A day before the third and final presidential debate, scheduled to center on foreign policy concerns, the Sunday shows shed no light on genuine issues and differences in that realm, and instead mostly featured more partisan mud-slinging over Libya as well as some new and disturbing GOP saber-rattling on Iran.
Against the backdrop of a New York Times story about the U.S. opening direct talks with Iran on nuclear issues, denied by both the White House and Iranian officials, Republicans mostly ducked the topic (except to accuse the Obama administration of another foreign policy "leak"). But on Fox News Sunday the supposedly centrist statesman Sen. Lindsey Graham attacked the White House over the story, declaring that when it comes to Iran, "the time for talking is over.” That would seem to indicate the time for warring has commenced, and we'll find out Monday night if Mitt Romney agrees.
Other than that, there was more tiresome squabbling over Libya, and David Axelrod almost got the Sunday Best nod for an impassioned attack on Romney and Paul Ryan for their craven politicking. "We all remember [Romney's] "Dukes of Hazzard" tour of foreign nations this summer," he told "Meet the Press's" David Gregory. On Paul Ryan's claim that Obama was slow to describe the Benghazi attack as "terror," he shot back: "I think that's nonsense, the president did call it an act of terror not once but several times. There's only one candidate that's tried to exploit it from the beginning. Even while Benghazi was burning, Mitt Romney was sending press releases on it."
But our Sunday Best goes to Romney surrogate Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who gets points for courage, if not political judgment, for declaring war on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which Romney himself hasn't had the courage to attack or defend consistently. Campaign surrogates like Ed Gillespie have had to swing like well-oiled weathervanes on the topic, last week saying Romney opposed it in 2009, then that Romney took no position; then another campaign spokesperson reiterated Romney had opposed it after all. Personally, Romney maintains silence about it. You'll recall that his awkward "binders full of women" moment came as he tried to dodge a question about it.
But Marco Rubio, man of courage, rushed into the breach on Sunday's "Meet the Press." Pay attention, ladies:
I think anyone who is working out there and making a living -- if you're the most qualified person for the job, you should be able to get paid, you should get paid as much as your male counterpart. Everyone agrees with that principle. But just because they call a piece of legislation an equal pay bill doesn't make it so. In fact, much of this legislation is, in many respects, nothing but an effort to help trial lawyers collect their fees and file lawsuits, which may not contribute at all whatsoever to increasing pay equity in the workplace.
For the record, pay equity laws that lack mechanisms for enforcement, which often require lawyers, are useless. Rubio's dodge is an old conservative talking point about all forms of anti-discrimination legislation, but it may mark a new GOP line on the politically popular Ledbetter act. Let's hope so.
An hour after Rubio's denunciation of the law, no Romney spokesperson has rushed to retract it. But it's still early.
Watch below, via ABC: