updated 7/24/2006 10:10:54 AM ET 2006-07-24T14:10:54

Guests: Jack Jacobs, Mo Rocca

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

The Israeli army poised on the border.  Reserve troops activated, leaflets dropped into southern Lebanon urging people to evacuate.  Invasion seems not a question of if but when.  What resistance will they face?  Will the Lebanese army join Hezbollah in a ground war?

And a summit is announced.  Secretary Rice is finally headed to the region.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE:  There is a political framework and a political solution that could stop the violence and leave Lebanon and the region in a much better place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNGER:  How can that be without seeking a cease-fire?  Andrea Mitchell on the diplomatic effort here.

Martin Fletcher with Israeli troops on the border and an curry in Beirut and Richard Engel in Lebanon.

In other news, from the knee nicks serial killer and a deadly tsunami in Indonesia, we‘ll tell you the stories you missed while the Middle East stole the headlines.

The open mouth potty mouth, a creepy massage of the German chancellor, and getting freaked out by a little girl.

All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.  I‘m Brian Unger, filling in for Keith.

It was on occupation that lasted 18 years, incurred heavy losses of life and became a quagmire before a forced withdrawal in 2000.  As it was in 1982, Israel is once again at Lebanon‘s doorstep amassing military at its border.  Is it playing diplomatic brinkmanship. 

Day ten of the crisis in the Middle East.  Lebanon vowing to send troops to the border to repel any Israeli invasion which could come sometime overnight.  Israel already has some troops in Lebanon for days, but now they are calling up reservists, building up tanks on the border and dropping leaflets on southern Lebanon warning residents to flee from the border, all signaling a ground invasion to attack Hezbollah.  The invasion doesn‘t mean the air assault is letting up. 

Israel striking numerous targets overnight.  The death toll in that country now up to 335 people and Hezbollah fired back sending 11 rockets into the port city of Haifa, wounding five people.  34 Israelis have lost their lives in the current conflict.  On the diplomatic front, secretary of state Condoleezza Rice announced she will be heading to the region this weekend but ruled out a quick cease-fire as a “false promise.”

In a moment, the military reality of the threat.

But first, Richard Engel on the ground in Beirut, and Martin Fletcher in Haifa.  We begin in Haifa.

Martin?

MARTIN FLETCHER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Hello, Brian.  With the Israeli army massing nearly the Lebanese border, saying Hezbollah cannot be defeated without a limit ground invasion.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FLETCHER (voice-over):  Tanks, troops, armored personnel carriers, bulldozers.  Israel‘s force is taking shape close to the Lebanon border.  Up to four divisions will be in place by Monday, as many as 20,000 men and 4,00 tanks.  In addition, thousands more reservists are being called up.  Air force, too.

I don‘t see any other real solution.

FLETCHER:  Military leaders now recognize that Hezbollah cannot be defeated using only artillery and warplanes.

(on camera):  There are a dozen tanks lined up and all along the border units are getting ready for the order to invade southern Lebanon.

(voice-over):  Small units are already fighting inside south Lebanon.  In four village about a mile inside, Israeli troops and Hezbollah fighters have been fighting hand-to-hand.  Dotted along the 90-mile border, artillery units today kept up a steady bombardment of Hezbollah positions.

(on camera):  They‘re backing up their troops in south Lebanon.

(voice-over):  Missiles too, streaking across the sky.  Pounding Hezbollah positions to make it easier for the ground troops.  But the Katyusha launchers are still well hidden and effective.  Rockets slammed a dozen towns across northern Israel today.  Eleven hit Haifa with some damage left 16 people were wounded, two seriously.

I‘m Martin Fletcher in Haifa.

Now to NBC‘s Richard Engel in Beirut.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICHARD ENGEL, MSNBC BEIRUT BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over):  As the Israeli air strike continued, Hezbollah rockets, bunkers and Lebanese homes, U.S.  Marines helped evacuate 5,000 more Americans.  But the scenes were a sharp contrast to what was going on in the southern city of Tyre.  A mass burial of 72 war dead, bodies in garbage bags taped shut.  Among them women and children.  The coffins parked in quickly numbered rose and laid to rest.  Hospitals are filling up as are shelters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I come with my family here because I‘m afraid.

ENGEL:  Lebanon‘s social affairs minister told NBC News that 15 percent of Lebanon‘s population has been displaced or is trapped at home.  The minister is unusually outspoken against Iran and Syria for using Hezbollah to push the war.

