Monday, July 31, 2006

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for July 31

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Tom O'Neil, Michael Musto

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Israel warned there were caveats to the bombing halt. Few expected those caveats would be invoked so quickly. Air strikes resumed, directed, the Israelis say, at Hezbollah.

As the reverberations after the civilian deaths at Qana continue, the U.N. Security Council expresses extreme shock and distress, words that might now apply to U.S. foreign policy. Have we been painted into a corner? Day 20 of the conflict in Lebanon and Israel.

At home, flying, you may experience delays if this person is on your flight.


KATIE COURIC, HOST: Good morning. I'm Katie Couric.


OLBERMANN: Or if you're flying to Los Angeles, where a quarter of the runways were just shut down.

Why was Lindsay Lohan shut down? She phones in sick on her new film.

Studio head writes back, saying she wasn't sick, she was out partying.

Studio head now goes on camera.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're getting paid good money. You have a great, great life. Show up.


OLBERMANN: And this additional tip to celebrities, when pulled over

by the cops, don't blame any religious or ethnic groups.


MEL GIBSON: Actually, I stopped you because I noticed your Lasso sticker.


OLBERMANN: Full coverage of Mel Gibson, day four.


GIBSON: Have a nice day, Chachi.


OLBERMANN: Gibson dressed as a cop, just a public service announcement coincidence, not his new job, now that his film career is over. Guess what Mel just checked himself into. Oh, here we go.

All that and more, now on Countdown.

Good evening.

There was always a loophole in Israel's announcement that it would halt bombings for 48 hours after its strikes on the village of Qana killed dozens of civilians, many of them children. Even so, even in the most positive of interpretations, the hoped-for diplomatic implications of the sort of halt did not turn out exactly as anticipated.

Our fifth story on the Countdown, Israel today resuming its bombing of southern Lebanon after only a handful of the 48 hours it had pledged, the prime minister of Lebanon, previously at odds with the terrorist group, now thanking Hezbollah for its, quote, "sacrifices." Not good, the bombs still falling today.

The Israeli prime minister, still defiant, insisted that there will be no cease-fire until Israel achieves its goals, the Israeli security cabinet tonight having approved a plan for a wider ground offensive.

International pressure for a cease-fire never stronger, the pictures out of Qana, particularly those of the children, all still in the pajamas they had been wearing before two Israeli bombs tore through the home in which they'd been sleeping, prompting anger and outrage for a second consecutive day, that incident bringing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice home a little earlier than expected today, with little to show for it other than an invitation to dinner with the president.

Israel's pledge to halt or at least limit the bombings spun yesterday as a significant concession obtained by the secretary, any perceived benefit to U.S. foreign policy obliterated along with today's air strikes.

In a moment, the collateral damage to the Bush administration's foreign standing, analyzed for us by Richard Wolffe of "Newsweek."

But we begin tonight with the continuing superlative work of our correspondents in the region at the end of day 20 of the conflict, starting with Martin Fletcher in northern Israel.



MARTIN FLETCHER, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Keith, Israel's security cabinet tonight approved widening the ground operation. But Israel is honoring its promise to stop most attacks from the air for 48 hours. Since the fighting began, Israeli war planes averaged 173 attacks a day.

Today, according to the air force, just two, both against Hezbollah targets.

(voice-over): International pressure is growing on Israel to stop the war, but the prime minister today was defiant. Ehud Olmert made it clear, no cease-fire until Israel achieves its goals, removing the rocket threat from Hezbollah, saving its two kidnapped soldiers.

Today, Israel and Hezbollah were locked in more fierce battles, after Israel launched another incursion into Lebanon. Israel moved more forces to the border today, while reserve troops trained for a possible ground invasion.

(on camera): This is an Israeli artillery unit moving into position. Despite calls for a cease-fire, the Israeli defense minister has already said Israel will continue into south Lebanon with more troops.

(voice-over): After pressure from the United States, Israel halted most of its air raids, a two-day suspension, except to provide cover for its ground troops.

Hezbollah also hit the pause button. After 150 Katyushas fired yesterday, not one fired today, only two mortars. Israelis in Haifa almost relaxed, venturing into the streets.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It feels just a little bit normal, and not all the time war.

FLETCHER: Israeli analysts say, if the fighting did end today, it would look like a defeat for Israel.

ALON BEN DAVID, MILITARY CORRESPONDENT: It seems like the military was unsuccessful in achieving the objectives for the war.

FLETCHER: But at the U.N. in New York, a critical meeting scheduled today to plan a new peacekeeping force for Lebanon was indefinitely postponed, another blow to hopes for a cease-fire.

I'm Martin Fletcher in Haifa.

Now to NBC's Richard Engel in Qana, Lebanon.

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC BEIRUT BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): Limping to safety, 200 elderly, too weak to have already left, today escaped the front-line village of Bint Jbeil. "We've been here for 20 days," she said.

Desperate for water, some so frail they had to be dragged away. With few aid workers, reporters helped out.

Hezbollah killed nine Israeli soldiers here last week, triggering a massive Israeli retaliation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no more Bint Jbeil anymore. All Bint Jbeil is ruined.

ENGEL: Every moment was precious today, everyone trying to take advantage of the bombing pause.

Aid convoys unloaded. Refugees drove and walked north out of the war zone in 100-degree heat, as the Red Cross recovered 49 bodies buried in abandoned villages like Qana, where more than 50 were killed yesterday by an Israeli air strike.

(on camera): The suspension of air strikes has not only allowed people to escape, but also to assess the sheer scale of the damage.

This was a road, destroyed by three 3,000-pound bombs.

(voice-over): We know that, because a fourth one didn't explode, and ended up in this man's living room. The bomb, the size of a couch, bounced off the road, crashed through the wall, and spun on the floor until it came to a rest. "If it had exploded," he said, "it would have killed 35 people staying in a house across the street," causing what he said would have been another massacre in Qana.

Richard Engel, NBC News, Qana, south Lebanon.


OLBERMANN: And time now, as promised, to call in our own Richard Wolffe, the senior White House correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine.

Richard, good evening.


Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN: The administration's approach in this situation in the Middle East, and the leverage that it now has, they're both radically different from where they were last week, are they not?

WOLFFE: Well, they're certainly radically different from where they were in the first week of this, when they had Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia on their side. That picture has radically changed. And with it, the overall presidential vision of this as a sort of a - both a war, and an opportunity to spread democracy.

It just doesn't look like that now. And there's credibility problems for the administration, for Secretary Rice, strategic problems for the president, and obviously problems on the ground for the Israelis.

OLBERMANN: Yes, Dr. Richard Haass, who was in the administration, the foreign policy expert, responded to that "opportunity" line, told one of the newspapers that he hadn't laughed so hard in all he could (INAUDIBLE) recall. There's nothing resembling an opportunity.

But whatever that - the prompting, whatever the instigation, could it be possible to overstate the importance of the air strikes and the disaster at Qana driving the Lebanese prime minister to the hands of Hezbollah short term? Obviously Secretary Rice's efforts erased, short term. Do we have an idea what the potential long-term impact of Qana will be?

WOLFFE: Well, you know, if it wasn't Qana this week, it would have been another town next week. This is a difficult war for Israel to fight. They're under fire from foreign territory using foreign missiles, from Iran, and these are guerillas that base themselves out of residential neighborhoods. So if you're going to strike back, and it every country in the world would be obliged to strike back against this kind of attack, you're going to hit civilians, and that's exactly what they did.

This is part of a PR battle that Israel has woefully lost. And it's damaging to Israel, it's obviously damaging to America and Britain, as supporters of that.

But, you know, longer term, the administration wanted to have the Lebanese government support for the bombing of Lebanon, and again, no country in the world would find that acceptable.

OLBERMANN: Earlier tonight, as we've mentioned now twice, the security cabinet in Israel approved this to widen the ground offensive into Lebanon. This was referenced in Martin Fletcher's report. Should we be interpreting it in the same way, that it's a sign that the air war has been a failure?

WOLFFE: Well, it's kind of early to say it's been a failure. They clearly tried to strike leadership targets, they didn't quite get there.

They think that they have eroded some of the missile rocket fire, but that

of course, they've still got plenty more to go there.

You know, Israel is caught between success and failure. It's a stalemate. And as such, as the correspondents have admirably pointed out, that looks like a victory for Hezbollah, because Israel is compared to basically a six-day war, and anything more than six days, and it looks like a failure.

OLBERMANN: On Friday, Richard, the Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, who's never been in line, pretty much, with the administration on almost anything, spoke out about all this. He said the president is not involved enough, should be engaging directly with Iran and with Syria. Today the senator went even further. I'd like to listen to this, and then get your reaction.


SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: The sickening slaughter on both sides, Mr. President, must end, and it must end now.

President Bush must call for an immediate cease-fire. This madness must stop.


OLBERMANN: To what degree is it significant that a prominent member of his own party would have broken with the president over the Middle East?

Richard, give me your reaction to that.

WOLFFE: Yes, my reaction to Chuck Hagel would be that, you know, politics of America has changed, and is changing as people look to 2008. And Chuck Hagel is certainly doing that. The foreign policy debate about war and about the war on terror is changing before our eyes, and Chuck Hagel is expressing that.

OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe of "Newsweek" and MSNBC, great thanks.

Sorry for the audio problems.

WOLFFE: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: From the diplomatic angst to the military confusion. Has Israel gotten in over its head with Hezbollah?

And speaking of being in over its head, Mel Gibson. First it was a simple DUI, then it was a covered-up anti-Semitic and sexist tirade. Is it now rehab? And will it soon be the end of a career?

You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: Since its birth as a state in 1948, Israel's security situation has remained virtually constantly untenable, organizations surrounding the country, not to mention those within its own borders, denying its very right to exist.

Our fourth story on the Countdown, while no one is denying the threat posed to Israel by Hezbollah, the size and strategy of the Israel response is fueling debate tonight about whether that country had miscalculated from the very start its attack on the terror organization.

Our chief White House correspondent is David Gregory.



DAVID GREGORY, MSNBC CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Keith, Israel is facing more diplomatic pressure than ever now, and questions about its tactics, given that it's certainly done a lot of damage but has yet to achieve its primary goal of routing Hezbollah.

(voice-over): Israel has said all along it's fighting in self-defense, and again today, President Bush agreed.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's important to remember this crisis began with Hezbollah's unprovoked terrorist attacks against Israel. Israel is exercising its right to defend itself.

GREGORY: Yet the death toll of Lebanese civilians mounts, and the outrage in the Arab world and beyond, once muted, grows.

Hezbollah was at first condemned by moderate Arab governments, but now, it's Israel being cast as the aggressor, not the victim.

Did Israel miscalculate? Military experts say the Israeli Defense Force misjudged the enemy, thousands of entrenched guerrilla fighters still capable of launching rockets.

GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY (RET.), UNITED STATES ARMY: They tried to do this on the cheap with precision air power, special operations, pinpointed attacks. They needed to get in and expunge Hezbollah...

GREGORY: At the center of this war, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, an untested leader without the military background of his predecessors, Rabin, Barak, and Sharon, who, experts say, would not let himself get bogged down in Lebanon a second time.

Middle East expert Haim Malka.

HAIM MALKA, MIDDLE EAST EXPERT: Sharon was focused on one strategic objective, and that was to withdraw from Gaza.

GREGORY: Prime Minister Olmert, Malka argues, was misled.

MALKA: He has let himself be convinced by the military that this was going to be a quick and relatively painless operation to neutralize Hezbollah's threat.

GREGORY: With each day of survival, Hezbollah's support grows, its leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, now celebrated as the man who stood up to Israel.

Israel's U.N. ambassador today argued Nasrallah cannot be allowed to succeed.

DAN GILLERMAN, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Israel has repeatedly been compelled to act not against Lebanon, but against the forces and the monstrosity which Lebanon has allowed itself to be taken hostage by.

GREGORY: But its missteps to date raise a troubling question. Has Israel, the seemingly invincible power of the region, lost its ability to deter its enemies from attacking?

(on camera): That fear is among the primary motivators for Israel now, as it presses for more time to achieve that still-elusive goal, Keith.


OLBERMANN: David Gregory at the White House for us tonight. Great thanks.

Did flying into Los Angeles just turn into a promise of major delays every day? LAX suddenly has 25 percent fewer runway space, though apparently it could be worse. You could have Katie Couric on your flight.

And the big mystery brewing in Ohio. As Steve Martin and Bill Murray once asked on "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE," What the hell is that?

That, whatever it is, and more, ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Thirty-six years ago today, the most successful and probably most journalistic tandem in the history of television news came to an end when Chet Huntley retired from NBC's "THE HUNTLEY-BRINKLEY REPORT." Remarkably, a week ago, Huntley and David Brinkley were referenced in a PBS documentary about Walter Cronkite, referenced by veteran CBS News producer Shirley Wershba, whom you may have seen portrayed by Patricia Clarkson in the movie "Good Night and Good Luck." She called them Tweedledum and Tweedledee and said they had once done a cute little act. Unconscionable and unprofessional.

Let's play Oddball.

We begin in Cleveland, where residents of one suburban neighborhood are wondering, What is this freaking thing roaming around our yards? I could avenge Messrs. Huntley and Brinkley right now, but I will choose not to do so. Folks there were so weirded out by this that they took this video, hoping to figure out, What the hell is that thing? An armadillo with no skin.

Most people think the animal looks like a squirrel with a bad case of the mange, a disease caused by mites. Wildlife officials say, No, no, it's just a freaky little baby hippopotamus. Actually, you know, it's possible I may have read that backwards. Well, what's the diff?

To Minneapolis, home of the big First Annual Guitar Toss. And it's about time that a sport once enjoyed only by rich, drunken rock stars made it way back to the parking lot of the local Humane Society. Participants paid $1 each to attempt to throw acoustics (INAUDIBLE) - acoustic guitars into a dumpster. The event raised $800 for the animal group, and once they pay for the guitars they smashed, that means almost $6.50 will go to help care for area strays.

Still, it went better than last year's Ferrari Crashup Derby.

