updated 8/22/2006 11:00:11 AM ET 2006-08-22T15:00:11

Guests:  Norm Early, Tom Piozet, Chris Cillizza, Jeffrey Ross

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

The trial of the century of the millennium that hasn‘t yet began begins.  Friday, we called him a snake on a plane.  Take that, “New York Post.”  Today, the high-speed car chase is on.  Hopped up on champagne, shrimps, and stellar business class euphoria, John Mark Karr touches ground on U.S. soil, not before the media analyzes his every bodily function and choice of in-flight movie.  We‘ll talk to a cameraman who was on that flight.

Plus, the latest twists and turns in the car trip to Boulder.  Make that car wreck.  From mullet to mug shot, analysis of today‘s latest developments.

What you are looking at is not civil war.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I hear a lot of talk about civil war.  I, I‘m concerned about that, of course.  I, and I‘ve talked to a lot of people about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNGER:  No, this, according to the president, is what national unity looks like, despite the highest number of civilian deaths in Iraq ever, despite the deaths of 26 U.S. soldiers this month alone.

If there were such a thing as a no-spin zone, today‘s White House press conference would not be it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  The final history in the region has yet to be written.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNGER:  The long and short view from “The Washington Post”‘s Chris Selissa (ph).

And the month of August brings an outbreak of foot-in-mouth disease. 

This strain is viral.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN ®, VIRGINIA:  And let‘s give a welcome to Macaca here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNGER:  COUNTDOWN delivers the greatest Web hits.

And terrorism turns tabloid when Osama bin Laden‘s former sex slave speaks out, with this insightful nugget.  Bin Laden has a crush on Whitney Houston and wants Bobby Brown dead.  Take it from us, you‘ll want a shower after the show.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

And good evening.  I‘m Brian Unger in Los Angeles.  Keith Olbermann has the night off.

The biggest news to come out of the JonBenet Ramsey case, fly tie, airways, business class, if you can afford it.  In your sleeper seat, you‘ll dine on oversized shrimp, duck, salad with walnut dressing, and wash it all down with the alcoholic beverage of your choice.

By now, you know what a lovely flight John Mark Karr had en route from Bangkok, Thailand, to a county jail in Los Angeles, where an extradition hearing will be held tomorrow morning.  Final stop on the Karr world tour, Boulder, Colorado, where Karr has some ‘splainin‘ to do about his admission that he was with JonBenet on the night she was murdered.

Karr‘s bizarre, overchronicled homecoming a stark contrast from the homecoming soldiers will receive who were killed in Iraq in August, 26 U.S.  servicemen and women this month so far.

The president answered questions on the topic of Iraq today from the White House.  That in a moment.

But first, our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, the John Mark Karr trip, with plenty of twists and turns.

Karr is currently being held on a murder warrant from Boulder, Colorado, even though he has yet to be charged with anything.  He‘s turned down legal representation for his extradition hearing tomorrow.  But he still got a visit from the lawyer who defended him on child porn charges in 2001, who claims he‘s eager to get back to Colorado.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINT VAN ZANDT, SAN FRANCISCO ATTORNEY:  I think Mr. Karr is very anxious to be able to exercise his right to face the charges that are being brought against him.  And he knows that those charges are in Boulder, they‘re not here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNGER:  While no one is sure exactly what Boulder authorities have on Karr, the media is searching for its own clues, “The National Enquirer” digging up this video of him from 1987 and 1992, the new pictures not really revealing much about Karr except, apparently, his love of music, mullets, and hiding behind underwear.

A more telling clue, perhaps, can be found by comparing a high school yearbook he signed to the ransom note left in the Ramsey household after JonBenet disappeared.  In the yearbook, he writes, in capital letters, “SHALL BE THE CONQUEROR,” which could, according to some experts, correspond with the mysterious initials “S.B.T.C.” left on the ransom note.

There are other possible clues in comparing the two documents, one handwriting expert telling NBC that the curvature of the L‘s looks similar, as do the strange slant on the E‘s and the square shape of the A‘s.

We‘re going to talk to a cameraman who was in the business class cabin with Karr.

But first, to help assess where the legal case is now, I‘m joined by former Denver district attorney Norm Early.

Thank you for your time, Norm.

NORMAN EARLY, NATIONAL DISTRICT ATTORNEYS ORGANIZATION:  Thank you, Brian.

UNGER:  Sir, let‘s start with those handwriting similarities.  Is this the first public clue that Karr may have some connection to the murder of JonBenet Ramsey, or is this just too circumstantial at this point?

EARLY:  Well, nothing‘s that circumstantial, Brian, because in a case of this nature, what you‘re trying to do is put together every thread that you can possibly put together.  You put together enough threads, you got yourself a rope.  You got yourself a rope, you can get a conviction.

So this is a clue, this is something that a jury could look at and say, You put this with everything else, it makes sense to me that he could possibly be the individual.

