Divine Retribution?

Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:

The Reverend Pat Robertson, once a prominent figure in Republican political circles who is now better known for his exotic pronouncements, says Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke was God's punishment for Sharon's willingness to concede land to the Palestinians. Robertson, you may remember, called the 9-11 terrorist attacks divine retribution for liberal groups secularizing America. But speaking on the “700 Club,” Robertson said Sharon was "…dividing God's land, and I would say, Woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the E.U., the United Nations or the United States of America." Robertson added, "God says, This land belongs to me. You better leave it alone."

Tainted Money

New York Democrat Hillary Clinton's Senate campaign committee will donate $2,000 it received from Indian tribes connected to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff to charity, but don't expect the same from Democratic leader Harry Reid. While the Democratic National Committee is calling on Republicans to return any Abramoff-related donations, Reid has refused to give back some $60,000 he received from donors tied to the lobbyist.

Reid's spokesman says, "Jack Abramoff is a Republican operative and this is a Republican scandal," adding "Senator Reid has done nothing wrong."

Recess Appointment

Among those granted recess appointments by President Bush is former U.S. media adviser in Baghdad, Dorrance Smith, who becomes the official Pentagon spokesman. Earlier this year we reported that Smith was held up in the Senate Armed Services Committee by Michigan Democrat Carl Levin after Smith complained that the U.S. media is too quick to use unedited footage from Arab network Al-Jazeera, often provided to the network by the terrorists themselves.

Smith wrote that such an arrangement made the U.S. networks strong partners with Al-Jazeera. But Levin claimed Smith labeled U.S. TV networks "aiders and abettors" of terrorism, calling the claim "over the top" and "unacceptable."

Problems with Pelosi?

House Democrats are growing increasingly dissatisfied with their leader, California's Nancy Pelosi, complaining that she's been unable to take advantage of Republican missteps. Some have even taken to referring to the party's lack of focus and a clear agenda as "the Nancy problem."

Conservative columnist and FOX News contributor Robert Novak says many Democrats are now grumbling that Maryland's Steny Hoyer -- the pro-business, pro-defense minority whip -- would make a more suitable leader... even though they disagree with his ideology.

Wrist Slap for Rapist

A Vermont man convicted on multiple rape counts against a young child was given just 60 days in jail by a judge who says he no longer believes in punishment. Prosecutors had asked for at least eight years behind bars for Mark Hulett, who confessed to raping his victim repeatedly for four years, starting when she was seven.

But in handing down his sentence, Judge Edward Cashman said harsh punishment, "accomplishes nothing of value," adding, "anger doesn't solve anything. It just corrodes your soul." The victim's mother tearfully disagreed, telling reporters that the rapist "should pay for what he did."

— FOX News' Aaron Bruns contributed to this report