Israel today attacked Hezbollah positions in Beirut, targeting more infrastructure.

(on camera):  An Israeli air strike destroyed this bridge this morning.  The Lebanese government says it is still calculating how much damage has been done but already it‘s well into the billions of dollars.

They are destroying everything.  We don‘t understand for what.  The kidnapped soldiers is not the reason.

ENGEL (voice-over):  Inside Lebanon, 6-year-old Lara Abdullah (ph) is the only survivor in a family of seven.  She said mommy and daddy are now in heaven.

And Brian, we‘re told entire villages are now ghost towns where everyone has left.  Brian?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ENGEL:  Bureau chief Richard Engel in Beirut.

And now Colonel Jack Jacobs.

Thank you for your time.

COL. JACK JACOBS, U.S. ARMY (RET.):  Thank you.

UNGER:  Jack, a western intelligence official is telling NBC News that Israel is expected to move into Lebanon sometime overnight.  How likely is this to be a full scale invasion rather than a small incursion over the border?

JACOBS:  There are already Israeli troops there now and they‘ll move more in.  If you are a frontline infantry soldier, any kind of operation is a full-scale operation because you are in constant contact.  I think there is going to be a substantial force brought in. 

They‘re going to take deep ground.  They‘re going to have to do that because Hezbollah has moved farther to the north.  If they don‘t do that, if they don‘t move fairly deeply in, they won‘t accomplish the limited objectives they do have, that is to knock out Hezbollah on the border and make it difficult if not impossible to attack with rockets.

UNGER:  And when you say take deep ground, I assume that means fighting all the way, from the moment you step over the border.

JACOBS:  Sure.  They are already in contact now.  They will be continuously in contact.  When I was in Vietnam in 191973 we engaged the army trying to take back terrain that belongs to somebody, you are in constant contact.

UNGER:  In 1982 the Israeli army went across the Lebanese border to do this same kind of operation.  They intended to stay for 24 hours and ended up staying 18 years.  You are patrolling a buffer zone in that incursion and rot out terrorism.  Given the history of Israel in that involvement, what makes them think they can succeed now where they have failed before?

JACOBS:  I think their objectives are limited.  They may be geographically deep but I don‘t think they have any intention of staying there for any significant length of time.  For one thing, as you said, there were there for a long time and it was not a happy experience.  And they have Syria on one side, they will have to put a blocking force there too, by the way. 

They don‘t need to fight Syria there on Lebanese soil.  The objectives will include pursuing the Hezbollah infrastructure as quickly as they can and either withdraw quickly themselves or wait for some sort of negotiated settlement.  At the end of the day fighting these guys inside Lebanon has proved to be a big, big problem.  The other problem, however, even if they come back, they are liable to have to do it again because Hezbollah will come back on the border.

UNGER:  We heard from the president of Lebanon that the Lebanese army will meet up with Hezbollah if this invasion happens.  Now what are the chances of success when you have this combination of Lebanese army and Hezbollah guerrillas?

JACOBS:  Lebanese army is not a factor, to be honest with you.  They are not likely to ad anything to the combat power of Hezbollah.  As we heard in the previous package, Lebanon—the Lebanese government is not particularly pleased with the role Syria and Hezbollah has played in encouraging Israel to do what it has done.  There is no love lost there.  I don‘t think you‘ll see the Lebanese army.  The real action here, the main event is Hezbollah.

UNGER:  Let me ask you this, and this is just an observation that many have made.  In this prelude to what could be a ground invasion we have seep all this video of troops amassing on the border, why would the Israeli army let the media sort of videotape their location?  Is that unusual?

JACOBS:  Wow, it‘s incredibly unusual and also amazingly stupid.  Operation security is vitally important.  Any dined you have operation of any kind, certainly one that is offensive like this, you have a bumping of Israeli troops in an assembly area with the enemy with large numbers of Katyusha rockets and also longer range and more accurate rockets would be able to hit these guys.  You don‘t want to broadcast where you are located.  A big mistake.  And nobody should ever do that in any kind of military operation.

UNGER:  The videotape has been very explicit in showing these columns of tanks that are lined on this road.  It gives your enemy an idea of the force.

JACOBS:  It gives you a target.

UNGER:  And a road.  Certainly they could find that road that shows them lined you.

JACOBS:  You don‘t want to do that, broadcast anything, including the fact that you‘re coming.  I know they want to minimize civilian casualties so they have dropped leaflets telling people to go away like we did with the Iraqi army.  We said we were coming and to run away.  The downside to doing that is you lose the element of surprise—

UNGER:  Is this intimidation then?

JACOBS:  I think they genuinely want to minimize civilian casualties. 

But the downside is you are broadcasting the fact that you are coming and lose the element of surprise.  You won‘t be able to kill or capture as many enemy as you expect.  Getting rid of Hezbollah is the objective of this operation.

UNGER:  Retired Army Colonel Jack Jacobs, thank you for your time tonight.

JACOBS:  Good to be here.

UNGER:  From the war front to the diplomatic front, Condoleezza Rice making the U.S. Position clear, an immediate cease-fire is useless if it only delays hostilities for another bay.

And Beirut watches the destruction of their city.  A sobering look at the devastation there.

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNGER:  The foot dragging diplomacy of the of the Bush administration has been at issue this week.  Tony snow appearing defensive today on that note saying nobody has been more active than we have.  He went on to say critics criticism of the lack of urgency in the White House want egg timer diplomacy.  Condoleezza Rice planning to travel to the Middle East on Sunday, day 12 of the conflict. 

One might say the egg is getting hard boiled.  In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, that delay was deliberate.  Secretary Rice said a cease-fire would lead us back here in six months again or in nine months or a year trying to get another cease-fire but officials in the U.S. And Israel agreed on the delay to allow Israel time to degrade Hezbollah capabilities despite calls by the European Union and the United Nations for an immediate cease-fire.

With more on the secretary Rice‘s diplomatic plans in the coming days Andrea Mitchell joins us now.

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT:  The secretary of state said she will not negotiate an immediate cease-fire on her trip to the Middle East because she sees that as a false promise that would lead to further terror attacks.

UNGER:  What is the Bush man for Lebanon?  In addition to no immediate cease-fire Rice wants a long-term solution.  And what I won‘t do is go someplace and try to get a cease-fire that I know isn‘t going to last.

MITCHELL:  That means disarming Hezbollah so it can‘t threat especially Israel and stabilize Lebanon in the south.  All to be discussed next week in Rome.  Critics say the U.S. Is taking a big risk by appearing to side with Israel.

UNGER:  The United States of this current crisis plays into Arab perception that the Bush administration is up interested in the Arab cause and only interested in Israel.

MITCHELL:  To those who say she should have moved more quickly—

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICE:  I would have rushed over and started shuttling.  It wouldn‘t be clear what I was shuttling to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MITCHELL:  The risk is by the time U.S. Diplomacy does accomplish anything, Lebanon could already be in collapse.  That would defeat the whole purpose of trying to prop up this weak Lebanese government.  The other obvious chink in this is she will not negotiate with Iran or Syria or the chief sponsors of Hezbollah.  It‘s unclear what the trip will accomplish but it will respond to the criticisms that the U.S. Has to be more actively engaged.

UNGER:  Andrea Mitchell, thank you for your time.

MITCHELL:  Thank you.

UNGER:  Coming into sharper focus this week, how grim the big picture is in the Middle East and how that picture gets uglier day by day not in Afghanistan but in Iraq.  It seems to be teetering on the brink of civil war.  Whatever it is truly, the neoconservatives in the Bush administration who planned it didn‘t plan on this.

As our chief White House correspondent David Gregory reports, President Bush‘s foreign policy is coming under attack from all sides.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID GREGORY, MSNBC CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 

The Middle East in flames, from Iraq to Lebanon.  The region has reached a new boiling point.  For the White House another crisis in the corner of the world that has consumed a presidency.  And sometimes it requires a tragic situation to bring clarity to the international community.

But it wasn‘t supposed to be this way.  The president‘s foreign policy was designed to make the Middle East safer.  It‘s not.  In Beirut the anger is directed not just at Israel but at the U.S. crisis after crisis has undermined the Bush doctrine, pre-emptive war in Iraq to set a new chapter in peace.

GREGORY:  To liberate Iraq, to show the power of freedom.

The push for democracy to end violence.

BUSH:  I believe democracies don‘t war with each other. 

GREGORY:  And diplomatic disengagement from the Arab-Israeli conflict in favor of a wait and see approach.

BUSH:  Peace requires a new and different Palestinian leadership so that a Palestinian state can be born.

GREGORY:  A foreign policy that has yet to produce the promised results.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE:  The foreign policy is in at that timers, judge the Bush foreign policy by its own standard.  He said he was going to deal with the axis of evil.  In every case, each of those nations in question is more dangerous.