UNGER:  Now, there is this extradition hearing tomorrow, and according to Karr‘s old lawyer, he wants to get to back to Colorado as soon as possible.  But realistically, how long is this going to take?  At what point does the Boulder DA have to either charge Karr or let him go?

EARLY:  Well, it—couple things here, Brian.  First of all, they have 10 days to pick him up after he, in fact, waives extradition, if he does.  Once he gets to Colorado, you‘re looking at the 72-hour rule, which generally dictates that once somebody is in custody, and they‘re being held on a charge, that they have to be filed upon.  That means that charges must be filed within 72 hours.

UNGER:  Norm, are we going find out about the results of this DNA test that they took of Karr in Thailand while he was still there?  Would that be a part of the arraignment?  Because that could just simply put all of this, or at least, at least sort of devalue the case at this point, wouldn‘t it?

EARLY:  Brian, you know, district attorneys don‘t conduct an investigation in order to assuage the public or in order to make the media feel comfortable about what it‘s reporting.  They conduct the case basically to try to win it.  And under these circumstances, what normally happens is, the district attorney‘s office gathers this evidence, does not give it to the media until the media may be present at a preliminary hearing, which would outline all the evidence against this individual.

So you wouldn‘t see the Boulder district attorney‘s office having a press conference saying, Hey, folks, we‘ve got DNA on the man.

UNGER:  Well, what are your thoughts on that DNA test remaining secret once it‘s known?  I mean, you‘re a former district attorney.  You know how the media works.  And they will find out things when they want to find out things.

EARLY:  Well, I, you know, I, that is quite possibly the case.  But I don‘t think it will be leaked from the district attorney‘s office or the law enforcement people in Boulder.  I think that if the media finds out, they‘ll find out, whether there is a match or not a match.

I think the DNA is going to be dispositive of the case.  I think the handwriting exemplars are very important.  But, you know, you can get five, 10 people on each side, so five saying that it is the guy, five saying it‘s not the same handwriting, 10 saying it is, 10 saying it‘s not.  I mean, because question document examination is not as an exact science as DNA.  As a matter of fact, it‘s not really an exact science at all.

UNGER:  Norm, there‘s been all this hullabaloo over the first—the business class seat, the business class, the cost of transporting this person back to the United States in this business class cabin.  What are your thoughts on that?

EARLY:  I think it‘s wrong to assume that the authorities in Boulder would want to wine and dine any person who‘s potentially charged with murder, especially somebody who‘s potentially charged with the murder of JonBenet Ramsey.

What I think here are a number of things, and it‘s all speculation.  But one thing, it‘s easier to contain somebody in business class if you don‘t have restraints on them, and they‘re in a smaller area than they would be other—if they were in coach.

The second thing is, quite simply, there may not have been any more coach seats available on this airline, and the only thing they could get for four people, because remember, it was Karr as well as three individuals watching him, the only way they could get four seats on the flight may well have been in business class.

As far as the wining and dining circumstances of business class, I‘ve listened to a number of passengers, and they were more concerned about the lack of restraints on him than they were about the fact that he was eating and drinking the same thing that they were eating and drinking.

UNGER:  Norm Early, thanks so much for your expertise and talking with us tonight.

EARLY:  Brian, thank you an awful lot, man.  You take care of yourself.

UNGER:  You too.

The biggest question in what is the absurdist John Mark Karr drama still unfolding remains, is he a confessor, or merely delusional?  The second most important question is, did he enjoy the pizza snack at the end of his flight.  Why, after drinking a beer, did he crush the can with his hand?  And what did he think of the Tom Cruise in-flight movie, “The Last Samurai”?

Sadly, “Little Miss Sunshine” still in theaters.

In order for us to make it past the meaningless trivia and get to the more important trivia, we‘ve managed to track down the very same person who shot all this footage of Karr on board that notorious flight.

Tom Piozet is a freelance cameraman who shot the footage around the world this weekend.

Tom, thanks for joining us tonight.

TOM PIOZET, FREELANCE CAMERAMAN:  Thanks for having me, Brian.

UNGER:  Tom, let me start by asking you the big question that everybody was thinking this weekend, certainly it was drummed into our heads by most of the media, is that, was the food good?  I mean, how was the prawn?

PIOZET:  I actually didn‘t have the prawns, I had the—poupette of capon.  There was quite an array of food on this flight.  I think I gained about five pounds, a number of desserts.  I had crepes for breakfast.  It is a really long flight.  I think besides the nonstop to Singapore, it‘s, like, one of the longest flights, 16 ½ hours.

UNGER:  Well, let me, let me take a moment to squeeze one serious, albeit totally speculative, question out of this.  No handcuffs.  But you caught shots of his handlers with their foot in the bathroom door.  He‘s in it, presumably.  Was Karr, in your opinion, in custody, or not?

PIOZET:  Well, I had no doubt he was in custody.  But I have no official word of anything.  I just assumed that he would probably be in handcuffs when I would see him on the plane.  I got caught up in a lot of security, extra stuff, because of the London bomb threats.  And so when I got in this last little bit of extra security by the gate, all of a sudden he came and was seated with his handlers in the regular area where all the other passengers were waiting.

And I said, Wow, what do I do?  Can I jump out of this line and grab my camera?  I just decided to wait and get through.  And by that point, he was just getting whisked on the plane, so I missed that.

But the idea that he was just hanging out with the other passengers, although he was surrounded by some security personnel, a couple more than were on the plane with him, I found that quite surprising.  And that—and then, a few of the passengers came up and said, Hey, I‘m sure everything is safe.  I‘m not worried.  But don‘t you think it‘s a bit strange?  Do they usually do this with, you know, accused murderers, the fact that they would let him on the plane without handcuffs?

UNGER:  Was—on the security personnel that you saw on the flight, were they wearing guns that were on their holsters and anywhere near him (INAUDIBLE)?

PIOZET:  (INAUDIBLE), I mean, in this case, I hope not.  I mean, the guy doesn‘t look very physically threatening.  I mean, but who knows when someone may get desperate, what they might do, especially on a long flight, where you‘re so tired.  How can you pay attention every second?

Plus, the guy from the (INAUDIBLE) Boulder DA‘s office was seated next to him, and the other two personnel were in front of him.  So it‘s kind of strange that way.

And you ask if he was in custody.  I mean, there was no doubt, when he got up to go to the bathroom, which just by chance I caught on three different occasions, they had, you know, their foot in the door.  And to me, that‘s someone who‘s not just on his own, having a leisurely flight back to the U.S.  He‘s obviously in some sort of custody.  How you define that legally, I have no idea.

UNGER:  Were the other passengers not so happy about all this commotion in the business class cabin?  It is a couple thousand dollars to sit in that place.

PIOZET:  Well, yes, correct.  So when they let him on the plane, we kind of queued up, there were six journalists, seven, actually, six cameras, to get on the plane quickly.  And we were the first ones down the jetway.  And we quickly got on and put our baggage down in the business class cabin, and began photographing him.

And we found out very quickly that the Thai Airlines personnel were rather nonchalant about it as well as the—his handlers.  And so we got our shots.  And then, as the passengers that paid high dollars began to board the business cabin, that‘s when it became obvious that there was going be a problem if we didn‘t figure out, as a group of journalists, what to do.

And we just decided and made a deal with them that we‘d finish our shooting, and then after an hour into the flight, we would take some time to come over and ask him if he wanted to talk, and then get photo opportunities individually for a few minutes.  If that would work out, it would make everyone happy, and then we‘d all go back to our seats.

UNGER:  Tom Piozet, who shot some of that—who shot that video aboard that Thai Airways flight.  Thank you for joining us tonight.

PIOZET:  Thank you for having me, Brian.

UNGER:  Sure.

For all the talk of what Karr ate and what Karr said, there‘s still a huge question mark over his confession, and whether there‘s a grain of truth in it.  But what would possess anyone to publicly lie like that?

And President Bush, out in front of the cameras, selling his position to on the war on terror to the press, after he got a bump in the polls from doing the same thing last week.  Coincidence?

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNGER:  Now, whether or not John Mark Karr told the truth to Thai police when he said he killed JonBenet Ramsey is up to the Boulder DA and maybe a jury to decide.

But in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, if it turns out that he is delusional, that his obsession with the case made him mistakenly claim to be a killer, he‘s not alone.  As our correspondent Mike Taibbi reports, Karr could just be part of a long history of big cases and false confessors.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIKE TAIBBI, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Today‘s “New York Post” front page, a reference to the ex-schoolteacher brought from Bangkok under escort overnight, after Thai police say he confessed that he accidentally killed JonBenet Ramsey.

But while John Mark Karr may be a disturbed, sex-obsessed 41-year-old man with an unnatural interest in the murder of a child beauty queen, many experts say, with each passing day, his confession sounds less believable.

DR. JAMES FOX, NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY CRIMINOLOGIST: 

He‘s a confessor who wants attention.

TAIBBI:  Karr wouldn‘t be the first false confessor.  Hundreds claimed to have kidnapped the Lindbergh baby, and among modern examples, there‘s Henry Lee Lucas.

HENRY LEE LUCAS:  If law enforcement wanted phony confessions, I‘d give it to them.

TAIBBI:  Who made phony confessions about some 600 murders.  If Karr has made a phony confession, some see him as merely being out for the attention he‘s attracted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He wants to be part of it, part of the excitement, part of the drama.

TAIBBI:  Any formal charges against Karr would be lodged in Colorado, which would bring him to this lockup.

(on camera):  Where Karr is eventually housed at the Boulder County Jail will be determined by several factors, key among them, his mental health evaluation.

(voice-over):  If he‘s at risk from other inmates, or a risk to himself, it would be an isolation suicide precaution lockup, complete with special clothing.

CMDR. DWIGHT HILL, BOULDER COUNTY JAIL:  We put this blanketed smock on them, which is a garment that doesn‘t allow them to tie into knots or anything like that, and use it to possibly hurt themselves.

TAIBBI:  Whether Karr is a murderer or just claiming to be one, the man in this home video is about to have his dramatic story revealed as truth, or as the cruelest imaginable fraud.

Mike Taibbi, NBC News, Boulder, Colorado.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

UNGER:  From the wacky news that‘s grabbed our attention, to the wacky video we bring you every day, Oddball is pedaling your way.  Pimp that tripe, fella.

And speaking of pimping your something, the latest chapter of Britney and (INAUDIBLE) in public.  We are just always so grateful that there are cameras present.

That and more, ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNGER:  I am Brian Unger in Los Angeles.  Keith Olbermann has the night off.

And once again we transition from the real news of the day to the so-called lighter fare.  Or is the other way around?  I‘m not sure.  But let‘s just roll the funny videos.

Let‘s play Oddball.

And prepare once again to be wowed by the marvels of Indian technological ingenuity.  We‘re in the village of Hyderabad (ph), where one man has fulfilled his long dream of owning the Guinness record for world‘s largest tricycle.  Yes, look at him go, 42 feet tall, and unsafe at any speed.  The trike is the crown jewel of inventor K. Sudhakar‘s (ph) lifetime of accomplishments.

He took the opportunity to show off some of his other great ideas, like the bed you can drive, you can drive that around, and the computer you can drive around.  Seems like a pretty good idea.  But dude, you‘re driving a Dell.

And when you talk about great inventions, the granddaddy of them all, hands down, is the George Foreman grill, now, not just because it makes terrific and tasty burgers, but because the grease drains away from the food and collects in a dish in the shape of holy religious figures.  And there is the Virgin Mary of the George Foreman grease bucket, according to John Milanos (ph) of St. Louis, Missouri.

(INAUDIBLE) remember the Holy Mother ever wearing a sombrero?  But hey, it‘s your burger leavings, not mine.    And good luck with the eBay auction.

And finally, you have to hand it to the creative team marketing the Showtime top comedy “Weeds.”  A billboard with a giant bag full of marijuana attached to it sure does grab your attention.  Of course, it‘s not real marijuana in that giant bag.  But who do you think would be the slowest to figure that out?  Yes, stoners.

Security cameras were put up at this billboard after the first bag of plastic reefer disappeared, and there they came, one at a time, throughout the night, like squirrels to a bird feeder, each grabbing a big plastic bud (ph) and running off.  There apparently is a reward for the return of the prop pot, $420.  And parents, if a kid in the room gets that joke, it‘s time for a little chat.

President Bush has a plan for victory in Iraq.  After years of violence and growing chaos, the president has decided he wants to stay the course.  Details ahead on this old strategy.

Plus, Whitney Houston is back in the news.  Turns out, if the president ever decides Osama bin Laden should be, say, captured, he can use Whitney Houston as bait.  No, I‘m not high on crack.  We‘ll explain it all, coming up.

But first, time now for COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of the day.

Number three, ordinary Americans.  According to a new Gallup study, they‘re taking less vacation time this year than ever before.  American workers already take the least vacation time of nearly all industrialized nations.  But the study showed this year, 43 percent of ordinary Americans have no plans for a summer vacation at all.  And by ordinary Americans, of course, I mean everyone except the president.

Number two, Police Chief Michael Chitwood of Daytona Beach, Florida.  Friday night, the chief spoke to a gathered group of neighborhood watch members to give a lecture on ways to prevent your home from being burglarized.  While he was giving the speech, uh-huh, someone robbed his home.  Police say thieves pulled a van around back, loaded it full with the TVs, the stereo, laptop computer.  Wow, must have been a very long speech.

And number one, Mary Lambert, a Sunday-school teacher from Watertown, New York.  For 54 years, she taught at the First Baptist Church, until last week, when Reverend Timmy LeBeouf (ph), also a Watertown city councilman, decided the church would adopt a literal translation of the Bible, and fired Miss Lambert her for being a woman.  Quote, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man.  She must be silent,” unquote.

Watertown, New York, welcome to the 1600s.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNGER:  Last week President Bush talked at length about the threat of terrorism, talked about more of America‘s role in stopping the London bomb plot, talked yet again about how instrumental his domestic spying program was in catching the suspects.  This week, his approval rating is up five points, any chance, you think, those tow things might be linked?  Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, Bush by the numbers. 

Two new polls out today, including Gallup, putting the president‘s approval rating at 42 percent, the highest it has been in six months; his marks on terrorism, 55 percent, the highest in more than a year.  Of course, Iraq remains a very big problem.  Still, the talking thing a good thing for him.  The president was back before a microphone again this morning.  Among other things, pleading for patience on Iraq, while admitted he could see why so many Americans find events there so demoralizing, to say the least.  NBC‘s Kelly O‘Donnell has more on President Bush unplugged -- Kelly.

KELLY O‘DONNELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Brian.  What was so noticeable was the forcefulness of the president.  His animated defense that American troop wills stay in Iraq despite public anxiety over the war.  Bringing them out too soon, he said, would be, in his words, “a disaster.” 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over):  Today, President Bush headed for the White House gate.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Beautiful day for a stroll.

O‘DONNELL:  Crossing Pennsylvania Avenue to visit reporters set up in a temporary briefing room.

BUSH:  Fancy digs you got here. 

O‘DONNELL:  A minor change of scene, but not of subject.  The Iraq war dominated, with no talk about troops coming home, he was emphatic.

BUSH:  We‘re not leaving so long as I‘m the president.  That would be a huge mistake.

O‘DONNELL:  Pressed about unrelenting sectarian violence and failed efforts to slow the killing, President Bush offered an unusual glimpse into his thinking. 

BUSH:  Frustrating?  Sometimes I‘m frustrated.  Rarely surprised. 

O‘DONNELL:  And acknowledged Iraq‘s weight on the nation.

BUSH:  And there are difficult times and they‘re straining the psyche of our country, I understand that.

O‘DONNELL:  On Democrats running with a got out of Iraq, the president said they are no less patriotic, just wrong. 

BUSH:  If you think it‘s bad now, imagine what Iraq would look like if the United States leaves before this government can defend itself and sustain itself. 

O‘DONNELL:  The president disputed the suggestion chaos in Iraq could be avoided had U.S. never invaded.  Asked again about a link between Iraq and 9/11.

BUSH:  What did Iraq have to do with what? 

QUESTION:  The attack upon the World Trade Center.

BUSH:  Nothin‘.

O‘DONNELL:  But in the past, the administration repeatedly talked about alleged ties between Saddam and bin Laden. 

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT:  There was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda that stretched back through most of the decade of the ‘90s. 

O‘DONNELL:  On the Lebanon crisis, the president urged the quick deployment of international peacekeepers, but seemed resigned over Hezbollah. 

BUSH:  Hopefully over time Hezbollah will disarm.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O‘DONNELL (on camera):  The president talked about sending more humanitarian aid now totaling $200 million to rebuild schools get them open in time for kids to go back to class, to rebuild homes and perhaps to repair some of the image of America in that part of the world, as well—

Brain. 

UNGER:  Kelly O‘Donnell from the White House, thank you very much. 

For more on the president‘s press conference and everything else that happened on the political scene today, time now to call in Chris Cillizza, political reporter for the WashingtonPost.com. 

Good evening, Chris.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, WASHINGTONPOST.COM:  Good evening, Brian. 

UNGER:  Chris, on the surface it seems that whatever President Bush is doing, is for him working, his approval numbers are up and yet, as that pres conference showed, Iraq continues to dominate and not in a good way.  How high do you think this bounce will go and for how long? 

CILLIZZA:  Look, I would hesitate to call this a bounce.  There‘s no question the president is happier to be at 42 than he was to be at 37 or 35, but remember, all of these polls have statistical margin of error, so it‘s very possible that his 42 is just within the margin error to be at 39 or 38 or 40 or it could be at 45 of 46.  That doesn‘t mean he‘s not moving a little bit, but I would caution take any couple two polls with caution.  There‘s going be a lot of numbers out there.  Take 10 polls or 15 polls.  There‘s certainly plenty of polling, you‘re never going to be short of polling in this country.  So, take 10 or 15 polls and we‘ll average those out and I think that when we‘ll have a better sense of where the president is. 

UNGER:  Chris, President Bush left no doubt today that he is staying the course on Iraq, which makes me think that the White House has absolutely no fear about making the midterm election a referendum on Iraq and security issues?  Will Karl Rove be able to work his magic again? 

CILLIZZA:  I‘m skeptical.  You mentioned that, the fact that the president is a little bit—his numbers on terrorism have also bumped.  I think that people feel as though—the president has worked very hard, as you mentioned, to link terrorism and the war of Iraq.  The problem for him and the other side of that argument is that people are not happy are not happy about the war in Iraq, so if they‘re not happy about the war in Iraq, it bleeds over into terrorism.  They feel this general sense of malaise that the administration isn‘t moving forward, that they‘re not doing the things they need to do.  So that‘s the risk you run by linking the two things.  And maybe that‘s why the president said today they‘re not linked after the rhetoric we heard from Vice President Cheney, among others, that they were. 

You know, you run the risk of people saying, I‘m really unhappy about the war in Iraq, I think the administration has mishandled it, so they take their good feelings that they have about the administration on terrorism and handling national security and say, well, maybe I should rethink those, too.  So, it‘s a double-edged sword there for the administration. 

UNGER:  Chris, I want to move on to the November midterms.  Senator Joe Lieberman doing everything but go gently into that goodnight, seemed to be trying to put some distance between himself and the administration on Iraq today, calling for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to resign.  Why is he saying that now?  I thought the polls showed Mr. Lieberman leading the race as an Independent? 

