepublicannParty and its candidates during then1992-94 election cycles.nConservative leaders, aware of his leftwardndrift, have generally been unwillingnto challenge him. Some remain silentnbecause they still hope for a complimentarynword from Limbaugh on his radio orn1″V show, or because they want to get anfavorable write-up in his newsletter,n”The Limbaugh Letter.” Others simplynfear his wealth and power. The perceptionnthat he played a role in the Republi­nLimbaugh says about PresidentnClinton, “Character counts.” ShouldnLimbaugh’s character count as well? Ornshould we simply set aside these obviousnquestions and contradictions, on thengrounds that he is one of us, a “conservacanntakeover of Congress adds to thenfeeling that he cannot be challenged. YetnLimbaugh has wandered so far afield onnpublic policy issues that one wondersnwhether his activities will be harmful ornhelpful.ntive,” and that we have a vested interestnin his success?nIn response to my critique, Kristol saidnhe was delighted with Limbaugh, de­nConservatism is not just a set of bescribing his radio program as a kind ofnliefs, to be mouthed when profitable; it is Wall Street journal editorial page of then(or should be) a way of life. It is impor­ airwaves. Indeed, Limbaugh is l