GREGORY:  Iraq on the brink of civil war, a rising Iran defying the world over nuclear weapons and flexing its muscles and missile tests by North Korea in violation of diplomatic demands.  Even the president‘s conservative allies say the world has become more unstable.  Where they now ask, is the president‘s nerve?

MAX BOOT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS:  We should be more aggressive in trying to make clear to Iran and Syria that their aggressive actions will have consequences.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

UNGER:  And that was NBC‘s David Gregory reporting.

Coming up, a closer look at the war from the front lines on both sides, Brian Williams from the air and from the ground in Israel, and Ann Curry from Beirut.

Away from the war, it was a week the White House would like to forget, from the botched back rub to the swear word heard around the world.  A complete analysis of all the buffoonery.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNGER:  Welcome back to COUNTDOWN.  Welcome back to COUNTDOWN.  I‘m Brian Unger, in for Keith Olbermann.

While the world focuses on the Middle East officials are watching for a cry from attention from Osama bin Laden without the normal build-up from al Qaeda and associates.  Bin laden is expected to comment on events in Lebanon and Gaza.  Such tapes reflect how little control bin Laden has over terrorist force, so little that he and his chief deputy Zawahiri, are just releasing commentaries on ongoing situations.  This will be the sixth such tame bin Laden has made this year alone, the most ever since 9/11.

From al Qaeda now to Hezbollah.  Ann Curry tours the December flux Beirut and finds locals picking through the rubble of their homes who still have unflinching support for Hezbollah.

The war U.S. Troops are fighting in the region.  The battle in Iraq.  The situation has escalated so badly this week there is open talk moaning Iraqis about dividing up the country along sectarian lines.

All that and more, ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNGER:  Yesterday at the United Nations, Secretary General Kofi Annan said that Israel‘s bombardment of Lebanon was doing nothing to destroy popular support of Hezbollah in that country.  In our number three story on the COUNTDOWN, a look into the reality of that statement, on the ground in Beirut where the neighborhoods are literally crumbling, the bombs coming from Israel and the only help from Hezbollah. 

Here‘s NBC‘s Ann Curry. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANN CURRY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Just hours after Israeli warplanes again targeted Harrick Rak (ph), Hezbollah‘s stronghold in south Beirut, it was still smoldering, block after block of apartment building were completely destroyed, an overpass collapsed onto the street.  This shoe and what‘s left of a child‘s stroller are the rubble.  Hezbollah said it knew to warn residents to evacuate. 

Seventy-seven-year-old Azida Saran (ph) came back to get her heart medication and was caught in the bombing. 

“Israel knows,” she says, then she says she loves Hezbollah. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Why do you love Hezbollah?   

CURRY:  She answered, “Hezbollah are not thieves, they don‘t kill innocent children.”  Hezbollah is highly regarded here.  It‘s built hospitals and schools and provided social services to the poor. 

Hussein Dervish (ph), speaks for Hezbollah, “We can fight for many years to come,” he says, “people with a strong will can never be defeated.”  He then warned us not to hang around.  Hezbollah had received word that Israeli warplanes were again overhead.  Everyone left, certain bombs will fall here again, sooner or later. 

I‘m Ann Curry in Beirut.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

UNGER:  And you may be growing accustomed to hearing about Katyusha rocket, those are the shells being fired by Hezbollah into Israel.  And as NBC News anchor, Brian Williams spent time with Israeli force, both on the ground, and in the air this week, he saw those rockets first hand, but also met with soldiers who think of their own families as well as the families of Lebanese civilians as the conflict rages. 

First the Israeli border with Lebanon. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR (voice-over):  If you look closely, down in the valley on what is normally a fairgrounds in the far north of Israel, there they are.  And if you don‘t see them at first you‘ll hear them go off.  The pounding of Lebanon goes on all day and all night.  In military parlance, they‘re called 155‘s, American-made 155mm cannons hurling Israeli-made shells into another country.  Their range is explained this way:  A shell fired from Washington could easily strike Baltimore. 

DARRON SPEILMAN (ph), ISRAELI SOLDIER.  This isn‘t a game.  This is about life or death and I‘d rather live. 

WILLIAMS:  Darron Spielman was raised in Detroit, graduated from the University of Michigan back in ‘96, moved in Israel and signed up to fight.  This young officer, who grew up rooting for the lions and tigers is NOW shooting at guerrillas he cannot see. 

SPEILMAN:  Today we fired well over 100 shells out of this location—

100-150 shells just today.  But it‘s a 24-hour operation, here. 

WILLIAMS:  The young men here are like soldiers anywhere. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I just feel they took us from the beach and our girlfriends and they just put us.  We don‘t really want to be here. 

WILLIAMS:  They dream about the outside world.  They know parts of Lebanon are being pulverized by what they do.  They‘re proud of the accuracy of their weapons, but they know that is a relative term and they don‘t think a lot about where these shells go. 

(on camera):  After a long stretch of silence during which these guns were mostly idle then came a sudden volley, apparently in response to intelligence on a target from a spotter in the air. 

One of these shells today or tomorrow, if we go with the law of averages, is going to kill a 6-year-old boy somewhere and it‘s not the intended target of these shells. 

SPEILMAN:  I don‘t think there‘s any way to rationalize the death of a 6-year-old child.  I think a 6-year-old child is—having children myself is unbelievably painful.  However I that we‘re—I know the pains, having been here for days, that we‘re taking not to hit civilians.  However, my family‘s at risk right now.  Israel‘s at risk. 

WILLIAMS (voice-over):  Each blast moves the air for 100 yards around.  These shells can open a hole in the earth 40 miles away.  It‘s long-distance destruction, just like the rockets we saw today all over the countryside coming in from Lebanon. 

(on camera):  The Katyusha rockets, random and unguided, are highly dangerous as we‘ve seen.  The ones we don‘t hear about land on hillsides where they start fires, in this case on a hillside in Lebanon. 

(voice-over):  For now, this northern stretch of Israel is the rocket corridor.  These are dangerous days and there may be many more ahead.  The fires are everywhere.  Luckily these are the rockets that don‘t hit buildings or people.  They are, however, the marks of a conflict that has so far mostly been fought mostly long distance. 

In a Blackhawk helicopter at 1,500 feet, we are flying over the northern most part of Israel.  With us a high-ranking general in the Israeli defense forces.  Over the constant traffic chatter in Hebrew, we learn there is activity on the ground right below us. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There‘re having some shelling right now.  We‘re going to try and look for it. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s going to be on the right-hand side.

WILLIAMS:  The trails of smoke and dust, visible, out the window are where Katyusha rockets have landed, in this case, in the uninhabited Israeli countryside and in some cases they have set fire to the surrounding brush.  The missiles are unguided and random and plentiful.  Then I notice something out the window. 

(on camera):  There‘s a launch trail right there.  I saw the launch. 

(voice-over):  From a distance of six miles, I witnessed a launch and then a second launch, a rising trail of smoke, then a second launch, an orange flash and more smoke as a rocket heads off toward Israel.  Our tour by air ended on the ground in Haifa, but in a low-lying and vulnerable part of the city.  Our drive to the safety of the surround mountain is interrupted by the sound of sirens. 

(on camera):  We are in Haifa, the air raid sirens have just sounded. 

Generally, that means we have 60 seconds to seek shelter. 

(voice-over):  We have chosen a high rise apartment building at random and are directed down several flights of stairs to a bomb shelter, all the while waiting to feel or hear something signaling possible impact. 

(on camera):  On the way down the stairs we a felt deep, but far off concussion of what has become known as a “hit” or a “missile strike,” here in Haifa. 

(voice-over):  After the all-clear, we again venture out into the empty streets. 

(on camera):  This is an unusual sight in a city of a half million people, the city of Haifa, a major thoroughfare with no cars.  Most of these buildings are empty.  But over here, is the view the Israeli‘s are most worried about.  Down in the port section of the city, the petrol chemical plant and fuel storage tanks. 

(voice-over):  Haifa is a battleground in a random war.  Those who remain behind here have decided to play the odds. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

UNGER:  NBC‘s Brian Williams earlier this week in Israel. 

The Mideast war coverage has dominated the news here and abroad this week.  What about the other stories we missed?  Well, we‘ll get you caught up the week that was, including the latest on another deadly tsunami that hit Indonesia this week.  And Colin Farrell with a bizarre run-in with a woman while taping of the “Tonight Show.”  More details after a quick break, but first here are COUNTDOWN‘s “Top 3 Sound Bites” of the day. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

And they‘re off for the 2006 Horseman‘s Park season.  Scoot-Scoot and Go went right to the yard at the start and there‘s Mr. (INAUDIBLE), it‘s like their moving up along side Dazzling J.R. and here they come into the stretch.  And the starting gate has not moved.  The starting gate was not move.  So hold on (INAUDIBLE) tickets. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over):  Republicans, running for office in Nevada gathered for a little meet and greet session. 

MIMI DAMAYO, CANDIDATE/PORNO STAR:  I‘m just an average single mother who has some sincere concerns about the state of Nevada. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mimi Damayo is running for governor, but don‘t let her conservative attire at this event fool you.  Her Web site is filled with photos that look like this. 

(on camera):  Is it appropriate, though, for a porn star to run in the state of Nevada?   

DAMAYO:  Well, it‘s not appropriate when I‘m a former adult film star. 

I quit that in 2003. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over):  Damayo says education would be her top priority as governor and she‘s hoping her hard core history will help rather than her hurt her chances of victory. 

DAMAYO:  Victory for the Republican Party!

DAVID LETTERMAN, TALK SHOW HOST:  So they have a press conference and Oprah says we‘re not guy and I think that‘s probably true.  Because, think about it, if Oprah was gay, well, she‘d tell everybody.  With this thin in mind about Oprah and her press conference, look what I saw, I taped it and brought.  This is from al-Jazeera. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I would like to address issues that out there.  We are not gay.  We do normal things together like spend months hiding in a cave, getting lonely and bored and—anyway, it‘s none of your business. 

Right doll face?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (GROANING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, and death to America. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

UNGER:  The week that was in the world of news.  With the conflict in the Middle East dominating the headlines we‘ll get you up to speed on all the headlines this didn‘t get much attention.  And then that fun video that did attention, the loose-lipped week for the president overseas.  That‘s next, this is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNGER:  Well, there are big news stories and there are small news stories and news organizations endeavor daily to assign the appropriate weight to each of them.  But, when there is one all-consuming story, such as the current crisis in the Middle East, what might have been big news suddenly finds itself in alongside the small news, in the category of “other news.” 

NBC‘s Mike Taibbi now on the other big news stories you may have missed this week and why they mattered. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIKE TAIBBI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  A tsunami in Indonesia. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The water grabbed me, it pulled me under. 

TAIBBI:  And 600 dead and 20,000 families homeless.  Surely it would have gotten more attention Monday without the war.  Likewise the worldwide heat wave in the Europe and across the U.S., unlike anything in decades. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Everything is melting.  I can‘t take it.

TAIBBI:  More bad news that got short tripped, in Phoenix, 11 victims so far, of not one serial killer, but likely two. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Another example of waste.

TAIBBI:  And in Washington, reports of more abuses of Katrina relief funds. 

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS ®, MAINE:  The unwarranted purchase of eight high definition televisions, including a 63 inch plasma TV. 

TAIBBI (on camera):  But by far was biggest under-reported story was the especially bloody week in Iraq, the current U.N. estimate of more than 100 civilian deaths a day from sectarian violence, suggesting that a breaking point is very near. 

(voice-over):  One published report quotes Iraqi officials as saying the American-backed political experiment is over and the partition of Baghdad and Iraq itself, real possibilities.  NBC correspondent, Ned Colt. 

NED COLT, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  But most journalists I know, and certainly most Iraqis I know, our colleagues and friends and so on, would say we‘re closer to that all-out civil war than we have been before. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Thirty seconds to touchdown. 

TAIBBI:  There was also some good news that got little attention, “Discovery‘” landing, after a flawless mission.  And American, Floyd Landis, coming absolutely out of leftfield to contend in the Tour de France.  Lance who?   

But war trumps all other stories, good or bad, and that‘s nothing new. 

Mike Taibbi, NBC News, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

UNGER:  And then there is the other-other news.  The celebrity and entertainment stories of “Keeping Tabs.”  And you think it‘s easy being a big-time Hollywood movie star?    Well, it is, most of the time, but as Colin Farrell is finding out, yet again, not all of the time. 

The star of the upcoming “Miami Vice” was reportedly confronted on the stage of the “Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” Thursday, by a woman who sued him for harassment.  Debra Bradford had accused Farrell of stalking her, but her suit was thrown out of court.  Audience member‘s report Bradford walked onto the stage during the taping and confronted Farrell, leaving a copy of her shelf-published book on Leno‘s desk, titled:  “Colin Farrell: 

A Dark, Twisted Puppy.”  Farrell calmly walked her offstage where a witness claims of hear this following exchange:

Bradford:  “I‘ll see you in court.” 

Farrell:  “You‘re insane.” 

