GOP: Champions of "Family Values" Become Party of Vice

It was once thought that sex scandals were more a problem for Democrats than Republicans. Can we finally put this notion to (ahem) bed?

PERFIDY PARITY.... Way back in May 2003, the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz had an item about then-West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise (D) admitting to an extramarital affair and apologizing to voters. Kurtz told readers at the time, "Just what the country needed: another Democrat who can't keep his zipper zipped."

I get the sense that, for quite a while, this was the accepted conventional wisdom. When it came to sex scandals, this was more a problem for Democrats than Republicans.

Can we finally put this notion to (ahem) bed?

To be sure, looking back over the last couple of decades, Dems have had plenty of high-profile controversies about illicit affairs. John Edwards, Eliot Spitzer, and Jim McGreevey are some of the more recent ones. If we look back at the '90s, we can add Bill Clinton, Jesse Jackson, and Henry Cisneros to the list. Looking back even further, Gary Hart, JFK, and even FDR come to mind.

But Republicans have made great strides of late in closing the gap with Democrats, and by some measures, have taken the overall lead. Mark Sanford, John Ensign, David Vitter, Larry Craig, and Mark Foley are all pretty recent. If we look back just a little further, Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich obviously come to mind. And if we include the '90s, embarrassing adulterous admissions were made by Tim Hutchinson, Henry Hyde, Dan Burton, and Bob Livingston.

The point isn't that there are a lot of men in positions of power who are sleeping around -- though that seems to be a common problem -- the point is that neither party has a lock on virtue or vice.

The difference, of course, is that only one of these two parties presents itself as the champion of "family values," seeks to use government to impose its sense of morality through public policy, lectures Americans on the "sanctity of marriage," and blames gay couples for undermining Western civilization.


Steve Benen is "blogger in chief" of the popular Washington Monthly online blog, Political Animal. His background includes publishing The Carpetbagger Report, and writing for a variety of publications, including Talking Points Memo, The American Prospect, the Huffington Post, and The Guardian. He has also appeared on NPR's "Talk of the Nation," MSNBC's "Rachel Maddow Show," Air America Radio's "Sam Seder Show," and XM Radio's "POTUS '08."
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