CILLIZZA:  Great question, Brian.  This is a little bit of political jujitsu, I think, on Lieberman‘s part.  When the Quinnipiac poll came out, which is the most recent poll, Lieberman was up 11 points.  Everyone focused on that and the fact that he had about 75 percent of Republicans supporting him.  It‘s a whopping number for someone who‘s been a democrat for 18 years.  I think the more important thing—and I can‘t take total credit for this.  A Republican strategist, actually pointed this out to me, the important number in that poll for Lieberman‘s long-term political health is 35 percent.  That‘s the number of Democrats who are still with him. 

Businessman, Ned Lamont, wealthy, won the primary against Lieberman, he‘s winning the vast majority of Democrats, but the key for Lieberman to win this, he‘s got the hold that 35 percent, that one-third, that one in three democrats who are still going to be with him.  If he can‘t do that, if this turns into somebody the pro-war or the supportive of the war Democrat/Independent Joe Lieberman versus the anti-war Ned Lamont in Connecticut  -- remember Connecticut is one of the most—the bluest states—one of the most Democratic states in the country, that is bad dynamic for Lieberman.

So, I think what you see when he‘s calling for Donald Rumsfeld to resign is an attempt to shore up that one in three voters who say, I‘m not really not really comfortable with Lamont, but I am a democrat and I don‘t know if I can vote for Joe Lieberman because of the war.  He‘s staying look, I‘m not a Republican.  I‘m with you with Rumsfeld.  We need more accountability, he‘s needs to have done a better job and the fact that he doesn‘t means he should go.  So, I think that‘s what it‘s aimed at. 

UNGER:  Uh-huh.  Chris Cillizza, of the WashingtonPost.com, thank you so much for talking with us tonight. 

CILLIZZA:  Brian, thanks for having me. 

UNGER:  From presidential pressures, to political punch lines, the summer of political bloomer.  From global backrubs gone bad to local debates gone wild. 

And did “Snakes on a Plane” unleash its venom for box office victory or was it just box office poison?  The details are ahead, but first here are COUNTDOWN‘s “Top 3 Sound Bites” for the day. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  As you can see, a lot of these dogs are getting some great waves.  The dogs are judged on one length of ride, two, their confidence level, and also their style.  Anyone that‘s taking dog surfing too seriously, you know, probably wouldn‘t enjoy this event. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The strength today, provided by Bill Casmir (ph), frying pan‘s just putty in his hands. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yeah, I‘m strong, I can bulldoze (ph) a trashcan full of trash—all the way up to the top.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I have bigger water bottle than this, it has a handle and I broke the handle. 

DAVID LETTERMAN, LATE SHOW:  Ladies and gentlemen, it‘s time now for a segment we‘ve done on this program many, many times.  It‘s called George W. Bush pretends to be interested. 

(LAUGHTER)

George W. Bush pretends to be interested.

And worked until 1934 in the middle of depression, he came up here to Bakersfield with his two sons, Tom and Jerry.  And they went to work and they sold old junky stuff, bought and sold, and then they got in the irrigation business and they started renting sprinkler systems.  And we got the name Rain for Rent, that‘s where it came from. 

(LAUGHTER)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNGER:  Well, there was the “Summer of the Shark” the “Summer of the Hurricane” and now we‘ve got the “Summer of the Political Blunder.”  What a first-rate macaca mess we‘re going to live it all for you. 

And alert al Jazeera, Osama, he‘s got a crush on Whitney Houston. 

Heck, someone alert Whitney Houston.  That‘s next, this is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNGER:  I‘m Brian Unger in for Keith Olbermann.  You know, it‘s not everyday that someone says something supremely stupid in American politicks -- OK it is everyday.  But wasn‘t until recently that you could video of these people displaying their brainlessness, again, and again on the Internet. 

Our second story on the COUNTDOWN, the YouTubification of American politics, a word that may not actually be in your dictionary, but chances are, soon it will be.  Video sharing has brought us far more than just the knowledge of what will happened when you put some delicious minty candies into the diet carbonated beverage of your choice.  It has brought us a summer explosion of political miscues, mistakes, and plain old misspeaking.  There for the taking by anyone with a high speed Internet access modem. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over):  Whether it‘s half a world away.  Or right here at home. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Am I a liar?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, you have lied on this program about the issues. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Are you fat? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes! Hi America.

UNGER:  When political throw downs turn physical, it‘s never long before they get digital. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And my house is shaking.  And it‘s shaking.  It it‘s just shaking! And it‘s shaking! It shakes for over a minute. 

UNGER:  Say the wrong thing

HOWARD DEAN (D), VERMONT:  You cannot play hide the salami or whatever it‘s called. 

UNGER:  Make the wrong move or just plain forget the cameras are rolling.  You‘d better believe it‘ll wind up on the interweb. 