Dark, twisted puppies.

Meanwhile supermodel, Naomi Campbell, got more than an exit stage left after a recent disturbance outside her ex-boyfriend‘s home in London.  She got a trip to the big house.  British tabloids reported police were called after Campbell did what is never a good idea.  She showed up outside the boyfriend‘s home in the wee hours of July 10, wanting her stuff back.  Perhaps alcohol was involved?    She was arrested for breach of peace, but released without charge.  And police say they went and got her stuff. 

And speaking of late-night alcohol-related incidents, “Access Hollywood,” always reliable, is reporting the L.A.  County Sheriff‘s Department suspects booze was a factor in the one car accident involving teen actor, , “The Sixth Sense” star is recovering in a Pasadena hospital from fractured rib and shoulder injury. 

Doctors report he is uncomfortable, but awake, alert and carrying on conversations with the ghosts of dead people.  Police say a blood sample was taken to test for alcohol and the case will be brought to the district attorney if it comes back positive.  Osment was driving to his L.A.-are home around 1:00 a.m.  Thursday morning, when he hit a brick pillar and overturned his 1995 Saturn.  I see broke people. 

And at the top of the COUNTDOWN it‘s been a week the White House might like to forget.  From the back rub gone horribly wrong to the potty mouth president speaking with little potty mouth full.  Mo Rocca, on presidential blunders.  That‘s next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNGER:  Well, you ever had a week so bad you wish you could erase all

of it?    You know, the blunder at work or the smackdown from the woman you

unsuccessfully tried to pick up or the crisis in the Middle East?    All of

these disproportionate, of course.  Well, in our No.  1 story on our COUNTDOWN the White House tried to erase at least part of the president‘s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week from its transcripts, but—and this is highly relevant, we still have the videotape. 

Now, you may recall hearing about the hecklers at the president‘s speech at the NAACP, just yesterday, these guys who stood up and shouting questions about Dick Cheney and the Middle East peace crisis, but look only at the transcript on the White House Web site and you wouldn‘t have know they even existed.  The incident entirely erased from the president‘s permanent record, unless you count the word “(applause)” in parenthesis.

We applauded you, White House, I.T. desk techno mumbo-jumbo guys, kudos to you for even trying.  And isn‘t trying all that President Bush was doing—when he moved in on German Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier this week.  It‘s the backrub turned rebuff achnine er (ph) president and then some.  To be fair, the move must have been a big hit back at, you know, the decals (ph), Yale University circa, what -- 1964?    Wouldn‘t every G-8 Summit be improved by a kegger or say a sorority mixer?   

Earlier this week, Maureen Dowd of the “New York Times” dubbed dubbaya‘s behavior the “Animal House Summit.”  And when you consider that “Bluto” Blutarsky was elected to the United States Senate, it doesn‘t seem all that far fetched.  Now, Maureen Dowd was also, of course, referring to this incident.  White House executive versus Pucker House dinner roll, guess who win.  Chewing the fat with Tony Blair, taking on a whole new meaning, the president‘s table manners, that afternoon, eclipsed only by his language. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  She‘s going.  I think Condi‘s going to go pretty soon. 

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER:  Well, that‘s all that matters.  If you see—it will take some time to get that together.  But at least it gives people.

BUSH:  It‘s a process, I agree.  I told her your offer too.

BLAIR:  Well, it‘s only—or if she‘s gonna or if she needs to ground prepared as it were.  Obviously, if she goes out she‘s got to succeed as it were, whereas I can go out and just talk.

BUSH:  See, the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this (EXPLETIVE DELETED) and it‘s over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNGER:  Well, in times like these it helps when you can turn to the experts.  People like Mo Rocca, television personality, part-time political historian, a regular panelist on National Public Radio‘s, “Wait Wait...  Don‘t Tell Me!”

MO ROCCA, TELEVISION PERSONALITY:  That‘s right, thank you.

UNGER:  Yes, and a frequent guest here on COUNTDOWN. Thank you for your time, Mo. 

ROCCA:  Thank you, Brian. 

UNGER:  Hey, I don‘t want to offend any cows here, Mo, I stared at plenty of ruminant animals when I was growing up back in Ohio.  You know, and it looks to me like President Bush was chewing cud.  Where do you come down on that?