Finally to the city of Chenai, India, where young Kapish (ph) there is the apple of his father's eye. At 4 years old, he is already behind the wheel of the family car. Kapish's dad says he's been giving the kid lessons almost every day, and even though it's highly dangerous and completely illegal, you just can't argue with how goshdarn cute he is sitting there.

Quite impressive to boot, if you consider what the traffic is like in India. No wonder Kapish's dad is looking for somebody else to take the wheel. Guy's nerves are probably gone. If this was your daily commute, handing over the keys to your toddler might not seem like a bad idea.

Certainly Mel Gibson would have been better off handing his keys to Kapish. Gibson's drunken tirade criticizing the Jewish people could end his superstar status. We'll try to get the bottom of the latest - or to the bottom of the latest reports about rehab.

Meantime, not showing up for work should definitely be a career-ender. The Hollywood exec who figuratively slapped around Lindsay Lohan on paper goes on camera to figuratively slap her around again.

Details ahead.

But first, time for Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, an unidentified passenger aboard a Cathay Pacific plane going from Hong Kong to Tokyo. As the plane taxied before takeoff, she had her new Gucci handbag on her lap. Flight crew told her to put it under the seat in front of her. She refused to let the Gucci handbag out of her grip. The flight was delayed by an hour. She eventually got off the plane rather than take her hands off her new handbag for a moment.

(INAUDIBLE) new handbag.

Number two, Alan Dechert, the president of the Open Voting Foundation. He says researchers were able to open up and change the vote totals inside one of those notorious Diebold voting machines, rig the vote, in other words. All they needed to do it was a screwdriver. Wait, now, you need a screwdriver? Just tapping on the machine on the side doesn't work anymore? What the hell?

And number one, I'll just read the Associated Press lead paragraph of this story. Iowa City, Iowa, an unidentified middle-aged bicyclist was trapped under a Girls Gone Wild full-sized charter bus Tuesday night for about 20 minutes. And sir, your complaint was what, exactly?


OLBERMANN: It has, in short, everything, celebrity, alcoholism, hypocrisy, anti-Semitism, sexism, paranoia, spin, a trip into a recovery program, audiotapes, a coverup, and best of all, a mug shot.

Our third story on the Countdown, to paraphrase myself when we started the infamous ESPN 2, good evening, Mel Gibson, and welcome to the end of your career.

In a moment, the exact likelihood of that with our guest Tom O'Neil of "InTouch" weekly, and a special announcement about Mel Gibson Driving School Puppet Theater.

But first, from our correspondent George Lewis in Los Angeles tonight, the details of the dassion (ph) of the Christ.


GEORGE LEWIS, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today there were questions all around Tinseltown about whether Mel Gibson's drunken tantrum would hut his career. It all began early Friday morning.

(on camera): According to the sheriff's department, Gibson was arrested along this stretch of Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu doing 87 miles-an-hour in his Lexus. The speed limit her is 45.

(voice-over): A written arrest report obtain by the celebrity gossip site, says Gibson made repeated anti-Semitic remarks, among them, "The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world." and he tried to get away. And yet the sheriff's department said the arrest was "without incident."

HARVEY LEVIN, TMZ.COM: He tried escaping. He had to be subdued, physically subdued and cuffed and thrown in the police car. That is not without incident.

MEL GIBSON, ACTOR: Please join me in supporting the L.A. Sheriff.

LEWIS: Gibson has close ties to the sheriff's department, even appearing in a deputy's uniform for this 2002 public service announcement.

STEVE WHITMORE, SHERIFF'S DEPT. SPOKESMAN: Does that relationship lead to favoritism? The answer is no. Does that relationship lead to sanitization of a report? Absolutely not.

LEWIS: Gibson issued a statement apologizing for his behave saying, "I did a number of things that were very wrong and for which I am ashamed." But it didn't quiet his critics.


that Mel Gibson issued, was really a P.R. exercise.

LEWIS: So how much will it hurt Gibson? While some Hollywood types are calling for the industry to shun him, the consensus here is that it'll blow over. And if Gibson keeps making blockbuster likes "Braveheart" this town will forgive his sins.

George Lewis, NBC News, Hollywood.


OLBERMANN: Let's call in the senior editor of "In Touch Weekly," Tom O'Neil to check that out.

Tom, thanks for some of your time tonight.

TOM O'NEIL, "IN TOUCH WEEKLY": Good to be here, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Let's fact check something, first. There's a lot of different versions - stories out tonight, contradicting information about rehab, a program of recovery is one spokesman said. Us the term "rehab" and you'll be wrong, another spokesman said, and somebody in the industry, in the rehab industry said it was like a 12-step AA-like program. What do you know? Where did he go?

O'NEIL: Well, all we know is that he is not at home and that he is in professional care. I spoke to one of Mel's lawyers within the last hour who said that all of this will be cleared up tomorrow, that there will be a public statement in the morning.

OLBERMANN: All right, let's turn to the $640 million question. Is it over? Is this the kind of career damage from which nobody could come back?

O'NEIL: I don't know how he could ever get out of it one, Keith. Think about this, this isn't just hypocrisy, this is religious hypocrisy on a huge scale. This man is almost Christ-like himself, he had this vision for the movie about Jesus and he went outside the Hollywood system, defied it, he took it worldwide and made $670 million. He's more than just a movie hero to people, from "Lethal Weapon" movies and the rest of it. He believes passionately in his Jesus and his faith. And now he's spewing religious hatred. This isn't like catching the Reverend Jimmy Falwell, excuse me, Jimmy Swaggart is the one I'm thinking of - in the no-tell motel with a shady lady.

OLBERMANN: All right, so you have fulsome apology, he called his - what he said, "despicable," into some sort of medical care. It's very serious damage control, but it is not as if he uttered a drunken errant word. They were complete sentences; he refers to Jewish people, all Jewish people, made a crass remark to police woman that sort of got paved over in this, threatens revenge. This is not Hugh Grant on Hollywood Boulevard. Has anybody, to your memory, ever damage controlled something this serious or is this almost Fatty Arbuckle levels?

O'NEIL: Oh, this is Fatty Arbuckle level, and of course he certainly never recovered from that. I don't know how Mel rallies from this, especially in Jewish Hollywood. Think about this. Now he is returning to the fold this fall with his $50 million opus "Apocalypto" which is some obscure Miamian language, it doesn't have the fanatical Christian following that "The Passion of the Christ" did. And now these - so he needs the studio system back again and I'm not so sure that they're going to be forgiving in this case.

OLBERMANN: And let's just clarify so nobody puts you on that list of folks who said things. When you said Jewish Hollywood, you meant the Jewish community in Hollywood, not "Jewish Hollywood."

O'NEIL: Oh yes, exactly. Yes, absolutely.

OLBERMANN: Just wanted to double check on that. What could he do? How would he - I mean, we have that moment where Hugh Grant stepped back in to the limelight, where he said, you know, you do a good thing and bad thing and I did a bad thing, went on the "Jay Leno Show," remade his career, made Jay Leno's career over again. Is there a step like that, that you could even consider to start with as damage control - the first public appearance by Mel Gibson, after this?

O'NEIL: Oh absolutely. He'll make his virtual act of contrition, publicly, whether it be with Oprah or whether it'll be with, I don't know, Larry King, I don't know. Maybe he'll get a papal blessing from Bill O'Reilly. That should clear everything up, shouldn't it?


But, he's got certainly have to talk squarely with everybody, and honestly and I think we can certainly expect that. What happens next - I think we all wish him well, but he's been suspected of this anti-Semitism for so long, that's what's really the problem here. His father, of course is among the people who say the holocaust was overblown, it was never that big. And Mel has never really renounced that, strenuously, and since then he's been accused of having very anti-Semitic sections of "Passion of the Christ" in there and he kept saying, "well it's like the Bible, I'm not staying from the bible here." So, this suspicion of all suspicions really hurts.

OLBERMANN: Well, if he goes on O'Reilly, at least Mel could claim he's drunk. You know, at least (INAUDIBLE)


O'NEIL: Well you know, the.

OLBERMANN: Final question here about this whole - the - clearly this record in the case, it was to some degree, if not sanitized, the portions were redacted. Let's put it that way. Is that standard procedure in Hollywood? I mean, judging by all the stories that are in, that you cover and the ones that I cover, it seems like 99.9 percent of the celebrities who get in trouble immediately hit the front page. Is this an oddity or does this happen more than we know?

O'NEIL: Right. It's fairly common historically, but not in the age of audiotapes and videotapes. They got him this time with that audiotape.

Yeah, we'll see if we ever hear that. Tom O'Neil with "In Touch Weekly." History divides evenly into those times that you're interviewing me and those times I'm interviewing you. Thanks for both times.

O'NEIL: Thanks.

OLBERMANN: And as threatened, this special Countdown programming announcement. What really happened when police pull over Mel Gibson? And it was evidentially a car full of paranoia and Ripple. The sheriff's office will not release the audiotapes, has yet to even release the mug shot, and thus they force my hand.

Join us tomorrow for a special Countdown investigation, what really happened? "Mel Gibson Driving School Puppet Theater," Countdown tomorrow night 8:00 - at Midnight Eastern, 5:00 and 9:00 Pacific.

And another celeb up the creek. Lindsay Lohan allegedly parties too hard and she just doesn't show up for work. One studio exec lays down the law and now does it again on camera.

She should have used this excuse. One of the four runways at LAX was closed, another nail to add to your commuting headache and still one more courtesy Katie Couric. Details ahead, but first here are Countdown "Top 3 Newsmakers" of this day.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to nail you here. I checked your voting

record. You have not voted once while you've been in office. You going to

defend that? Or you're not in the United States, you're in the district of

Columbia. Those aren't states. It's not the United States and the


ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON (D), DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: You are the first to suggest that the nation's capitol is not in the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think it is.

HOLMES: Oh, my goodness.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I spoke the folk over at the (INAUDIBLE) police department who tell me there were no incidents at all regarding any of the stripers out here on the river.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't you think if we were going to flash somebody we would have charged them $20.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not only that, but we wouldn't do it around children.

BRUCE EBELL, GOLFER: But a big hole in the umbrella and hit the driver directly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Bruce Ebell will tell you a little luck never hurts, a lightning bolt struck feet away.

EBELL: And I was standing on the deck and it wasn't a minute or two later when BAM!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bolt missed Bruce. His bag wasn't as lucky.

(on camera): This is what it normal driver looks like, but this is what it looks like now.


OLBERMANN: If you haven't flown in a while, this word from someone who has. Don't! Our No. 2 story on the Countdown, if you're trying to fly from Washington to New York, expect possible delays due to Katie Couric saturation. Details on that in a moment, first, a warning about travel to L.A. The fifth busiest airport in the nation will be rebuilding one of its four runways, so flights in and out may take longer. It took me 10-1/2 hours to get there from New York 10 days ago, exactly how much longer are we talking here? Months? Some answers from LAX from our correspondent Tom Costello.


TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Runway 25 left at LAX has a design flaw and a bad reputation for close calls. This weekend they finally threw the barricades, painted yellow crosses on the concrete and told pilots it's off limits. For the next eight months the fifth busiest airport in the world will operate on three runways, not four.

NANCY CASTLES, LOS ANGELES INTL. AIRPORT: This year alone we've had six runway incursions. Last year we were at eight.

COSTELLO: A runway incursions is when two planes nearly collide on the same runway. The most serious incident in years happened just last week when an arriving America West plane pulled right in front of a departing United Express flight. The LAX solution, rip up runway 25 left, move it 55 feet to the south, and include a new taxiway down the center so pilots don't accidentally pull onto an active runway. It will give the airport more room to the giant 380, that will start landing at Los Angeles within a year or two. Important work, but passengers wonder if losing ¼ of the runways will also lead to congestion and delays.

ELI DORTNOY, LOS ANGELES TRAVELER: Do I fly out of here or do I go to Long Beach or do I go to Burbank? I mean there's just some other options for some of my destinations.

COSTELLO: Even with 1,800 flights each day, LAX says the delays should be minimal, only five minutes during the peak morning and evening rush hours. Still, airlines are adding more taxi time to their schedules, just to be safe.

PETER GREENBERG, "TODAY" SHOW TRAVEL EDITOR: The impact on the daily traveler is this, your plane may push back from the gate on time at LAZ, but you may be doing a lot of taxiing you had no intention of doing, and you might be No. 33 in a very large conga line.

COSTELLO: The first big test came today with the LAX Monday rush, 60 to 70 flights an hour, 75 percent capacity and the only delay, according to the airport, due to fog.

For Countdown, I'm Tom Costello, NBC News.


OLBERMANN: And now a runway concursion of different kind. With the caveat that even the complainants not that what Katie did cost the flight absolutely no time, in fact they got in 10 minutes early. It's still one of those celebrities gone wild stories that makes everybody cringe.

A Delta shuttle flight from Washington to New York, last Wednesday, reportedly experiencing a Katie Couric delay. So reports the 52 percent reliable "New York Post." It quotes a public relations executive, clearly not one working for Ms. Couric, nor CBS, who says that the doors had been closed, the crews told to prepare for crosscheck, and the passengers buckled in, when Ms. Couric got out of her seat and told a flight attendant she needed to talk to the pilot. She was permitted into the cockpit, wherein she convinced the pilot to delay the flight so one of her producers, late arriving, could board. That's right, k-k-k-Katie in the c-c-c-cockpit. Delta says unusual situations like that happen every day and the crews try to accommodate passengers whenever possible. Yeah, right.

Through a spokesperson Ms. Couric conformed the story adding that Katie only spoke to the pilot after receiving permission from a flight attendant.

Bet she wouldn't have done that for Bob Schieffer.

To our nightly round up of celebrity and entertainment news, "Keeping Tabs." And it's and easy segue from the jeers Katie Couric got for leaving her seat to the heckling another celebrity got for rising from his seat.

Last night at Fenway Park, Boston the Los Angeles Angels visiting the Red Sox, when Boston's Alex Gonzalez sends a popped foul along the first baseline, Angels first baseman Howie Kendrick goes over near the dugout and scatches the ball away from a fan to retire the side. But wait, that's no ordinary fan, it's super-hunk, Ben Affleck sitting in the Red Sox's owner's seats. Mr. Affleck, who, after failing to get the ball was loudly booed by the Boston faithful for not doing more to interfere with the catch that cost the home team an out. Thus, at today's baseball trading deadline, the Red Sox dealt Affleck to the Los Angeles Dodgers for infielder Cesar Izturis.

I'm sorry, that was the Chicago Cubs trading Greg Maddox to the Dodgers for infielder, Cesar Izturis. And the Pittsburgh Pirates traded Roberto Hernandez and Oliver Perez to Kid Rock for Pamela Anderson. You're mom's been traded for Pamela Anderson.

"People" magazine reporting that on Saturday, Miss Anderson and Mr. Rock were married in a ceremony on a yacht in the Mediterranean. As you can see here, Mr. Rock wore his finest Tiger's hat and beefy t-shirt. Miss Anderson wore a veil and a (COUGHING) white dress. The wedding is not considered legal by French officials because it was not performed in the office of the mayor of St. Tropez, which is actually just a different yacht from that one.

Call it revenge of the studio execs. Hollywood a twitter with the very public smack down of Lindsay Lohan. The analysis of Michael Musto, next. That's ahead, but first, time for Countdown's latest list of nominees for "Worst Person in the World."

The Bronze tonight to a young woman identified by local media in Ohio as Maria Bergen, she walked into the Moose Head Saloon in Westlake, Ohio and was carded by a waitress there. Miss Bergen showed a drivers license that was not her own, it was the waitresses. The license, along with her wallet and credit cards had been stolen from the waitress early in the month.

The runner up, Senator Rick "Man on Dog" Santorum, still down by a lot in the polls in his reelection bid in Pennsylvania, but hitting a new high and low, announcing in a TV commercial and even on national newscasts - well, on O'Reilly, that his opponent, Bob Casey had been endorsed by al-Jazeera. He left the impression it was the al-Jazeera TV network. In fact it was the al-Jazeerah Cross-Cultural Foundation. Jazeerah with an "ah," based not in Qatar, but Dolton, Georgia.

But the winner: You out there. The unidentified L.A. to New York passenger from last night. You who took that fold-over wheeled flight bag off the luggage carrousel at JFK Airport and then drove away. Even though you should have noticed that the bag was made by a different manufacturer than yours was and that bag did not have the big red glow in the dark tag identifying you as working with Mindy Weiss Party Planers in L.A.

Yes, that was my bag you took, not yours. And that'll happen. And United Airlines did a nice job getting a hold of you telling of your carelessness, and thus I only lost 40 minutes of my life waiting for you to return my bag that didn't have the Mindy Weiss Party Planners tag on it. I'm not complaining about that part, but at least you could have said you were sorry for the inconvenience or had the driver you sent in to make the switch instead of you personally doing it say "I'm sorry." Courtesy is not that common, after all.

The woman who could not be bothered to say "sorry." Today's "Worst Person in the World."


OLBERMANN: It is, for you fans of the HBO series "Entourage," all too familiar. Young, hot movie star gets in a beef with the head of the movie studio and before you can say, "remember what happened to Mel Gibson" the young, not movie star is publicly upgraded, fired and buried. It happens, in fact, to be the show's current plot line. In our No. 1 story in the Countdown, it's no guest shot on "Entourage" though, for Lindsay Lohan, its' the real thing.

Details from Hollywood and correspondent Maria Menounos. And by the way, why they don't make Jeremy Piven's Asian caricature the focal point of "Entourage" I do not know.


MARIA MENOUNOS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Lindsay Lohan, one of the most popular hot young stars in Hollywood, now in hot water with her boss who fired off a stern letter last week, "We are well aware that your ongoing all nigh heavy partying is the real reason for your so called 'exhaustion.' We refuse to accept bogus excuses for your behavior."

JIM ROBINSON, CEO OF MORGAN CREEK PRODUCTIONS: I think sometimes with these young stars, no one tells them, hey, you got an obligation. You know, you're getting paid good money, you have a great, great life. Show up.

MENOUNOS: Jim Robinson, the head of the production company making Lohan's next movie, talking on camera for the first time about the letter he fired off, chewing out his biggest stars for missing work too many times.

ROBINSON: We got an e-mail back from that Lindsay would not be there the following day and that was unacceptable. So I sat down and wrote the letter and wrote it again, and wrote about five or six times.

MENOUNOS: Robinson says the 20-year-old's active social life has disrupted the filming of "Georgia Rule," a movie co-staring Jane Fonda and Felicity Huffman. He does not believe Lohan's claim she missed a day due to heat exhaustion.

ROBINSON: If she had enough strength and energy to go partying, then she should have strength and energy to go to work.

MENOUNOS: Lohan, through her publicist refused to answer questions for this story. But over the weekend, the star's mother criticizing the letter.

DINA LOHAN, LINDSAY'S MOTHER: The wording was ridiculous.

MENOUNOS: Telling "Access Hollywood" that the movie meltdown reported in papers across the country was simply an exaggeration.

LOHAN: I mean, OK. I mean, she's a human being, you know. She's got

you know, there was a day where she was a little bit late and they worked the schedule around her and it was fine.

MENOUNOS: But the chief of Morgan Creek Productions says every day Lohan is late or missing from stage three at (INAUDIBLE) studios, it's costing him about $20,000 to $25,000 an hour, prompting him to tell her "you have acted like a spoiled child."

JOEL STEIN, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": Yeah, executives never talk to stars this way. But this is an old guy, he's a millionaire. He doesn't care anymore. He's going to call her a spoiled child. I like him.

MENOUNOS (on camera): But the stern warning may not be slowing Lindsay down. She was seen partying at several trendy bars and restraints after the letter was delivered, leaving many to wonder whether she's worried about her job.

(voice-over): Friday night she was spotted at Le Du (ph) a trendy nightclub in Hollywood. Saturday nigh she showed up at the Hardrock Hotel in Los Vegas with her boyfriend. A celebrity videographer who goes by the name "Dano" says he sees Lohan out on the town at least four nights a week.

"DANO", CELEBRITY VIDEOGRAPHER: She needs to tame it down a little bit. But, maybe she's doing a little research for her role. I don't know.

MENOUNOS: Even if the party isn't over for Lohan, there are signs the infamous letter got her attention.

ROBINSON: She did apologize to the cast and to the crew, and that's good enough for me.

MENOUNOS: Lohan's boss hopes this story has a happy ending. She has shown up for work on time since the scolding.

Maria Menounos, NBC News, Hollywood.


OLBERMANN: And joining now for his ever-unique perspective, "Village Voice" columnist, Michael Musto.

Good evening, Michael.

MICHAEL MUSTO, "VILLAGE VOICE": Hi Keith, I'm right on time.

OLBERMANN: Good, think you. I know that - there's never really been a performer who's won a battle with executives since like, Charlie Chaplain and Mary Pickford in 1922. But in this fight, are we seeing the return of the old fashioned studio smackdown?

MUSTO: Oh I hope so. Yeah, this is like when LB Mayer told Judy Garland you're going to pop pills, you're going to lose weight and you're going work your butt off, honey. It ruined her life, but who cares, she made some fabulous movies. This is a return to that. Of course, but Lindsay's life was already ruined. And she doesn't always make fabulous movies, but I love seeing stars being told who's' the boss. I think a letter should go out to Judy Dent (ph) saying, you don't party enough, lighten up, you're a morose woman.

OLBERMANN: This is the 21st century, no late-night activities are secret anymore. She must have know that would have been more compelling if she'd told the studio "the dog ate my script" or, you know, "I lost a leg in a accident" or something?

MUSTO: Or in her case, maybe my dad peed on the sculpt. But, no, no, no he's in jail, he couldn't have done that. But look, she should have said, like that guy just said, that she was researching the movie. I looked up this movie, Keith, it's about, guess what, a rambunctious rebellious, teen girl who needs to be straightened out. She should have said how can I go play that part unless I go be rambunctious at clubs every night. Lord knows I don't want to.

OLBERMANN: As mentioned if the Maria Menounos hard-hitting investigative report there, Miss Lohan's mother, Dina, said the wording of the letter was ridiculous. Was it - are they complaining about that spoiled child reference? What, is she not spoiled or not a child or what?

MUSTO: Yeah, it's like the mother is saying, oh, she's not spoiled, I mean, she's just exhausted from boogying all night and then she doesn't feel like working and earning her kazillion dollar paycheck everyday. How is that spoiled? Then again, bare in mind, the mother is an ex-Rockette, all she really know is the human domino routine and how to avoid the camel (INAUDIBLE) in the living activity sequence.

OLBERMANN: The other quote from mom here was, "Lindsay was in 105-degree weather saying 'mommy, I feel sick like I'm going to faint.'" Would Lindsay Lohan be better off in mommy just stayed the hell out of this.

MUSTO: Well, actually, I think mom is sweet and she's being supportive. She always has been, but in this case, she's going too far, a little too protective. She's a little bit like John Wayne Gacy's mother who's like, he's a little flawed, but I'm proud of the guy. He's a terrific artist.

OLBERMANN: All right, we have breaking news and you're just the man to join us. Check this out, bring it on up, folks. It's the Mel Gibson mug shot. Here it is, can you see it?

MUSTO: I'm not looking, but if I were I could see it, yes.

OLBERMANN: And there's just on hair out of place.

MUSTO: That's Nick Nolte. That's Nick Nolte.

OLBERMANN: No, that's Mel - that's the Mel Gibson mug shot just released by the L.A. County Sheriff's Department. So we'll interrupt the Lindsay Lohan breaking news to bring you a quick Mel Gibson breaking news. You haven't chimes in on all of this, Michael. Is - give me that overview, what do you think the big debate here is as we look at him smiling sadly into the camera, if that's possible? Is his career ended on a Malibu highway early Saturday morning.

MUSTO: Unfortunately, no because he works alone anyway. He doesn't with anybody else and his audience is already anti-Semitic, so they're deeply proud of him after this. But I can actually tie these two stories together because Lindsay recently offered Mel a ride Herby the Love Bug, which was fully loaded and she was too. And Mel declined because Herby's a Jewish name. But he does like Lindsay's sugar boobs.

OLBERMANN: Yes, well "boobs" was not the word that Gibson used for the officer.

MUSTO: Well, I'm a gentleman, thank you.

OLBERMANN: So there it is.

MUSTO: And I adore Jews.

OLBERMANN: The one and only Michael Musto. Great thanks for your time tonight.

MUSTO: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: And that was Friday morning. Let's see that picture one more time as we.

MUSTO: Freaky Friday.

OLBERMANN: Show Gibson again. This is the just breaking news, here.

Breaking news.

That's Countdown for this, the 1,187th day since the declaration of "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq.

I'm Keith Olbermann. Goodnight and good luck.

Our MSNBC coverage continues now with "Scarborough Country." Tucker Carlson sitting in tonight. Tucker, breaking news, the Mel Gibson picture.


Friday, July 28, 2006

No show. Not sure why.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for July 27

Guests: Jack Jacobs, Barbara Lippert

BRIAN UNGER, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Settling in for the long slog in the Middle East. Israel decides it won't launch a larger ground invasion, but calls up tens of thousands of more troops. Is there any end in sight to the fighting and the suffering?

Al Qaeda's call to arms. Osama's number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri's message from beyond, again. This time, urging Muslims to join the fight in Lebanon.

Flip-flop alert. Senatorial candidate Michael Steele, outed by his own staff after an anonymous luncheon, where he criticized the Bush administration. Now he says he was only kidding, and that the president is his homeboy.


GEORGE MICHAEL: I have not cheated or lied about my sex life.


UNGER: And finally, George Michael explains it all, why men like him wait into the bush to hook up with guys like this.


MICHAEL: Women almost never understand this phenomenon. Many more men than will admit it totally understand the concept.


UNGER: Now that you have seen the picture, you know why the sparks flew.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Headon, apply directly to the forehead.


UNGER: Got a headache?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Headon, apply directly to the forehead.

UNGER: Wait. Where should I apply it?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Headon, apply directly to the forehead.


UNGER: The most annoying commercial of all time -




UNGER:... could be the most brilliant commercial ever. Oh, how it hurts.

All that and more, now on Countdown.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Headon, apply directly to the forehead.


UNGER: And good evening. I'm Brian Unger, in for the vacationing Keith Olbermann.

What began as a mission to destroy Hezbollah has instead become a mission to contain it.

Our fifth story on the Countdown, day 16 of the Middle East (INAUDIBLE) crisis, bringing a change in strategy for the Israeli military. In the words of one Israeli official, quote, "The target is not to totally dismantle Hezbollah. What we are doing now is to try to send a message."

Sending that message proving to be a lot more difficult than many had thought. The prime minister of Israel forced to call up at least 30,000 additional troops to begin training for duty in Lebanon.

In a moment, the cost of staying the course, and taking the fight to Hezbollah, with Medal of Honor winner Colonel Jack Jacobs.

But we begin with the price being paid by innocent civilians.

Their story from our Beirut bureau chief, Richard Engel, in southern Lebanon.


RICHARD ENGEL, BEIRUT BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): The ambulances race south into the center of the fighting, through empty villages, on dirt roads, past bombed gas stations. Our driver struggled to keep up.

The goal, to reach Tivnin (ph), a village 10 miles from the Israeli border. It was rumored everyone there was holed up in a hospital, hoping it was safe from Israeli air strikes.

The rumors were true. The hospital was full of refugees. Mattresses in every corner, nothing to eat but bread and canned meat, water running low, power off and on, and only one doctor.

(on camera): Every person who stayed in this village is now living here. There are about 300 people in this hospital, and they all want to leave.

(voice-over): But they can't afford to. Taxis now charge up to $1,000 to drive the dangerous road to Beirut.

Abir Baz (ph) walked here. "They bombed my neighbor's house, and we had to leave," she said. She walked 10 miles to get here, just hours after she gave birth to her son six days ago.

In the ER, we found 70-year-old Latifah Nasir (ph). Dr. Nabil Harkoos (ph) said an Israeli shell destroyed her house.

Latifah was dehydrated, her pelvis broken too. Medics tried to raise her gently to give her water. Dr. Harkoos was frustrated, exhausted, and disgusted.

DR. NABIL HARKOOS: It's terrible, terrible. There is no humanity.

