Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:

Iraq Is Calm

There are some things you just can't say in America these days. Michigan Republican Congressman Tim Walberg said in a radio interview that American soldiers returning from Iraq have told him that most of the country is calm.

He said their message was that "80 to 85 percent...of the country is reasonably under control, at least as well as Detroit or Chicago or other big cities."

Both Detroit and Chicago do have higher rates of murder and other crimes than the U.S. as a whole, but a spokesman for Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick said it was, "absurd to compare Detroit and Iraq in any way."

And the state Democratic chairman demanded the congressman apologize, saying the comparison of Detroit to the more peaceful parts of Iraq is "unconscionable."

No Loud Patterns

Meanwhile, radio personality Garrison Keillor, host of the popular "Prairie Home Companion" program on public radio, is in hot water with gay activists for a tongue-in-cheek column he wrote about gay marriage. Keillor wrote that families will have to make some adjustment to accommodate gay married couples.

"The country," he wrote, "has come to accept stereotypical gay men, sardonic fellows with fussy hair who live in over decorated apartments with a striped sofa and a small weird dog." But he said they may have to rein in their flamboyance and "not wear chartreuse pants and block polka dot shirts."

New York City gay activist Andy Humm called the comments "viciously homophobic." Keillor has apologized, but gay columnist Dan Savage says the comments were still "bigoted and offensive."

Reports Overblown

Ohio Republican Congresswoman Jean Schmidt concluded after a tour ofWalter Reed Army Medical Center that reports of poor living conditions there have been overblown. Noting that problems had been found in one building apart from the main hospital complex, she said: "It is wrong to suggest that mold found behind an air conditioner somehow is an excuse to say that all of our veterans are receiving substandard medical care."

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said Schmidt is, "living in a parallel universe," and the Ohio Democratic chairman said she was to "face the plain truth." Even fellow Ohio Democrat Steve Chabot said he disagreed with her.

What? No Bribes?

And you might think a promise by political candidates not to engage in bribery would go down pretty well with voters. But not in the southeastern Chinese village of Dingmei where residents are upset because the candidates promised not to give bribes — to them!

A communist party magazine says villagers were used to getting about $130 in bribes from candidates. But this time the politicians made a vow at the village temple not to engage in vote buying.

One unhappy villager told the magazine: "You can earn lots of money if you're elected village boss, so what's so bad about dishing some of it out? But this election all we got was a bowl of rice and a bottle of beer."

—FOX News Channel's Martin Hill contributed to this report.