ROCCA:  Well look, I want to be very clear about this.  I have not actually seen President Bush‘s hooves, so I can‘t tell you if they‘re cloven or if they‘re split and I don‘t know for a fact that his stomach has four compartments.  But if take, for the sake of argument, if we assume that President Bush is actually a remnant, then it‘s a really remarkable transformation.  He went to the G-9 as a bull and he came back as a heifer.  And I think that that real moment, the transition really happened in the face-off with Vladimir Putin, when he was humiliated or I guess castrated then. 

UNGER:  Was there a branding involved.

ROCCA:  There may have been.  Let‘s be happy that he‘s not a rabbit.  Do you know that rabbits undergo a process called refection where they actually pass partially digested food and then they put it back in their mouths to finish digesting it.  So, it really would have been quite a scandal if President Bush had eaten his poop. 

                UNGER:  The ol‘ refection.  Hey Mo, who should we blame here?    Emily

Post or his mother—the president‘s mother?    Could this have been, you

know, the result of Barbara Bush‘s ineffectiveness during the, you know, table manners portion of his upbringing?   

ROCCA:  I think we blame Blair.  Look, the role of valet or a butler is not only to run a good household, but is also to instill good manners.  Jeeves would have never permitted Bertie Wooster to get into the messes that Bush has gotten into here.  I mean, it really reminds me more of that sitcom “Mr.  Belvedere” in the 1980‘s where you have, you know, an English butler working for a boorish American, in this case Bob Uecker, and you know, I‘m not here to trash Bob Uecker, but that‘s really what it‘s like.  It‘s pretty sad.  I do not expect a Web site to popping up soon called “Ask Blair,” it‘s not going to happen.  He‘s not doing his job well. 

UNGER:  Do you smell a sitcom here?    Maybe?

ROCCA:  Maybe.  Maybe, but I‘ve already registered it with the Writer‘s Guild, so don‘t try to steal it. 

UNGER:  So, refection, you‘ve go that, and registered with the Writer‘s Guild.

Hey, Mo, did the president think that maybe this was kind of like, you know, a chili cook-out?    You know, because, you could chew this way around, sort of, a campfire or a chili cook-off.  Maybe these events were difficult to distinguish?   

ROCCA:  Maybe a chili dinner.  I think that, it wasn‘t that informal.  I mean, look, he said “Yo Blair,” it‘s not like he said “Yo, Tony.”  I mean, he called my his last name.  I don‘t think it was that—I mean, it was a little bit casual. 

UNGER:  What should we take away from the sister incident of that bizarre back rub?    And by “sista,” you know, I mean Angela Merkel. 

ROCCA:  Well look, among all, sort of the global leadership circuit parties, G-8, Davos, WTO, Bilterberk (ph).  G-8 is the least hook-uppie.  It‘s true.  It‘s usually just eight guys scratching themselves.  Now we‘ve got a girl in the G-8 like.  It‘s exciting.  It‘s like when Wonder Woman joined the SuperFriends.  And, you know, it‘s kind of a party. 

And she‘s fun.  Like if the frame were wider there, you could see that

underneath the table Putin is kissing her stomach, tenderly, and Koizumi, I

think, is singing an Elvis song, and she‘s fun.  I think the problem here

is how women are responding, largely.  I think at the next G-8 Summit,

you‘re likely to see a lot of German women protesting with placards saying

“nine means nine,” or “Take back the nacht” or something like that..  It‘s

it brothers a lot of women. 

UNGER:  Mo, you know, Ronald Reagan, of course ran for president..

ROCCA:  Yes, I didn‘t know him but, oh sorry, yes. 

UNGER:  But let‘s pretend you knew him, but knew his history well and knew the ran on idea of restoring dignity in the White House, something Bush evoked during his first campaign.  Now, does Bush‘s behavior leave republican Candidates more vulnerable in the upcoming delectation, then they already are?   

ROCCA:  That depends how democrats behave, of course.  It‘s always going to be a comparison.  I mean, Hillary Clinton has to run for the Senate in 2006 to be reelected and you know, if she continues her drift to the center and starts, you know, talking through a mouthful of food or giving massages to world leaders, I think that it‘s going to it an even playing field.  It‘s all how they respond. 

UNGER:  Thank you so much for your expertise.  The one and only, Mo Rocca, television personality extraordinaire.  Some thank you for your expertise. 

ROCCA:  Thank you, Brian. 

UNGER:  Thank you, sir, for joining us.

That wraps it up for us on this Friday edition of COUNTDOWN, our MSNBC coverage continues next with “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.”  I‘m Brian Unger in for Keith Olbermann.  And thank you for watching.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

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