ENGEL: Latifah was finally evacuated, but Abir wept as the only ambulance returned to Tyre, leaving her and her baby behind.

(on camera): While people are trapped in that village, more are leaving here. Today, the mayor of Tyre said of the 275,000 people who normally live in this city, 200,000 of them have escaped, Brian.


UNGER: Richard Engel in southern Lebanon. Thank you very much.

Day 16 of this conflict, and the only thing that seems certain is more bloodshed to come. Israel had said it was going to destroy Hezbollah. Now it appears it may not be able to.

We get more on the shifting reality, if not resolve, from John Irvine of our British partner ITN, on the front lines with the Israeli army.


JOHN IRVINE, ITV NEWS (voice-over): Israeli soldiers with a Hezbollah flag. Flaunting the enemy's colors may encourage a worried public, but in truth, the army doesn't have much to show for this campaign.

Perhaps this is a more telling image. These tired soldiers are from the Galani (ph) Brigade, the most respected units in the Israeli army. These young men lost nine of their colleagues in fighting yesterday, and they were getting ready to head back to the front line.

This is the well-worn path the Israelis are using to enter south Lebanon to engage Hezbollah fighters in two key villages close to the border. They don't want to go deep into Lebanon. At the moment, they can supply the fighting units from their own side of the frontier and rotate them in and out of enemy territory.

(on camera): We are actually inside Lebanon, and what you are seeing here is Israeli armor heading for the border. These crews are going back into Israel, where they'll get a well-earned rest.

(voice-over): Despite the problems, the Israeli government has decided to persevere with limited incursions. A full-scale invasion is something they want to avoid, although, by calling up more reserves, they are keeping all their options open.

GEN. SHUKI SHICHAR, ISRAELI DEFENSE FORCE: We did not use until now all the response that we have. And if we will find that we have to use more, we will find a way.

IRVINE: This afternoon, more Hezbollah rockets landed in the largely abandoned northern town of Kiryat Shmona. There's nobody working in this toothpaste factory, so the toll was only structural.

The missiles keep coming. Nobody is suggesting the Israelis are fighting a losing battle, but this nation knows victory will require further sacrifice.

John Irvine, ITV News, on the Israel-Lebanon border.


UNGER: As promised, time now to call in retired U.S. Army colonel and Medal of Honor recipient Jack Jacobs.

Thank you for your time tonight, Colonel.

COL. JACK JACOBS (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Good evening, Brian.

UNGER: Jack, heading into this conflict, Israel declared that Hezbollah would be dealt a blow from which it could not recover, that its arsenal would be completely destroyed and its fighters driven out of southern Lebanon. Clearly, not going the way Israel had expected. Right?

JACOBS: No, it hasn't gone the way it expected, and part of the reason is that it failed to commit sufficient forces in order to accomplish the mission. You always start at the end and work backwards. What is it I'm trying to do?

Well, if they wanted to expel Hezbollah, destroy Hezbollah, or at least take control of the 10 to 12 miles or so north of the border between Lebanon and Israel, so that Hezbollah would not be able to fire rockets onto Israel, well, they certainly didn't commit sufficient forces in order to do it. They only had four brigades in there, or perhaps even less, and they're rotating them through. They just did not want to make the commitment to get it done.

UNGER: Jack, in these 10 to 12 miles that you speak of in this buffer zone, what is it about Hezbollah here that has proven to be so difficult for any army?

JACOBS: Well, there are two things that come immediately to mind. First of all, they - Hezbollah's had six years to build up their resources in the area. They've dug down deep. They have reinforced bunkers. They have defensive positions in depth.

And that makes it extremely difficult to rout them out, and why you need many more forces. In addition to that, they're are situated among all the populace that's in southern Lebanon, and they're also among friends. This is Shia territory, not like northern Lebanon, or northern part of Beirut, which is predominantly Christian.

This is Shia territory. The bad guys are interspersed with the population, and they've had a long time to get themselves prepared for this.

UNGER: Colonel, you have amazing and great experience and expertise from your time in Vietnam. And I wanted to ask you this question. And based on what we're seeing here, in - on the border and in Lebanon, has warfare and ground warfare just changed forever this idea of armies facing one another? As we - perhaps in World War II, even different then.

But is any army invincible anymore? And do ground wars - are they always going to look like this from now on?

JACOBS: Well, they won't necessarily look like this. It depends largely upon what the objectives are and who the enemy is. Here, you have a stateless enemy that's been given a certain amount of protection by default by the Lebanese government, and they've had a long time to prepare, and as a result of that, you need to make the decision to commit large numbers of troops in order to get rid of them.

We see the same sort of thing in Iraq, don't we? In a situation in which we committed far too few forces in order to get the job done.

In situations like this, where we're fighting stateless warriors, people who are committed to, in this case, jihad, who have absolutely - or consider themselves to have absolutely nothing to lose, you better not try to do it on the cheap. You've got to have overwhelming combat power and then some.

And if you decide that you're going to try to do something, and you won't have the resources to do it, you might as well not try to do it at all.

And you also have to have a stomach, unfortunately, for collateral damage. The population is in the middle. Good guys have guns. Bad guys have guns. And the civilians, unfortunately, do not, and they're going to suffer the most. If you don't have the stomach for that, you ought not to try it in the first place.

UNGER: Well, we're definitely seeing a lot of that on both sides.

This new strategy, quickly, Jack, this containing Hezbollah, from the military standpoint, how do you live with a sustainable amount of terror in your back yard?

JACOBS: Well, it ain't going to work. I don't think it's going to work. They've gone from deciding that they want to clear out 12 miles to clearing out one mile. It's not going to work. Quite frankly, the Hezbollah has got the range on their missiles to continue firing in northern Israel.

Nothing would have been accomplished if you settle for that. And unfortunately, it's - their plan now is not going to work.

UNGER: Retired U.S. Army colonel Jack Jacobs, thank you for your time tonight.

JACOBS: Good to be with you.

UNGER: The bloodshed in Iraq today far exceeding that of even Lebanon. More than 51 killed in a string of bombings and shootings, nearly three dozen in just one precisely timed Baghdad attack, a car bomb and at least three mortar shells raining down on an upscale, mostly Shiite neighborhood of the city, 100 dying across that country on any given day now.

As a result, any American family thinking their soldier is coming home soon may be in for a nasty surprise. All flights out of Iraq for troops at the end of deployment have been canceled, while the military tries to figure out how to make Baghdad safe.

No surprise, then, that morale is low among U.S. troops, one soldier telling "The Washington Post" that he longs for the days of World War II, when at least you knew who the enemy was, another saying, and I quote, "Honestly, it just feels like we're driving around waiting to get blown up."

Iraq, the Middle East, the not-so-light stuff that U.N. Ambassador Josh Bolton has to deal with every day. So perhaps it was good that he was given a little levity from above, a light shower interrupting his testimony on Capitol Hill.

Yes, that's water draining down on the ambassador. At least we hope that is water. Ambassador Bolton, in stormy weather for the Bush administration's foreign policy on just about every front, making it clear that indoor weather should not be one of them.


JOHN BOLTON, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: I have seen a lot of things to interpose in between...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not responsible for this, I might say, I'm not responsible for this.

BOLTON:... to interpose in between the questions and the witnesses.

But I've never seen this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a form of transparency, I suppose.


UNGER: First of all, it is John Bolton, not Josh Bolton, my apologies. No rain delay necessary here. A trash can containing the damage of the water. That is, U.S. foreign policy, no such luck. The water blamed on a leak, apparently from a pipe. But Patrick Fitzgerald is being called in to investigate, just in case.

Al Qaeda is calling on Muslims everywhere to join the fight against Israel. But is it realistic to think that Hezbollah and al Qaeda would ever join forces?

And joining sides with your homeboy. Just days after a Republican candidate for Senate disses the president big-time, now all of a sudden Bush is back to homeboy status. Political flip-flop of the week.

You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.


UNGER: Since the Middle East erupted 16 days ago, Western leaders, diplomatic envoys, and hard-line regimes have all laid out their positions on the conflict.

Now, in our fourth story, al Qaeda weighs in, Ayman al-Zawahiri appearing in a highly produced video, exhorting Muslims to fight and become martyrs in response to the Lebanon conflict, and warning that al Qaeda will not stand by during the bombing, though he stopped short of actually saying what his terrorist organization might contribute.

As to his location, well, it looks like he is in a TV studio. Upon closer inspection, he could be anywhere, U.S. intelligence officials pointing out that the strange lighting and the fuzziness around Zawahiri means he might have been superimposed onto sort of a snazzy set, replete with images, track lighting, and graphics.

Adding to that theory, at least two different edit points in the video caused Zawahiri's image to jerk while the background remains the same.

I'm joined now by terrorism expert and MSNBC analyst Juliette Kayyem.

Thanks for your time, Juliette.


UNGER: I want to talk more about the setting in which this video took place in a moment. But first, let me ask you, Juliette, about the tape's content, al Qaeda obviously offering its support to Hezbollah against Israel, even though Zawahiri never mentions them by name, and even though al Qaeda is Sunni Muslim, and Hezbollah is Shiite.

Is al Qaeda attempting to sort of unify the Muslim world here against the infidels, as sort of a pan-Arab appeal?

KAYYEM: Yes, I think so. There's two things going on here. One is, clearly al Qaeda just wants to steal some of the thunder of Hezbollah. They are the - Hezbollah's the player right now. This is where everyone's attention is focused. And so al Qaeda's sitting back there without a lot to talk about right now, wants basically to take credit for a movement that has certainly passed them by.

We've seen al Qaeda do this before, when Hamas won the Palestinian elections, they said, well, that's all about us. It's a sort of, you know, Enough about them, let's talk about us kind of take.

What's more interesting, though, is, I really think that this is - this tape is as significant as a post-Zarqawi death tape. AND What I mean by that is, Zarqawi spent a lot of time separating Shia and Sunnis and basically causing what's close to a civil war in Iraq.

What is happening in this tape and the al Qaeda tape is that they're saying Shias and Sunnis actually have a common enemy, Israel and the United States. We have more in common than we don't. The Zarqawi days are over, and let's all focus on the common enemy of all of us.

UNGER: Would Hezbollah accept any real help from al Qaeda? And how would the two ever converge? I mean, how would that be realistic?

KAYYEM: Well, there's - I mean - I know, it's - I mean, there's - technically, it would be very difficult at this stage, although there is some al Qaeda in Lebanon. Hezbollah is the player right now in southern Lebanon.

But Hezbollah's very interesting, to this extent. They are a political party in Lebanon. They play politics within a democratic Arab state. And so they're basically, you know, at the stage where it doesn't help them to embrace the al Qaeda movement, for a variety of reasons.

One is they are Shia, not Sunni, and two is, they have a lot of sympathy, I think, from the Lebanese right now in a way that they wouldn't if they embraced, say, bin Laden right now.

UNGER: Pardon the superficiality of this issue I want to ask you about, but the tape itself. There's higher production value on this tape. And this is a far stretch from the images we've seen in caves. What, what, what, when you see these kinds of superimpositions and kind of a set here, what, what, what do you interpret from that?

KAYYEM: Well, I mean, like most everyone who saw it this morning, I mean, there certainly is not a cave. Even if Zawahiri is superimposed, that still says something about the technology of al Qaeda and their communications branch in trying to get the message out.

So I think it's bad news all around, because one has to assume, as we all do, that if they're able to have this kind of production value, they are clearly able to communicate with one another, and that's what you don't want. You, of course, don't want a terrorist movement that feels empowered, or at least feels sort of safe enough to be able to communicate amongst themselves.

UNGER: Is, is - let me ask you, though, how serious a threat we should perceive from this video. Is this an attempt to associate a terrorist organization with another conflict, or is this a signal that they're not really operational anymore, that they're just really trying to get attention?

KAYYEM: Well, I mean, in some ways, it is desperate, of course, because, you know, we're all talking about Hezbollah and Israel, and al Qaeda now seems sort of like a distant threat. So in that sense, it is desperate of al Qaeda to sort of come out with these videotapes. We've seen a bunch lately, and sort of embrace everything and anything that may have to do with anti-Americanism.

On the other hand, there's something sort of, I think, not terrifying, but something not so desperate about it, is that it's incredibly politically savvy. To embrace all sort of anti-Americanism within al Qaeda gives them, I think, a lot of focus in the world, and gives them - and it, you know, makes us talk about, you and I talk about al Qaeda again.

UNGER: So you'll be seeing - we will be seeing other tapes, is what you're saying?

KAYYEM: Yes, I think so. There's rumor mill about a bin Laden tape in the next 48 hours, so everyone - not an audiotape, not a videotape, but an audiotape.

UNGER: (INAUDIBLE). Terrorism expert Juliette Kayyem, thanks for your time tonight. Thanks for speaking with us.

KAYYEM: Thank you.

UNGER: America's latest sports champion has to put his superhero status on hold. Floyd Landis, who defied the odds to win the Tour de France, is now caught in the center of a doping scandal.

And then George Michael, no stranger to scandal, gets caught literally in the bushes with another man. In an exclusive interview, Michael explains why it's OK to have anonymous sex in parks. And for the first time this week, we finally get to show you the other guy. Yes.

Countdown continues in a moment.


UNGER: I'm Brian Unger.

And here is part of a cable news exchange program, where Keith Olbermann gets to enjoy the apocalyptic heat of California. I get to enjoy the tropical humidity of New York.

But with this bonus, the strange stories and weird video that begins when you hear the immortal words...

Let's play Oddball.

And we begin in Darwin, Australia, for the 32nd Annual Beer Can regatta, where guys who like to drink a lot of beer have discovered the perfect use for all their empty cans. You build a boat, then race it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We used about 1,500 cans. And we're proud to say that we've drunk every one of them as a team.


UNGER: Oh, it sure takes DWI to a whole new height (INAUDIBLE).

And we turn to Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri - there it is - where one Cardinals fan learned the hard way that windy weather plus trash cans don't mix. Ooh, that's got to hurt. Let's see that in slow-mo if we can. There it is. Strike. The can comes speeding in, and bam, and hits the lady on her side, sends her flying.

That's terrible, we should say. And if the sight of a trash can hitting one person out of, say, 10 people who were crossing the lane reminds you of something, consider this. Right next door to Busch Stadium, you'll find the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame. Taking out the 10-pin there.

