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, Mark Foley, Vito Fossella, and Jim Gibbons* 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.

With that in mind, Bob Inglis seems to have the right idea.

South Carolina Rep. Bob Inglis made a name for himself in the late 1990s as one of Bill Clinton’s most zealous pursuers, an impeachment “manager” who attacked the moral failings of the president with a gusto that earned him a devoted following in the staunchly conservative “Upstate” of conservative South Carolina.

But with his governor now felled by similar temptations, Inglis sees an opening for the Republican Party, a chance to “lose the stinking rot of self-righteousness” and “to understand we are all in need of some grace.”

It would be a welcome development.

* updated

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.