Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:
Al Qaeda Ailing?
While Washington debates whether the Iraq war has bred more and fiercer terrorists, a letter from Al Qaeda suggests all is not well within that terror organization. The letter apparently was by a senior Al Qaeda leader called "Atiyah" to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq who was killed in a U.S. air attack on June 7th.
It says, "We are in a stage of weakness and a state of paucity. We have not yet reached a level of stability." The note also admonishes Zarqawi for his brutality and his alienation of many religious leaders. And it laments losing the hearts of many Muslims, who the writer characterizes as quote, "ignorant and simple."
The Democratic candidate for Senate in Virginia is refusing to flatly deny he has ever used a derogatory term for blacks — the "n-word" — that his opponent — incumbent George Allen — is being accused of using. Some of Allen's former college football teammates say he often used the word, but several others say that's not true.
When Webb was asked about his use of the word — he said, "I don't think that there's anyone who grew up around the south that hasn't had the word pass through their lips at one time or another in their life." A spokeswoman later tried to clarify that by quoting Webb as saying: "I have never used that word in my general vocabulary or in any derogatory way."
New York Times reporter Linda Greenhouse is drawing fire for comments that some believe are less than fair and balanced. Greenhouse — who covers the Supreme Court and has won a Pulitzer Prize — told an audience at Harvard that the U.S. government has "turned its energy and attention away from upholding the rule of law and toward creating law-free zones at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, Haditha and other places around the world." She also accused the U.S. of a "sustained assault on women's reproductive freedom and the hijacking of public policy by religious fundamentalism."
Greenhouse has been criticized by several prominent journalists. Times editors Bill Keller and Jill Abramson refused to comment to National Public Radio. Greenhouse's take on the uproar: "let the chips fall where they may."
Hall of Shame
And a group of Washington Redskins fans is remembering former quarterback Heath Shuler with such disdain that they are trying to torpedo his run for Congress in North Carolina. Their Web site — stopshuler.com — features plenty of criticism for the player who was drafted high, held out, showed up late, and was by any estimate a colossal failure.
The Web site says, quote, "We simply are Redskins fans and we love the city of Washington. Both are better off since Heath left town, and we don't want him back."
—FOX News Channel's Aaron Bruns contributed to this report.