And from getting hit by trash at Busch Stadium, to President Bush getting trashed by his own party. The Senate candidate that ripped apart this administration anonymously on Monday now has Mr. Bush squarely in his friend column.

That, and the Democrats' plan to capitalize on high disapproval ratings for the president.

And it's called the most annoying ad on TV, but is its annoyance its only big claim to fame? The headache-inducing Headon ads.

Ahead on Countdown. Ahead on Countdown. It's ahead on Countdown.


UNGER: First, it was the president who used the word "yo," as in "Yo! Blair." Now a politician is describing President Bush as his home boy. In our No. 3 story on the Countdown tonight, the political speak is getting way more street. It is particularly surprising when one half of these homies is a republican senate candidate who unleashed a torrent of criticism against Mr. Bush earlier this week. Michael Steele, the Maryland lieutenant governor now running for U.S. Senate seat, in a luncheon with reporters dished out heaping helpings of Bush administration failures, first on the condition his remarks stay anonymous, just one example:

"In Katrina, the president is at 30,000 feet, in an airplane looking down at people dying, living on a bridge, living on a bridge. And that disconnect, I think, sums up, for me at least, the frustration that Americas feel."

He called the "R" of republicanism a scarlet letter, and he said he would probably not want the president to campaign with him. But on Tuesday, Mr. Steele identified himself as that anonymous republican candidate and then backpedaled on his remarks. In a Baltimore radio interview Wednesday, Steele quit dissing the press, saying, "I've been quoted before as calling the president my homeboy.and that's how I feel... if the president wants to come and help me in Maryland, he is more than welcome. I'm not going to turn my back on a friend."

As for the democrats, they've just come out with their slogan for the Fall elections. It does not include the words "homey" or "yo." Instead, dems are down with "Six for '06." It's part of a campaign they're calling a new direction for America. The six referring to the six big issues democrats want to press ramping up to the midterm elections. The six are:

National security, jobs, college access, energy dependence, health care, and retirement security, despite most people's inability to remember six things about anything. Democratic leaders plan 200 events across the country during the month of August alone. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, saying, "In the month of august, we will own August."

Let's talk to someone who witnessed both the flip and the flop of Mr. Steele and get some insight into the democrats' plan for winning in November, Countdown homey, national political reporter for the "Washington Post" and MSNBC political analyst, Dana Milbank. He was one of those reporters at the lunch, we should say, when Michael Steele was still speaking anonymously, and frankly.

Good evening, Dana.


UNGER: Michael Steele is a politician, after all, and we can expect backpedaling, but is the president really his homeboy?

MILBANK: You know, he actually didn't say that during the lunch. He did say that Ken Mehlman, the RNC chairman is his homeboy, but that's because Ken actually comes from Baltimore, so he had some grounds for that one there. I don't understand why he's backpedaling at all. It seemed to me he should have been on the record in the first place. Good politics when you're in the state of Maryland, very blue, democratic state to diss the president and the party when they're down, you know, in the low 30's in the polls. So, I think if Steele was going to be more of a man of steel, he would have won more votes by just sticking to what he said.

UNGER: And during that Baltimore radio interview, Steele also said, "I'm not trying to dis the president. I'm not trying to distance myself from the president. I'm trying to show those lines where I have a different perspective and a different point of view."

Now, in fairness, Steele does side with Bush on the stalwart conservative issues, like stem cell and abortion, but is it clear here that carrying the republican base isn't enough to win elections?

MILBANK: Yeah, I mean, I think that's right. I think, basically he and a lot of others who want to follow the McCain strategy. When you look at him, as you point out, conservative across the board with Bush on stem cells, flag burning amendment, gay marriage amendment, but what he's doing is rhetorically differentiating himself, and that's what McCain does. And reporters love heretics. You like a guy when he's, sort of, sounds like he's being disloyal to his party. So, here he can be perfectly consistent on the ideology, but a lot of people, democratic voters, are going to say oh, I think he's one of us.

UNGER: Let's, Dana, move on to the democrats and this new direction for America, "Six for '06." Will they aggressively push any of these issues outlined in this plan, or is this a construct here to show their base, and others, that they stand for these six things?

MILBANK: Well, I think "Six for '06," this is the sixth attempt to come up with a plan in '06, so I suspect that's what they are referring to. Constantly under pressure to say OK, you don't like the Bush agenda. What's your agenda? So, you know, everybody's trying to sort of model it after the famous contract with America that Newt Gingrich had in 1994. That worked once, it's unlikely to work again. You know, people are not going to remember those particular issues. I suppose at least it quiets - you know, shuts up all the reporters who are saying they don't have a plan.

UNGER: Dana, National Public Radio did a poll focusing on the 50 most contested congressional seats, finding that even in those tighter races, the public favors democrats over republicans. Now, if the climate is the same, come election day, if the situation in Iraq is basically the same, will that weigh much more heavily than any agenda they can come up with? I mean, can democrats just win by not being republican?

MILBANK: Certainly Iraq, if it's as it is now, is going to weigh very heavily on that. I'm still skeptical of the notion that there could be some sort of a tidal wave that would sweep the democrats to power in both chambers in Congress. It just seems like they would really have to thread the needle just right, even if there is kind of a wave. Now, how is that for a mixed metaphor? But, still unlikely, but I think a lot of people are saying elections held today, democrats can pull it off. So if the status quo is maintained or worsens, it's going to be really a very close call.

UNGER: Dana Milbank, Countdown homey and of the "Washington Post" and MSNBC. Thank you so much for joining us.

MILBANK: Good night, Brian.

UNGER: Thanks.

A big come from behind win of Floyd Landis at the Tour de France is suddenly called into question. The American fails one drug test, now a larger investigation is underway.

No investigation needed for George Michael. He admits he has anonymous sex in parks. He's been doing it for years. And y'all just need to get over it. An exclusive interview with Michael and even better than that, we can now reveal the guy he met in the bushes. That's right, we've got him.


UNGER: If you're a famous pop star, you're about to marry your long-term partner, apparently it's fine to pick up a middle-aged van driver for anonymous sex in a park. George Michael takes the media head on, next. And speaking of HeadOn, apparently you apply it directly to the forehead, an explanation's ahead. This is Countdown.


UNGER: Well, you may have heard this week that the war on infidelity suffered another high-profile setback. This latest blow to monogamy involves a repeat offender, this time in an attempted terrorist in the bushes of a London park. Our second story on the Countdown, if there is hanky-panky going down in the bushes and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound? The answer is yes if the paparazzi is there, too.

Singer George Michael caught on camera trolling for sex in the wild of a London park, and some would say he found an actual troll. Described by British tabloids as a pot-bellied, jobless van driver, there he is, Norman Kirkland. You can see how hard it would be to resist Norm especially under the intoxicating moonlight. Plus come on, the guy's a van. And here's an angry George clearly upset that his romantic life, albeit with anonymous dudes in a park, has been interrupted by a stalking paparazzo. Michael insists this kind of dating is not a problem with his partner Kenny Goss, and their plans to marry have not change and furthermore that he would have to do something really atrocious to get those nuptials called off.

Here now is George Michael, a man who loves singing and the outdoors in an exclusive interview with ITN's Nina Hossein talking about...


NINA HOSSEIN, ITN (voice-over): A life flips through the headlines, a man who's now more known for his colorful and controversial private life than the music which put him in the tabloids in the first place.

(on camera): George, there are some people out there who are not homophobic, who are in a relationship, be that gay or straight, it doesn't matter. They don't understand why somebody in a long-term relationship, in a partnership, wants to have casual sex outside of that relationship.

GEORGE MICHAEL, SINGER: And I think women almost never understand this phenomenon, and I totally respect that. I don't try to explain it to them...

HOSSEIN: And some men, and some gay men, as well.

MICHAEL: Yes, but many - but many, many, many men - many more men than will admit it totally understand the concept, because the idea of no strings sex is very attractive to most men, gay or straight.

HOSSEIN: In terms of people who don't understand why somebody would want casual sex outside of a relationship, can you understand that they would be confused about why you would put your health at risk potentially?

MICHAEL: No, I'm sorry. I'm not here to talk about all this. We can talk all night if you want to about how dangerous it is to go to a bar or a pub or an ordinary club in life these days.


HOSSEIN: Absolutely, all these things have potential risks.

MICHAEL: And I have been saying I have been doing this on and off since I was a teenager and never once seen violence. If I want to see violence or what I call shameful behavior, the idea that women in clubs these days have to hold their hand over their drink for fear of being drugged. Please don't tell me as a member of the straight community that I am taking risks. I know what I do, and I'm sorry, but we should not be taking questions like this from straight women in particular or males...

HOSSEIN: OK, from gay people.

MICHAEL: Very few gay people are internally homophobic enough to say we don't want to be represented like this.

HOSSEIN: But neither you nor I can speak for other gay people about that.

MICHAEL: No, we can't. We can't, but what I can say is I do not deserve the criticism. What I don't have respect for is some demand for answers from an openly gay man who's is living his own life. I'm not lying. I'm not cheating anyone. These are normally the elements of a straight scandal is that a kiss and tell involves a straight person who is cheating or lying. I have not cheated or lied about my sex life to anybody in my life in my entire life. You know, I mean, I hate not to be able to rise above it, but there's only so much you can take. When the media starts to put slurs on my relationship and indicate that my partner, who is perfectly happy with the way I live my life and the way we live our lives together, that my partner is calling off our registered partnership and that I'm having to buy him back with money, these kind of things are just unacceptable to me. And I'm really just here to say I have had enough, really, and I will have to take legal action against pretty much everybody involved.


UNGER: Cheaters and scandals and - getting very complicated, there. Not cheating, not a scandal. OK, I just wanted to make sure I was clear on that. Or why don't we just go ahead and turn to our roundup of celebrity and entertainment news we call "Keeping Tabs."

Just four days after winning the Tour de France, American cyclist Floyd Landis is battling to keep his title and save face after his team issued a statement saying Landis has tested positive for unusually high levels of testosterone. And tonight, speaking by telephone with reporters, Landis says he just wants the chance to prove his innocence. Our Kevin Corke has the details.


KEVIN CORKE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He came from behind on a grueling course, beating a world-class field, pumping through the searing pain of a disintegrating hip. Four days ago, Floyd Landis reached the Champs-Elysee and cycling summit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Floyd Landis steps up to take the Tour de France...

CORKE: Now he faces an uphill battle to keep not only his title, but his reputation. Landis' team, Phonak, announced today Landis had unusually high testosterone levels in a test taken after the 17th stage of the tour. Landis, in Germany, consulting with doctors about hip replacement said he had no idea what could have caused the positive tests.

FLOYD LANDIS, CYCLIST: All I'm asking for, from, just from me is that I be given a chance to prove that I'm innocent.

CORKE: The team has suspended the champion until a second test can be performed to, "Prove either that this is a result coming from a natural process or that it is resulting from a mistake." Cycling expert, John Eustis, has covered the sport's ultimate event for the last 13 years.

JOHN EUSTIS, CYCLING EXPERT: I believe this will turn out to be a false-positive test. For one major reason is that his actual testosterone levels, which is the performance enhancer, those levels were low.

CORKE (on camera): The results of the second blood test of the so-called B sample could be made available in under a week. And if Landis tests positive once more, he could be stripped of his tour title, meaning that Spain's Oscar Ferraro would become the new champion.

ALAN ABRAHAMSON, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": For the winner of the Tour de France to be convicted of doping, were that to happen, would be devastating.

CORKE (voice-over): Devastating for a sport seemingly skidding out of control. Hurt by the loss of its biggest star, Lance Armstrong, last year, and now flattened by more doping allegations.

Kevin Corke, NBC News, Washington.


UNGER: Mr. Landis' disappearance from the media spotlight somewhat explained, but the question everyone is asking where is our "American Idol" runner-up, Katherine McPhee? Well, she's back after being MIA for weeks. She showed up on "The View" this morning as one of the guest co-hosts. McPhee has missed three weeks of the "American Idol" tour because of laryngitis. There were rumors she was just dissing her fellow finalists or that she had had a relapse of bulimia, but she put all that to rest today.


KATHERINE MCPHEE, SINGER: I didn't really disappear. I mean, I was just following doctor's orders. He told me you're not allowed to talk for three weeks. And you know, people speculated that I was, you know, making a movie and that I was better than "American Idol" and, you know, I am so grateful for what "American Idol" did for me.


UNGER: McPhee will rejoin the "Idol" tour tonight in Pittsburgh. Then she and the other 10 finalists will meet with President Bush tomorrow at the White House. When no other distraction will work, you bring in the "Idols." And as your surrogate, look for wall to wall coverage of the "Idols at the White House" tomorrow on MSNBC, and right here, tomorrow night on Countdown.

Here is what we know. It's called HeadOn. It's applied directly to the forehead. Its irritating medicinal powers cut through the media clutter like no pain reliever man has ever known. That story is ahead on Countdown.


UNGER: According to the "Journal of Head and Face Pain," 30 million Americans suffer from migraines. Over half the migraineurs (ph) sampled said their heads throb so badly, their pain is so disabling they retreat to their beds. But in our No. 1 story tonight, if your headache doesn't kill you, a commercial suggesting a cure for it will. For those who have seen it or heard it you will know you'll never, ever wonder where to stick it. As I first explained in my role as a contributor the NPR news program, "Day to Day." Here's some radio with pictures.


(voice-over): Global terror, global warming and global nuclear proliferation, these, the catalyst of civilizations' end, the stories promising doom that dominate our airwaves, insoluble and overwhelming it's enough to give a person a headache.

It might explain why viewers of cable news are offered this.

ANNOUNCER: HeadOn, apply direct to the forehead, HeadOn, apply directly.

UNGER: Over and over and over again.

ANNOUNCER: .apply directly to the forehead.

UNGER: HeadOn, a product advertisement that makes no claim, promises no benefit, it simply tells you where to put it.

ANNOUNCER: Apply directly to the forehead. HeadOn.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think that's bull (BLEEP), all right?

UNGER: If all the dreadful news on TV isn't enough to make your head explode.


