updated 7/27/2006 12:09:10 PM ET 2006-07-27T16:09:10

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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO”)

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)--

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNGER:  All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

BILL O‘REILLY:  We are very sensitive.  I know it doesn‘t appear that way.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

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.

Richard?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC BEIRUT BUREAU CHIEF:  Good evening, Brian.

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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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.

PETER ALEXANDER, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening to you, Brian.

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.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

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.

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO:  Thank you, Brian.

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.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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: 

Insanity. 

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. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

Susan, good evening. 

SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  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. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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?

ANN COULTER, COLUMNIST:  No. 

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

COULTER:  No. 

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. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(LAUGHTER)

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. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes I did.

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.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

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. 

(LAUGHTER)

LENO:  Oh.

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.” 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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.

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

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2006 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2006 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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