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN ®, VIRGINIA:  This fellow here, over here, with the yellow shirt, macaca or whatever his name is.  Let‘s give him welcome to macaca, here.  Welcome to America and the real world... 

UNGER:  Senator Gorge Allen of Virginia calling young man of Indian decent, “macaca” on the campaign trail, earlier this month.  Make that a young name of Indian decent with a video camera.  Greeting a dark-skinned individual with either a racial epithet blacks or by calling him a monkey, always has a little more recoil when you can re-cue the tape. 

ALLEN:  Macaca or whatever his is.  Macaca.  Macaca.  Ma-ca-ca. 

UNGER:  Yes, there‘s no getting the macaca off your show once you‘ve stepped in it.  The subcontinent, also dangerous territory for Allen‘s Democratic colleague, Joe Biden, making a quick visit to Apu‘s Kwik-E-Mart. 

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), DELAWARE:  In Delaware, you cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Donkin‘ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent.  I‘m not joking.

UNGER:  That‘s kind of like saying Gandhi pumping gas for a living. 

Isn‘t it?

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK:  I love this quote.  It‘s from Mahatma Gandhi.  He ran a gas station down in St.  Louis for a couple of years. 

UNGER:  Good thing none of them is considering a run for the White House. 

ALLEN:  Macaca.

UNGER:  After you‘re run all the way to the White House, sometimes you have to run away from it for, you know, lunch and diplomacy on the world stage. 

BUSH:  What they need to do is get Syria to stop doing that (BLEEP). 

UNGER:  At least the president‘s behavior at the summit didn‘t rub anybody the wrong way. 

From back rubs to the backstroke, America, meet Tramm Hudson. 

TRAMM HUDSON ®, FLORIDA:  I grew up in Alabama, I understand—I know this form my own experience, that blacks are not the greatest swimmers or may not even know how to swim. 

UNGER:  Man overboard.  Luckily, his comments barely causing a ripple in a tough race, growing increasingly personal.  Hudson accusing opponent and fellow Republican, Vern Buchanan of having poor business ethics, a padded resume, and tax evasion.  Yes, but can he swim? 

ALLEN:  Macaca, or whatever his name is.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

UNGER:  And our nightly round-up of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs,” starts with one of the most talked about movies of the year.  Although it opened at No. 1, this weekend, “Snakes on a Plane” didn‘t translate to mega-butts in a seat or mega-buck in the till, at least, not the way Hollywood was hoping.  Despite a barrage of Internet buzz, the movie only made just over $15 million dollars and that if you include Thursday night‘s receipts, that‘s about average for a low budgets horror move. 

But observers had expected a surge of interest based on all the on-line excitement about the movie.  Internet users even helped write the movie by making suggestions on-line.  Some analysts speculated that more of those Internet users might have actually gone see the movie if it hadn‘t required putting on pants and actually leaving the house. 

Prosecutors in Dusseldorf, Germany decided today not to press charges against Madonna in connection with her performance there last night.  Her mock crucifixion scene in which she wears a crown and thorns on -- and rises on al mirrored cross drew complaints earlier in the tour, but German law makes it a crime to insult religious beliefs, so Dusseldorf prosecutors said they would monitor reports about the concert after they were unable to score their own tickets.  That‘s right, they were too lazy to actually go to the concert.  In the end, German officials allowed Madonna her night on the cross, avoiding giving Madonna any more press than she already got and avoiding any confusion over the country‘s tolerance of free speech. 

“South Park” continues to pay for daring to insult the religious beliefs of Tom Cruise.  The “South Park” episode, “Trapped in the Closet” was up for an Emmy at a ceremony for mostly technical awards, held this weekend.  The episode makes fun Cruise, John Travolta, and Scientology and it led to Isaac Hayes, also a Scientologist, quitting the show.  “South Park‘s” creators even suggested that Tom Cruise used his clout to have a repeat of the episode yanked.  Amidst all that hay, in the end, the episode failed to win the Emmy, losing to “The Simpson‘s.”  “The Simpson‘s” has now won the Best Animated Show Emmy, every year.  More importantly, Zenu the God of Scientology avoided the humiliation of having “South Park” win.  Hail Zenu.

Is Whitney Houston offended or flattered by her latest admirer?  Osama, saving all his love for Whitney.  Apparently it gets lonely hiding in a cave.  That and more ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNGER:  She is one of America‘s great female vocalists, bursting on the music scene in the 1980s with her hit single “You Give Good Love.”  But after two decades of making music, her troubled personal life has often taken center stage.  He is the kingpin of international terrorism.  And after drawing clues to the man, mostly from his video and audiotapes, we now learn, perhaps, something we didn‘t want to learn from a woman who says she was bin Laden‘s sex slave.  In the No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN:  Osama Loves Whitney. 

From the “more than we needed to know” file, Osama bin Laden thinks Whitney Houston is hot.  A beautiful woman, the most beautiful he‘s ever seen.  This according to bin Laden‘s former sex slave Kola Boof, in her book, “Diary of the Lost Girl,” excerpted in “Harper‘s” magazine. 