UNGER: Surly, this commercial will. Here it is, uninterrupted, in its entirety.

ANNOUNCER: HeadOn, apply directly to the forehead, HeadOn, apply directly to the forehead, HeadOn, apply directly to the forehead. HeadOn, available at Walgreen's.

UNGER: In this commercial, a woman against a monochromatic background rubs what looks like a glue stick on her forehead, back and forth while the HeadOn mantra is repeated like a chant. Hypnotizing us with the product's directions, not its cure. Maybe the makers of HeadOn assume, you've already purchased the product, but just can't figure out where in the heck to put it.

ANNOUNCER: Apply directly to the forehead.

UNGER: Of course! We'd almost forgotten, we rub it directly on my foreheads. I almost rubbed it under my arm.

HeadOn, a product that promises nothing, builds no expectations, disappoint no one. It is the Hillary Clinton of over the counter meds.

But dare we ask, if one applies HeadOn directly to the forehead, what about an achy knee?

ANNOUNCER: New, from the makers of HeadOn, introducing ActivOn, arthritis pain? ActivOn, apply directly where it hurts.


UNGER: My apologizes to my colleagues at NPR for hoisting that piece upon them.

Here to analyze the weird success of this commercial, I'm joined by Barbara Lippert, critic for "AdWeek" magazine.

Thanks for joining us, Barbara.

BARBARA LIPPERT, CRITIC FOR "ADWEEK" MAGAZINE: Thanks, I completely agree with your "Twilight Zone" take on it.

UNGER: Thank you very much. That's a career in journalism, right there. It took me all the years before it to get here.

LIPPERT: A very, very clever - I agree, and I also had the line about, it's a good thing, thank god, there is a god, so it's not applied directly to your armpit.

UNGER: Yeah, I agree.

LIPPERT: Yeah, but I was thinking, like if aliens came to this country or this world and wanted to approximate human life they would make that commercial.

UNGER: I hope that they find other things here on earth and not just

the HeadOn. What is it - is it just the repetitive nature about this that

obviously, we're sitting here talking about it, so clearly it is genius.

It has worked. But, here's the thing, and you're an expert on advertising.

The fact is it never, ever tells you what it does.

LIPPERT: Well, it is unintentional genius. Because, you can't believe that in this day and age where, you know, every fourth grader can make a commercial on their computer, an incredible sophisticated computer graphics, something from the 1950's like this, shows up, but it really has no guile. They had no idea. You know, now we see so many commercials that are all, sort of, parodies and sarcastic. They don't know - they don't know that this looks like a parody and that's the amazing part of it, that anyone could be that straight, still.

UNGER: You know.

LIPPERT: But, you know, in the world situation, as you said, the world is blowing up and when you think about, you know, how these ad phrases become the mantra of our times, like take, "where's the beef," that was used in political conversations for saying, you know, what's happened to content, what's happened to substance. Now we have this fake bogus product that you just put on your head and keep rubbing it and that's sort of a symbol of our times.

UNGER: It's like a little - it's like a glue stick, isn't it? Kind of - remember Pritt? Go like this?

LIPPERT: Exactly, you know, like in kindergarten you're gluing stuff.

UNGER: Or eat it.

LIPPERT: Yeah. You know, it's sort of an arts and crafts project, kind of. And I don't think they can make any claims for what it does because they'd be sued, because don't think, you know, they know what it does. I think it's probably, if anything, it is a placebo effect.

UNGER: It contains an iris extract or something like that.

LIPPERT: Right. Right. And the Egyptian gods bowed before it. But, I think it's that three - you know, the repetition of the three things, it's like "I've fallen and I can't get up" for our times.

UNGER: Let me ask you this, is Madison Avenue in trouble now because, you know, they spent a lot of money on very slick, complex ads. Is this what we're going to seeing during Super Bowl time, like, Bud, put it in your mouth.

LIPPERT: Right. Right. Unfortunately, you know, a lot of people - well, they might parody it, but if every ad consisted of something like this, no one will watch television. And obviously other products that aren't new and don't cost $5 are a lot harder to sell, and they need more sophisticated advertising. But, you know, because advertisers are so worried about TiVoing and not seeing commercials, there, increasingly, there's going to be subliminal stuff where they just do the logo or they just repeat it three times.

UNGER: I guess we'd better hope that we don't see anything like this about Preparation H. Is that right?

LIPPERT: Um, well apparently they do have a hemorrhoid cream that runs after this commercial.

UNGER: Barbara Lippert, the ad critic for "AdWeek" magazine.

LIPPERT: You can only hope.

UNGER: Thank you so much for joining us tonight.

LIPPERT: Thank you.

UNGER: Don't forget, apply directly to your forehead.

LIPPERT: Where do you apply it?

UNGER: That'll do it for the Thursday edition of Countdown. I'm Brian Unger in for the vacationing Keith Olbermann. Thanks for watching.

Our MSNBC coverage continues now "Scarborough Country," Rita Cosby, at the helm again.

Hi there, Rita.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for July 26th, 2006
Special bonus podcast (The Tonight Show with Jay Leno)

Guests: Bill Richardson, Paul F. Tompkins

BRIAN UNGER, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

No end to the Mideast crisis in sight, not even close. Two weeks in, Israeli forces see their deadliest day yet in ground fighting, confirming at least nine soldiers killed in combat. And Hezbollah launches one of its biggest barrages of rockets yet.

And on the diplomacy front, the big international summit in Rome accomplishes nothing urgent.


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: We are all committed to dedicated and urgent action -


UNGER: Words and war. Complete coverage of day 15. Richard Engel from Lebanon, Martin Fletcher and Peter Alexander from Israel, and Andrea Mitchell on the diplomatic front.

The surprise, or not, in the Andrea Yates murder trial. After getting convicted once, a second jury finds her not guilty by reason of insanity, and her ex-husband, Rusty Yates, praises the jury's decision.

Everyone knows the pressure facing the love child of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. But it's getting ridiculous. Barely out of the womb, little Shylo (ph) is already a wax figure at Madame Tussaud's. Note to wax museum, the child is still growing.

And while Keith enjoys vacation, he takes some time out to explain a little picture or two that got noticed by a handful of people, apparently.


KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC: I was giving him a Yoo-hoo. You know, like, Yoo-hoo! And they got me in between the Yoo and the hoo, (INAUDIBLE) -


UNGER: All that and more, now on Countdown.


BILL O'REILLY: We are very sensitive. I know it doesn't appear that way.


UNGER: And good evening. I'm Brian Unger, in for a vacationing Keith Olbermann.

Two events that are apparently related seem instead to be occurring merely simultaneously on parallel tracks. One is brutal warfare in the Middle East, exacting heavy casualties with no end in sight, the other is the summit charged with curbing the violence taking place some 1,300 miles away, involving almost none of the key players.

Our fifth story on the Countdown, day 15 of the showdown between Israel and Hezbollah. On the front lines, Israel suffering its heaviest losses yet, Hezbollah guerrillas killing at least nine Israeli soldiers, amid new reports that Israeli troops may have ignored repeated calls by the U.N. to stop their shelling yesterday before four peacekeepers were killed.

Meanwhile, on the diplomatic front, today a conference in Rome, more notable for what wasn't there than who was. No Israel, no Hezbollah, no Syria, no Iran. Thus, no surprise that an agreement for an immediate ceasefire was not reached.

We begin tonight with the latest on both sides of the border, starting with our Beirut bureau chief, Richard Engel, in southern Lebanon.




We've been hearing Israeli shelling on the outskirts of Tyre all day. But this evening, Israel launched its first major air strike right in the city center.

(voice-over): Pandemonium after two Israeli bombs destroyed the house of Hezbollah's commander in south Lebanon. Hezbollah says he wasn't inside.

(on camera): Every day, the air strikes are getting closer to the center of Tyre. This one, a few moments ago, flattened this building.

"It was a five-story building," said this man. "God destroy Israel."

Suddenly, we smelled gas fumes. Fearing a secondary explosion, locals and reporters scrambled away through burning debris and live electric wires. Some stayed, shirts off, so they wouldn't catch fire digging through the wreckage to search for bodies.

Five miles away, a U.N. recovery team today was also digging through rubble. An Israeli air strike killed six people in this house 11 days ago. In the 100-degree heat today, the stench was nauseating. Searching with shovels and their hands, the team found the body of a woman and took her away.

(on camera): They just found another body, a young child, wrapped in a blanket.

(voice-over): Also in the debris, we saw pots, wedding pictures, trophies, and this captivating photograph of a young girl.

We filmed it and went door to door, asking neighbors who she was.

"This is the daughter of Reas Jumma (ph)," this woman said.

Finally, a man told us her name -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Seline (ph).

ENGEL:... and where to find her father.

At a nearby grocery store, we found him. Seline, he said, who would have been 3 next month, was dead, along with her sister and mother.

"I left the house 15 minutes before the air strike to run an errand," he said. "Now my entire family is dead, and I don't know why."

In Tyre today, more signs of suffering. Carloads of refugees poured into the city, their only protection white flags.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But your feelings, you're scared, you're scared.

You just pray that you're going to make it out alive.

ENGEL: And on a pier at Tyre's port today, a woman bid good-bye to her family, blessing them with the Koran as they escaped, leaving her behind.

I'm Richard Engel in Tyre, south Lebanon.

Now to NBC's Martin Fletcher in Haifa, northern Israel.

MARTIN FLETCHER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Despite relentless pounding from Israeli warplanes and artillery against Hezbollah targets in south Lebanon, today Israeli troops suffered their worst loss on the ground. Paratroopers ran into a hail of machine-gun fire, hand grenades, and antitank rockets from Hezbollah fighters holed up in houses and bunkers.

Nine Israeli soldiers killed, 25 wounded. Hezbollah casualties, unknown. Despite Israel's military superiority, in Bint Jbeil, it's man to man.

CAPT. DORON SPIELMAN, ISRAELI ARMY: So you can round a turn in the tunnel, and be met face to face with the terrorists.

FLETCHER: We asked the commander of Israeli ground forces in Lebanon whether he was surprised by the tough Hezbollah resistance.

(on camera): What's so hard about it?

MAJ. GEN. BENI GANTZ, ISRAELI GROUND FORCES COMMANDER: It's a complicated - it's a complex area. Shelters, basements, hidden places, low-profile targets. Yet they are being found, and they're being destroyed.

FLETCHER (voice-over): Now Israel has another problem, a war of words with the United Nations. Ten times in six hours yesterday, U.N. observers asked Israel to stop shelling near their post close to the Israeli border, a U.N. spokesman said. Then, a direct hit by a guided missile.

Four observers killed. They died unarmed and in the service of peace, the U.N. said. And the secretary general, Kofi Annan, accused Israel of, quote, "apparently deliberately targeting the peacekeepers."

Israel angrily denied it.

MIRI EISEN, ISRAELI GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN: This was definitely an accident. At the time, there were Katyusha rocket firings from the village that was attacked.

FLETCHER: But Israel says it will investigate.

(on camera): To reach their goal in south Lebanon of ending the military threat from Hezbollah, Israeli army keeps saying it needs more time. And today, the head of the (INAUDIBLE) said the fighting could last several more weeks, Brian.


UNGER: Martin Fletcher in Haifa, Israel, thank you very much.

Now far removed from the shelling and strife of the Middle East today, diplomats were trying to hammer out a ceasefire in Rome. Of course, the absence of Israel, Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran from the bargaining table, well, that made the whole thing more of an intellectual exercise, perhaps, than anything else.

Now, with more on that ceasefire that wasn't, today, from our chief correspondent, affairs correspondent, Andrea Mitchell is in Italy.



ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Brian, after struggling for hours, diplomats realized that there is going to be no immediate end to this conflict, no easy diplomatic resolution.

They did agree there needs to be a ceasefire urgently, there needs to be an international military force to back that up, and to help support the Lebanese government to control the Hezbollah militia.

What will happen next is, a U.N. Security Council meeting, probably next week. They will try to come up with a resolution that combines a ceasefire and an international force, military force, and then try to get all the parties to agree.

Kofi Annan, secretary general, said that that will mean including Iran and Syria, countries that the United States has not talked to, but countries that, crucially, can influence Hezbollah.

So back to the negotiations, back to the United Nations, and no immediate end to the conflict, Brian.


UNGER: Andrea Mitchell in Rome. Thank you very much.

We want to get an update on the very latest in Israel at this hour.

For that, correspondent Peter Alexander is standing by in Haifa.

Thank you for your time tonight, Peter.


The latest information just coming to us right now, Lebanese television and radio are reporting that a Lebanese army base has been bombed. That happened within the last couple of hours. They're - it's unclear at this point whether those bombs came from the sky, from Israeli warplanes, or from their ships out at sea.

This hit an army base as well as a radio relay station, according to Lebanese television and radio. That relay station was used by Lebanese state radio. We put a call in within the last few minutes to the Israeli army. It is later than 3:00 in the morning here. They answered our call and say they are now investigating to gather new information for us.

As you heard in the report from Martin Fletcher not long ago, today the deadliest day for Israeli soldiers, nine soldiers killed, bringing the total death toll throughout this country, Brian, for soldiers to 33 in just 15 days since the conflict began.

Throughout this area, there are about 125 rockets that hit. That is according to Israeli police. About 31 of them, they say, hit in towns and cities where people have become, in places, paralyzed with fear. But here in Haifa, it's almost become a part of the routine.

I spoke with the mayor of Haifa earlier, Brian. He says that 25 percent of this city's residents have left. But for the most part, for the most part, people are trying to go about their normal lives.

UNGER: Peter, this news that you're just getting about this Lebanese army base being bombed, any - is this presumably from the air? From a (INAUDIBLE) presumably a precision-guided missile? Or how - what are the circumstances here?

ALEXANDER: Well, it's a good question. We're trying to gather more information as we speak to you, Brian. But right now, it seems like there's a little bit of a mixed reporting going on from Lebanese television and radio. One of the sources is reporting that the firing the missiles would have come from the sky, from an Israeli war plane. Another one is saying that it came from the sea, from an Israeli ship.

We'll try to gather more information and really, to confirm that this is, in fact, the case. We put some calls in to the Israeli army.

