South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, a Republican, has reappeared after inexplicably dropping off the map for a few days, being forced to admit to the press that he has been cheating on his wife. This comes immediately on the heels of Senator John Ensign, also a Republican, being forced to admit that he, too, has been unfaithful to his wife. Both of these politicians had been considered front-runners for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.
The unfolding scandals of the last few weeks are only the most recent in a long-line of Republican sex scandals. Louisiana Senator David Vitter, it turns out, has a certain fondness for prostitutes. Senator Larry Craig, as most will recall from the immense media coverage at the time, was arrested for lewd conduct in an airport, with the subsequent disgrace preventing him from running for reelection. And, of course, we all remember Congressman Mark Foley of Florida, who was kicked out of Congress after sending emails requesting oral sex from underage boys.
This is not to say that Democrats don't have similar problems with members of their own party, as clearly demonstrated by the disgraceful actions of Senator John Edwards, Governor Eliot Spitzer, and, of course, President Bill Clinton. Clearly, the Republicans have no monopoly on the matter of political sex scandals.
However, there is the question of hypocrisy to consider. The Republicans have made a tremendous effort over the last two decades to brand themselves to the American people as the party of "family values". Republican political rhetoric during the Clinton years insinuated again and again that Democrats were more likely to be morally lax, whereas Republicans were the party that would stand up for American families and social values. Obviously, it was a complete facade, and the Republicans were living in a glass house.
Thomas Jefferson was not as priggish as John Adams, but he had very high moral standards and had nothing but contempt for people who were unfaithful to their spouses. But the idea that a political party should declare itself the guardian of moral values would have struck him as insane. Questions of morality are the business of the individual. Politics and government is about securing the rights of the people, and such mundane matters as overseeing an efficient postal service.
As Republican hypocrisy on questions of "family values" is exposed for the whole country to see, Thomas Jefferson would probably have simply said that they had it coming.