“He said that he had a paramount desire for her and although he claimed music was evil, he spoke of someday spending vast amounts of money to go to America and try to arrange a meeting.”

Bin Laden even talked about having Bobby Brown killed, according to Boof, “.would be willing to break his color rule and make Whitney one of his wives.”

Sex slave to bin Laden?  Now there is a hell. 

Meanwhile, on last night‘s “Teen Choice Awards,” was slave of the limelight, Britney Spears.  The pregnant Spears is accompanied by husband Kevin Federline who took the stage to perform his rap single, “Lose Control.”  Lyrics of “Lose Control” which will be lost on music historians were deemed non-choice words for teens, bleeped out by censors at FOX, but not before Britney lost control of her fashion sense.  According to COUNTDOWN fashionestas (ph), she unleashed this glowing introduction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRITNEY SPEARS, SINGER:  He chose this show to make her world premiere performance of his new single “Lose Control.”  Please give a warm welcome to my man, Kevin Federline.

KEVIN FEDERLINE, HUSBAND:  (INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNGER:  Well, this begs for exploration, lets call in comedian, Jeffrey Ross, who is turned around and looking in the wrong direction.  He is also creator of “Where are my Dogs at” on MTV2.

Jeffrey, how are you?

JEFFREY ROSS, COMEDIAN:  I‘m great, buddy.  How are you doing over there? 

UNGER:  I am well.  First you were roasting William Shatner.  It‘s been on the television for days.  That was a very dirty program. 

ROSS:  Dirty?  How about funny? 

UNGER:  No, it was funny, but it‘s just—you know, I just had to turn the volume down for all the kids. 

ROSS:  You know me.  I only roast the ones I love.  I love Shatner. 

He was a good sport, didn‘t you think? 

UNGER:  I did.  Hey, let‘s talk about Whitney for a moment, and Osama.  Apparently bin Laden said she was brainwashed by American culture, by Bobby Brown, he talked about getting Bobby Brown out of the picture.  I ask you, sir, to put yourself in Osama‘s shoes, if you can.  Why Whitney, why now? 

ROSS:  I think what we know about Osama bin Laden that is he has a very, very slow Internet connection.  For this reason I have a feeling he‘s downloading, as we speak, pictures of Whitney Houston from 10 or 15 years ago.  He has no idea the way she has fallen apart. 

UNGER:  Well, we asked Ms. Houston if she would be interested in luring bin Laden out of hiding for the sake of national security and this is what she had to say. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WHITNEY HOUSTON, SINGER:  (INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNGER:  Jeffrey, your thoughts? 

ROSS:  She is the black Courtney Love.  I think that‘s clear. 

Whitney, we love you, babe.  In the name of your country, in the name of all that is good in life, I call on you, a call to action, if you will.  Whitney, you need to get your ass together and get on a plane to Afghanistan or whatever cave Osama is hiding and you need to do what‘s right.  Bring along, you know, Bill Clinton or Jesse Jackson, or make a big thing out of it, but you gotta do it, babe, for your country. 

UNGER:  Hey Jeffrey, did that reality show, “Being Bobby Brown” actually reach the caves of Afghanistan.  Are we to believe that bin Laden samples enough of the despised pop culture filth to have all this knowledge about Ms. Houston?

ROSS:  My sources tell me that Osama is on the Emmy voting committee and therefore he gets the show sent to him on DVD well in advance of broadcast. 

UNGER:  Hey Jeffrey.

ROSS:  So, I would imagine he‘s an expert. 

UNGER:  I want to talk about Britney and K-Fed before we go.  Clearly Federline is no, you know, Eminem, but what‘s your take on his musicianship?  I want your opinion.

ROSS:  I thought this was fantastic.  I mean, I loved every second of it.  I‘m a huge, huge K-Fed fan myself.  You know, I think every generation needs a Vanilla Ice and he is my Vanilla Ice for today‘s kids. 

UNGER:  And what about the dress, Britney‘s dress.  More or less successful? 

ROSS:  Britney‘s dress, to me that‘s—what they call on the Internet sites a MILD, that‘s a Mom I‘d Like to Dress.  She doesn‘t know what‘s happening.  She walks around like a 15-year-old and—she‘s a hillbilly.  I love her, believe me, but she‘s a hillbilly. 

UNGER:  Did you know that K-Fed had pet sharks and that Britney wants to get rid of them?  Before their child was born.

ROSS:  John Karr has a bigger future in show business than K-Fed. 

UNGER:  Comedian Jeffrey Ross, AKA, the roast master general, thank you so much for joining us. 

ROSS:  Sure.

UNGER:  That‘ll do it for this Monday edition of COUNTDOWN. I‘m Brian Unger in for Keith Olbermann.  Thanks so much for watching.  Our MSNBC coverage continues now with SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

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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