UNGER: (INAUDIBLE), Peter, the attack on the U.N. peacekeepers, any explanation from Israel on how this may have happened?

ALEXANDER: There has not been an explanation just yet. Ehud Olmert, the prime minister of this country, made it very clear today, expressing deep regret to the countries that supported those four individuals. I believe it was China, Finland, some two other countries included as well, including Canada, that were affected by this attack today.

But they say there is no explanation right now. There is a thorough investigation underway right now. They have apologized. And they've said it's important to note that this was not a deliberate attack, despite some of the (INAUDIBLE), the calls that you've heard from the U.N. to Israel, as many as 10 calls, warning them not to fire in that area over the course of six hours.

Israeli military does explain that there was a village nearby where they believed Katyusha rockets were being fired into this area, which is the reason that they were firing into that general vicinity as it was.

UNGER: Peter, in your view from Israel, is there any difference in, in, in what's going on in the northern part of Israel, versus, say, Tel Aviv or Jerusalem?

ALEXANDER: This, Brian, is a country that's certainly heartbroken today by the violence. As one individual said to me, they can take the hit to the economy, they can take the fear in living in shelters. But what they can't take, and what really hits close to home, is when soldiers die. That affects everybody, because at 18, everybody here, men and women, go off to serve, the women for two years, the men for three years.

But to give you a sense of the difference here, it is a different scene in Haifa than it is in Tel Aviv, where we spent the night last night. In Tel Aviv, if you go throughout the community, you'll find restaurants are quite full. They say they're more popular right now because many of the people from the north have moved further down to the south to try to get away from the fear.

Of course, the new fear now is that Hezbollah may launch new long-range missiles that could reach as far as Tel Aviv, Brian.

UNGER: Peter Alexander, live for us tonight from Haifa. Thanks so much for joining us.

Well, no surprise today that the big summit in Rome on the Mideast crisis led to no breakthroughs. Former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Bill Richardson, now governor of New Mexico, joins us to discuss whether the U.S. is losing credibility on the world stage.

And the verdict in the Andrea Yates trial. The second jury to hear her case decides she was insane when she drowned her five young children. Complete reaction ahead.

You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.


UNGER: Well, the words all sound the same - important, committed, urgent, immediate, soon.

But in our fourth story on the Countdown, while everyone seems to be talking about doing something now to stop the violence in the Middle East, no one did anything, not urgently, not immediately, not even soon.

Despite the hoopla surrounding Secretary Rice's trip to the troubled region, any prospect of a swift diplomatic end to the crisis ended in Rome today, when a meeting with European and Arab allies failed to find any solutions.


FUAD SINIORA, LEBANESE PRIME MINISTER: We want (INAUDIBLE) ceasefire, an immediate ceasefire.

RICE: We are all agreed that we want most urgently to end the violence on a basis that this time will be sustainable.

KOFI ANNAN, UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY GENERAL: It is important that we work with the countries of the region to find a solution. And that should also include Iran and Syria.


UNGER: Well, I'm joined now by former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, current governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson.

Thank you for your time tonight, Governor.


UNGER: Sir, U.N. Secretary Kofi Annan wants to bring Syria into this discussion. The U.S. won't talk to Syria. Lebanon wants an immediate ceasefire. The U.S. wants to hold that off until a more permanent solution can be found that involves Iran and Syria. If the U.S. - are you following me? - if the U.S. won't talk to Syria and Iran, but needs Syria for a lasting peace, is there any middle ground here to be found? Where is it going to come from?

RICHARDSON: Well, here's my view. I agree with Secretary Rice. You can't have a cessation of hostilities without some framework, without some international peacekeeping force. You know, the Europeans and the Arab countries, they're quick to point out we need a cessation of hostilities. But what are they going to do? Are they going to put troops, resources, are they going to lean on Syria? That's one point.

The second point is that we're playing catch-up. The U.S. should have been there long time ago, trying to find a way to broker this peace.

Now, eventually, I do believe, Brian, that we need to talk to Syria. Now, we have diplomatic relations with Syria. They control Hezbollah. And what the argument should be to Syria is, unless you control Hezbollah, you disarm them, or find a way that they're disarmed, there's going to be international sanctions on you. There's going to be a denial of visas, there's going to be freezing of your assets.

But you can only do that by persuading an international coalitions to make it happen. So what this means is needed the most is a permanent American presence. Either Secretary Rice returns, and I understand she's returning, and stays there, like Henry Kissinger did years ago, for 36 days, 40 days - You need constant diplomacy, you just can't do it in one meting in Rome.

UNGER: I mean, are we actually getting constant, relentless diplomacy here? Or is this really a bit of a pause here while this military operation goes on?

RICHARDSON: Well, here's my view. I believe that our obsession, America's obsession, with Iraq has left us in many other key foreign policy spots that threaten us, like North Korea, like the relationship with Iran, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, Afghanistan, now the Middle East, a bit unprepared, playing catch-up.

Now, apart from that, you know, we want to do what's best in our national interest. Our alliance is with Israel. There's no question about it. Israel didn't start this war, Hezbollah did.

But what you need to do right now with Israel is, you don't want to form an Arab world that is going to be so antagonistic to them for years to come. And by the way, I don't think that the Israelis targeted those U.N. observers. I don't believe that's the case. It was a horrible accident, a horrible tragedy.

But there's such suspicion between everybody, the Israelis, the U.N., the Europeans, the Hezbollah, Syria, that what you need is constant, aggressive diplomacy to build an international coalition of peacekeepers that at least can bring some stability and stop the killing and stop the humanitarian disaster that is occurring in that region.

UNGER: Is that U.N. post, that observation post that was bombed, then, just another one of the casualties in this war, a mistake, then, that even though it may have been deliberate, there was just some (INAUDIBLE), miscommunication in the chain of command?

RICHARDSON: Well, you know, Brian, I don't know all the facts. But why would Israel want to go after a U.N. observer? That makes no sense. I believe it was a horrible mistake. There must have been some glitch or technical problem or miscommunication.

But the problem is, there's such suspicion. Here's the U.N., Israel, U.N. peacekeepers in Lebanon. Nothing is happening, the killing continues. So this festers. And what we need to do is find a way to stop not just the killing, but the festering. And that means diplomacy, that means somebody, an American, a European - You know, I suggested former secretary of state James Baker. Secretary Rice has got a lot of other problems she has to deal with just staying in the region, constantly shuttling back.

Eventually, it means, I believe, talking to Syria. Iran's another story. But Syria eventually, I think, Syria holds the key to what Hezbollah does, and Hezbollah's the problem.

UNGER: Governor, if U.N. troops are the first step in trying to negotiate some diplomatic resolution to all this, what countries will join that U.N. force? What's your guess?

RICHARDSON: Well, I believe, Brian, I believe it has to be - I'd like to see Muslim countries. That gives the whole operation more credibility. Turkey, Morocco, Egypt, they have strong standing armies. Then on the European side, France, Germany, Italy. They've all, I believe, voiced interest in doing something.

That's - that would be the cornerstone of the force. But it has to be a strong force, very strongly equipped. It can't be a U.N. force like the one in southern Lebanon that has not been able to do anything. It has to be a very robust, very well-equipped force.

UNGER: What do you see our traditional Arab allies, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, do you see them being active participants in this, currently? Do you see them being - trying to be persuasive of a peace there?

RICHARDSON: Well, right now, what they are asking for is a cessation of hostilities. Now, we all want that. But what are they ready to do? What is Egypt and what is Saudi Arabia ready to do? Will they lean on Hezbollah? Will they cut them off?

They're not ready to say they're doing that. So I think Secretary Rice has a very difficult problem here. It's easy to take shots at what she's doing. But, you know, you want a little bit in return. If there's a cessation of hostilities, which we all want, you want some framework for an international peacekeeping force that is going to enforce this cessation of hostilities. Otherwise, who's going to do it? You, you, you can't have one without the other.

UNGER: Governor Bill Richardson, helping us sift through what is obviously a very complicated situation. We appreciate your time tonight.

RICHARDSON: Thank you.

UNGER: Still ahead of us tonight, the child of Brad and Angelina, little Shylo, can't even crawl yet. She's been immortalized in wax. The high honor and the price of celebrity baby fame.

And Mr. Olbermann doing some 'splainin' on the "TONIGHT" show. The latest volley in the Keith versus Bill feud. Keith's take on the picture that launched headlines.

That and more, ahead on Countdown.


UNGER: And still ahead on Countdown, will the feud between Keith and Bill O'Reilly end up in the TV Hall of Fame? Keith takes a seat next to Jay Leno last night to answer the burning questions facing the latest incident in their little skirmish.

And on a more serious note, the verdict in the Andrea Yates case. Her second trial over the drownings of her five small kids ends in a dramatically different fashion than her first, not guilty by reason of insanity. Reaction and analysis when Countdown returns.


UNGER: Here at Countdown, despite our greatest journalistic efforts, the serious and the ridiculous sometimes fall under the same general topic. Tonight is no exception. Not to offend anyone, it's an efficient organizing principle that we use to produce this program and taught in most high schools. As with our third story on the Countdown tonight, the topic:


The somber side of that, Andrea Yates who drowned her five children in 2001, found not guilty by reason of insanity today. We'll ask MSNBC legal analyst, Susan Filan about that. And then we'll explore a subtopic of insanity, inanity, and plunder that vacuity and mindlessness focusing on fresh, new crackpot drivel from Ann Coulter. Again, just an organizing principle. Of course, there's only the court of public opinion to pass judgment on her, but first to the court of legal opinion and the remarkably sad story of Ms. Yates. Severe post partum psychosis, that is Andrea Yates' defense team told jurors was the cause of her horrific acts five years ago.

In Ms. Yates first trial in 2002, a jury had rejected that finding her guilty of capital murder, but Ms. Yates was eventually granted a second trial. The verdict coming earlier today.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The state of Texas versus Andrea Pia Yates. We the jury finds the defendant, Andrea Pia Yates not guilty by reason of insanity.


UNGER: Ms. Yates will be committed to a state mental hospital with periodic hearings to determine if she should be released. Her former husband and some of the jurors in the trial spoke with reporters about the verdict.


RUSTY YATES, ANDREA YATES FMR. HUSBAND: The prosecution had the truth just the first day. You know, they stopped there, you know, and they didn't have the whole truth. You know, the whole - yes, Andrea took the lives of our children, that's the truth, you know, but yes, also, she was insane. You know, yes, she was psychotic on that day and would never have burned them otherwise, so that's the whole truth. Do they think our children want Andrea to be in prison? Do they think that we, her family on either side want Andrea to be in prison? Is it of any public benefit for Andrea to be in prison? You know, is she a danger to anyone? I mean, it's amazing to me. And I'm - like I said, I'm so proud of the jury for seeing past that.

TODD FRANK, JURY FOREMAN: I think it was very clear to us all, as was presented by the majority of the doctors in the case, on both sides that they did believe she did have psychosis before, during, and after. She needs help. I think although she's - although she's treated, I think she's worse than she was before. I understand that and I think she'll probably need treatment for the rest of her life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there a message your verdict sends?

FRANK: Don't let this happen again.


UNGER: As promised let's call in former Connecticut prosecutor and MSNBC legal analyst, Susan Filan.

Susan, good evening.


UNGER: Susan, it was easy to see, amongst many, just right here in this building, even, about how strongly people feel about this. There were those said, how could you not think this woman was insane when she did just a horrible thing. Others surprised she wasn't convicted. And I wanted to ask you about the emotional element in that in a moment, but as for the verdict - how much of a surprise was it that this jury found Andrea Yates not guilty when a previous jury had found otherwise?

FILAN: I think it was shocking, I think it was a stunning verdict. I think it was a huge surprise. You had a death qualified jury previously find her guilty, same facts, same story, same testimony, same experts, same jury instructions, same analysis. Twelve person before said guilty, 12 people today said not guilty by reason of insanity. I think it was a huge surprise.

UNGER: And, the next question - and maybe it plays into sort of a gender question I want to ask you, and I know that you're not a gender specialist, you're an attorney, but how could she not be crazy?

FILAN: Well, that's the layperson's question. What mom could kill five of her own children, a baby included in that number? That's not the legal definition of insanity. The legal definition is did she know right from wrong at the time she committed those rights and the facts of the jury had to weigh was she certainly suffered from postpartum depression. She certainly had obsessions, she certainly had mental disorders, but did it rise to the level of psychosis, a break from reality?

Because don't forget that she waited until her husband left before she did it. She did it before her mother-in-law came. She called the police afterward and said "I know what I've done." She told the police she did it because she thought her children had Satan within them and she was protecting them from that and she knew she would be punished for it. That is somebody, who at the time she committed it did know the difference between right and wrong.

She knew it was doing was wrong and that she was going to be punished, but the jury didn't apply that legal definition, that razor thin technically sharp distinction. They said basically what you're saying, to do what she did, to drown those babies, to chase them around the house. Because don't forget, she had to kill them one by one. So, after the first one was drowned the other four knew what was coming. The last to die was the oldest. He ran around that house and fought or his life. She drowned them all in the same bathtub water, was so dirty by the time she drowned the fifth, it was filled with vomit, feces, and urine.

She knew what she was doing was wrong. But the jury said she so - her reason for doing it was so crazy they essentially gave her a pass on this one.

UNGER: That's what you're - you're thinking this is a pass then?

FILAN: I think it's a pass. Yeah, I think to kill five of your kids, take some medicine and go to an institution is a pass. I think to murder your five children who are innocent, who depend on you, who view you as their life and to extinguish each one the way you snuff out a candle on a birthday cake, yeah.

UNGER: Susan, as we sort of look at this now in the rearview mirror, and look at this trial in the rearview mirror, there was a lot of support from her husband, Rusty Yates, in support of his ex-wife. Would that have been a factor in influencing this jury? And let me ask you further, too, is how do feel women feel about his support versus men and how they perceive him supporting his ex-wife?

FILAN: Well, I think that women understand postpartum depression and I think that women understand it's a real that you actually need to get help for, you need the support of your spouse, you need the support of your family. But don't forget, she voluntarily stopped taking her medicine, so she's kind of having her cake and eating it too. She stopped taking her pills, but she said she was crazy.

As to your gender question, the support of Rusty, if the jury disregarded the court's instructions, which I sure hope they didn't do, which was not to entertain any media on this case at all, they wouldn't know Rusty came forward publicly and in fact defied some of the court's gag orders do it, to say that he supported his wife. They could infer support by the fact he was in court every single day and maybe they read his body language support, but he could have been there because he wanted to see justice for his five murdered children.

UNGER: MSNBC legal analyst, Susan Filan, thank you so much for your time tonight.

FILAN: Thank you.

UNGER: And now for the inanity subsection of our insanity, again, just an organizing technique.

Ann Coulter with another postcard from the edge. Apologies to Carrie Fisher. This time Miss Coulter had a unique analysis of former President Bill Clinton, proving that she's one heck of constitutional attorney with amazinging gay-dar. Here she is with CNBC's Donny Deutsch on his show "The Big Idea" last night.

According to Miss Coulter, why was President Clinton such a hound dog when it came to women? It's obvious, he's a homosexual.


DONNY DEUTSCH, "THE BIG IDEA": Off the air, you're talking about Bill Clinton, he's right here. Do you want to say hi to Bill Clinton, no?


DEUTSCH: OK. All right, did you find him attractive was that what it was?


DEUTSCH: You don't find him attractive.

COULTER: No. OK fine, I'll say it on-air.

DEUTSCH: Most women find him attractive, so say it on-air.

COULTER: I think that sort of rampant promiscuity does show some level of latent homosexuality.

DEUTSCH: OK, I think you need to say that again. That Bill Clinton, you think, on some level has - is a latent homosexual, is that what you're saying?

COULTER: Yeah. I'm not sort of completely anonymous - I don't know if you read the "Star Report," the rest of us were glued to it. I have many passages memorized. No, there was more plot and dialogue in a porno movie.


UNGER: Apparently she's had a lot of experience with gay dudes. Unfortunately, there's more from where that came from. You can catch her full interview with Donny Deutch, tonight on CNBC at 10:00 Eastern. She'll also be guest of Chris Matthews' on Wednesday edition of "Hardball."

Well, little Shiloh Pitt has already made it on the cover of "People" magazine and now, she's featured in wax at Madame Tussauds. It's only downhill for this infant from here. I mean really, once you're in wax, where do you go from here?

And a big announcement today from Lance Bass, he's gay though never involved with Bill Clinton. Details of his excusive coming out to "People" magazine ahead on Countdown.


UNGER: Keith versus Bill. Keith makes a triumphant return to Countdown tonight, just for one block to explain the latest shot in the war. And we hate to bury the lead here but Britney Spears, she's fired her pool boy because, well, he's a spy. Countdown's investigative team is on your side, next.


UNGER: Well, there are so many ways to pay homage to one's favorite celebrities. You can give them awards, have plastic surgery to look them, give them a clothing line at K-Mart. But the truly honored, they're cast in wax, that's just part of our No. 2 story on the Countdown tonight.

Let's go to Madame Tussauds in New York where little Shiloh Pitt, daughter of Brangelina has been cast in permanently pliable material, both precious and creepy. Shiloh is the first infant ever to be so honored by the museum.

And Britney Spears' child and child-to-be will have to settle in second or third place for their wax immortalization. And Brittany has just suffered this indignity; she was forced to fire her pool boy. Seems he was spending too much time lazing about with her husband Kevin Federline, and that got under her skin. The 45-year-old pool boy, John LaLanne, he's the son of famous fitness figure, Jack LaLanne. And in his defense, John says he and K-Fed were just, "hanging out a little bit" and then Brittany came out screaming.

And then there's another singing sensation, Ashlee Simpson was booed yesterday. People burning tickets her concert in Toledo, Ohio. This protest did not follow her performance; it was before the concert ever started because Ms. Simpson canceled it. She said she was sick. Her fans have so little forgiveness.

Joing me now to make sense of all of this, comedian Paul F. Tomkins, one of the regulars on the VH-1 programs "Best Week Ever."

Good to see you again, Paul.

PAUL F. TOMPKINS, "BEST WEEK EVER": Good to see you.

UNGER: Let's take a look at the wax family again. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and little Shiloh.

TOMPKINS: Oh, I really, really don't want to see them. I really don't want to.

UNGER: I'm going to force to you look at them. The world's most famous baby displayed in an African themed nursery where she will rest peacefully in a welcome basket. Paul, is wax inherently creepy or is it just creepy when it's like this?

TOMPKINS: Well, you know Brian, with a great amount of wax comes a great amount of responsibility and obviously, these wax figures are always terrifying. A baby wax figure, I didn't think could even be done and that ramps up the terror factor exponentially. And I think the people at Madam Tussauds have really outdone themselves because this is one of the most terrifying tableaus I've ever seen in my entire life.

I mean, we all know that wax figures, when the lights are off and nobody's around, they come alive and they do things. And never has that been more believable than looking at these three.

UNGER: Were you even aware that wax technology had advanced so much so - to - you could make like a tiny candle - or little wax person?

TOMPKINS: No, all I can hope is that they broke the mold. You know?

I hope they literally broke the mold. Because you can't.

UNGER: Hey Paul, we have to get to the pool boy story, because...

TOMPKINS: Absolutely we do.

UNGER: Before we run out of time.

TOMPKINS: Of course.

UNGER: The staff spoke with John LaLanne today and she said Britney fired him back in October, by the way, and he's also says he's one of the best pool boys in Malibu. That Ms. Spears overreacted to a little friendly banter between him and Kevin Federline and then when Martin Sheen discovered that John had been fired, he flipped out. Shouldn't we take this seriously Paul, not that our former president has weighed in on it?

TOMPKINS: We should take it seriously because he is the best pool boy in Malibu and he's got mug to prove it. Also, Martin Sheen, not just a former fake president, but a real-life Catholic and you don't want to get the organizational power of Catholics working against you because the last thing you want to see outside your mansion window is a candlelight vigil hoping that the pool boy will be rehired because sooner or later those Hail Maries are going to work on you.

UNGER: Paul, what does Britney want from K-Fed, anyway? Why can't he have, like, you know, a little buddy?

TOMPKINS: Look, you know those cartoons where there's two guys stranded on a desert island and the one guy looks at the other guy and sees like a big roast chicken? When Britney looks at Kevin's friends, anyone in his line of vision, she sees a giant joint. So, she's terrified, terrified that everyone is potentially a member of his entourage and that's going to cost her money.

UNGER: Paul, on this Ashlee Simpson incident in Toledo, the concert she cancelled was to have been in an amphitheatre at the Toledo Zoo. It will not be rescheduled. How will Toledo recover? How's the zoo going to recover? What - what's going to happen?

TOMPKINS: Well, what these people should keep in mind is, think how mad they would have been if the concert had gone on as scheduled. Also, it's amazing to me that there are still Ashlee Simpson fans walking around. Hasn't she done enough? What more does she have to do, people? But I think it's ironic that the concert was to take place at a zoo which specializes in putting in captivity rare creatures, and there's a whole bunch of Ashlee Simpson fans walking around free.

UNGER: Hey Paul, you're from, what? You're from Philly.

TOMPKINS: Oh yeah.

UNGER: Would this have occurred in Philly?

TOMPKINS: Let me tell you something, in the early '90s, at the height of the fame of Jane's Addiction, the rock-n-roll combo, they played a show at the Tower Theatre in Philadelphia. They played for about 20 minutes, swore at the audience, and left the stage and that audience knew what to do. They rose as one, went outside and tiped over the tour bus. So I don't know what's happening to today's pop music fans.

UNGER: Well, thank you - you're here to explain it to us, and I'm grateful for that. Comedian Paul F. Tompkins, thank you so much for your time tonight.

TOMPKINS: God bless, Brian.

UNGER: (INAUDIBLE) interrupting our transition into even more celebrity headlines, we have megatabs tonight. Fans of former boy-band singer Lance Bass got a surprise today. Bass said bye, bye, bye, to the closet. In an exclusive interview with "People" magazine, Bass explained he's coming out now because of persistent rumors about his sexuality. During his time with *NSYNC, Bass said he had to hide his orientation because he didn't want that to affect the success of the boy-band and careers of his fellow band members.

Bass says he's in a very stable relationship with Reichen Lehmkuhl who rose to fame after he and his ex-partner won the "Amazing Race" reality show on CBS. Now he works as a model and an actor.

Bass stressed to "People" magazine that he's not ashamed to make this announcement and that he feels liberated and happy.

Is there any chance you missed Keith on Leno last night? We hope not because we promoted it all week, but in case you did, we'll show you Mr. Olbermann's big explanation of the pictures that sent a wave of fury through FOX this week. That's next and this is Countdown.


UNGER: Well, sometimes vacations aren't all what they're cracked up to be, maybe not as relaxing as you'd hoped, possibly more of a working vacation than you bargained for. Take the vacation of one, Keith Olbermann, our No. 1 story on the Countdown.

As you no doubt noticed, Keith is taking some time off this work, definitely a working vacation, definitely the subject of a few headlines, certain gesture made before a room full of television critics getting a lot of play. Who knew they'd have camera there or would want to write about something other than the usual dismal TV offerings coming down the pike. Keith explaining what happened last night to Jay Leno on the "Tonight Show," also tackling that whole global warming thing. Let's take a look.


JAY LENO, "TONIGHT SHOW": Enjoying our the wonderful weather?

KEITH OLBERMANN, Countdown HOST: Got out here before the freeways melted. I feel very comfortable. Now we know Al Gore was a liar about global warming.

LENO: Really.

OLBERMANN: He said we had 10 years.

LENO: Right.

OLBERMANN: We got about 10 minutes.

LENO: Right 10 minutes, wow!

OLBERMANN: The forecast for tomorrow: Fog, 60 percent chance in the morning, the afternoon 60 percent chance of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

LENO: Really.

OLBERMANN: I'm worried, Jay. I'll confess.

LENO: Now, I got to ask you something. You were just at Press Tour. Tell people what that is. This is like - it always makes me laugh. They have - tell them what Press tour is.

OLBERMANN: This is where we get the finest human beings in America. Our TV writers and columnists, who do such a wonderful, underpaid or underappreciated job. We bring them all to one place, usually in Pasadena.

LENO: Right.

OLBERMANN: We stick them in a hotel for three of four weeks, and then we, as networks, go through there like a visiting ball club for like four days and we get interviewed by everybody. So you have to come up with material, if you're like the third week and I think we were the third week there...

LENO: We're showing our new shows for the fall.

OLBERMANN: Everything.

LENO: So, take about eight minutes, really, to do this whole thing.

OLBERMANN: Well, at MSNBC it takes like 25 minutes, because we're all new shows.

LENO: Right.

OLBERMANN: Every year.

LENO: That's right.


OLBERMANN: I've been fired, haven't I?

LENO: Not yet. Not yet. No. Now I mention this because I saw something in the paper were you had a Bill O'Reilly mask.


LENO: Where's that picture? Should put that picture up.

OLBERMANN: We'll explain what - want me to explain what that is?

LENO: Explain what that was all about.

OLBERMANN: Again, I had the 9:00 a.m. Saturday thing with these press TV guys. And I was told, in fact by Brian Williams, do something creative, wake them up. They're tired, they're sweaty, they're wearing the same suit for the third day in the row.

LENO: Right, right.

OLBERMANN: Just do something - I said, "I've got it" with the whole thing with me and Bill O'Reilly over the years. "A.P.," the "Associated Press," had a problem with FOX, they were taking pictures of the FOX talent without FOX's permission.

LENO: Right.

OLBERMANN: So, FOX said "No pictures guys" at the press tour. So, I thought, well I'll them a picture of the FOX guys. I'll just wear a Bill O'Reilly mask then they can use that picture.

LENO: Right.

OLBERMANN: And that was - everything sat down, we all had a big meeting about it beforehand. Everything worked great, until the next picture was taken.

LENO: Well, let's see. Let's see the next one. Where's the next screen. No there you're doing a.



LENO: You seem to enjoy tweaking Bill.

OLBERMANN: Well, this is not just about Bill, Jay. There's a two-part explanation for this.

LENO: All right, go ahead.

OLBERMANN: Would you like to hear it?

LENO: Go ahead.

OLBERMANN: The first half is, I saw a guy in the back who I recognized, I was giving him a you-hoo! You know, you-hoo!

LENO: Right.

OLBERMANN: And they got me in between the you and the hoo. The second part is that on the air in the last year, Bill O'Reilly has defended the Nazis from World War II on three separate occasions.

LENO: Now.

OLBERMANN: Yes, I wish I were making this up.

LENO: Have you met him in person? Have you two come face to face on any occasion?

OLBERMANN: Well, he can't go out during daylight hours.



OLBERMANN: So, we - I'm just - I've just been fired again.

LENO: Right.

OLBERMANN: We actually were at the same event last year, Joe Tory, the manager of the Yankees.

LENO: Sure.

OLBERMANN: Old friend of mine, I worked with him in the sports department of channel five, here in L.A. And he has this charity dinner. They have a lot of celebrities at it, so many that they run out of celebrities and ask people like me to show up. And so I go in, I pick up my little tab at this thing, my little name tag and I see beneath it is Bill O'Reilly's name tag. I think, "Oh, this is going to fun."

And we go into this like, room with all of these people and there are ball players and political figures and sports figures and everything else, and I see him, like 20 feet away.

And I see him and he does one of these. I thought, all right, he doesn't want to talk. And maybe I don't want to talk to him. But five minutes later I'm talking to somebody and she's looking over my shoulder and I do one of these and he does this. For 25 minutes, he stared daggers at me from a distance, and then, when I would look, he would look away. Just looked away. So we never actually stared.

LENO: So, you never actually went up and said, "Hello, we've never met, my name is."

OLBERMANN: No, I think I would have known what his name was. And he would have said to me "you're fired."


Well Keith, last I checked, your office was still there. Though I did see Connie Chung singing and dancing on your desk, which was a little weird.

That's it for the Wednesday edition of Countdown. I'm Brian Unger, in for Keith Olbermann. Thanks for watching.

And our MSNBC coverage continues now "Scarborough Country," Rita Cosby, sitting in for Joe again. You-hoo, Rita.