updated 8/28/2006 12:39:47 PM ET 2006-08-28T16:39:47

Guests: Jim Warren, Michael Musto

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

Unclassified State Department documents now reveal—cue the fake voices—

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Uh, Mr. Armitage, I‘ve a Tom Cruise here to see you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, gee, you know, tell him I‘m in a meeting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNGER:  What was Cruise‘s federal appeal to the State Department‘s number two man?  Stop the Europeans from bashing the Church of Scientology.  The latest on Cruise‘s personal appeal to Armitage, and his concern over the lack of love for L. Ron abroad.

Plus, reports tonight that the wife to Viacom chief Sumner Redstone had a hand in Cruise‘s departure from Paramount.  Why?  Allegedly, because she wasn‘t so crazy about his expert opinions on postpartum depression.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “TODAY”)

TOM CRUISE:  You don‘t know the history of psychiatry.  I do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNGER:  But we do know when it‘s Friday.  Escape to Walker‘s Point.  The president visits his ancestral home in Kennebunkport, where a father and son can enjoy a little fishing without the press swamping his boat.  Tonight, an in-depth at Bush 41 and 43.  The decider and the diplomat, their policies, their leadership styles, and their takes on Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “HANNITY AND COLMES,” FOX NEWS CHANNEL)

ANN COULTER:  As for catching Osama, it‘s irrelevant.  Things are going swimmingly in Afghanistan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNGER:  Ann Coulter, in friendly territory, falls on her tongue and can‘t get up.  Sean Hannity—someone—anyone—please help.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “HANNITY AND COLMES,” FOX NEWS CHANNEL)

(CROSSTALK)

COULTER:  It was nice being here.  Sean?

(CROSSTALK)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNGER:  Seriously, Sean, don‘t make Ann mad.

And Hollywood gives itself the ultimate happy ending.  But first, it has to walk down a red carpet, wear botox, and black, on a sweltering summer day in August, and pretend it‘s having fun.  It‘s time for the Emmys.  We go inside with this year‘s host.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What are you looking forward to?

CONAN O‘BRIEN:  The end of the show.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNGER:  All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

And from Los Angeles, I am Brian Unger.  Keith Olbermann has the night off.

The lazy, hazy days of summer, especially Fridays, offer a bounty of terrific things, the beach, corn on the cob, and flip-flops—the footwear variety, not the political one.

But in our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, even better than the freedom to expose your toes to your co-workers is the Freedom of Information Act.  If not for that glorious federal law, we might not ever have learned that on the same afternoon that former deputary secretary of state Richard Armitage met with writer Bob Woodward, and purportedly leaked him the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame, he also met with actor Tom Cruise.

Plame, of course, was publicly outed.  Cruise was not, though the creators of “South Park” certainly gave it a good college try.

Thus, COUNTDOWN‘s two favorite stories colliding tonight.  Feel the heat.  The appointment calendar of Mr. Armitage, the former number two to Colin Powell, offering two juicy entries for June 13, 2003.  From 2:00 p.m.  to 3:00 p.m., Armitage had a private appointment with “Washington Post” reporter Bob Woodward.  Then, from 4:00 to 5:00, another private appointment with Tom Cruise.

We do not know what Armitage discussed with Woodward, but, and we did the math here, that conversation came only weeks before the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame was outed in the press.

But—and herein lies the bombshell—by journalism standards, in summertime, in August, we do know what Armitage discussed with Tom Cruise, America‘s Scientologist in chief requesting the meeting to talk about, what else, Scientology, specifically to express his concern about the treatment of Scientologists in Germany, which does not view Scientology as a legitimate religion.

The glory that is the PDF file on the Armitage appointment book, not to mention the Cruise letter requesting the meeting, finding their way to us today, courtesy of “The Chicago Tribune”‘s political blog.

The paper‘s deputy managing editor, Jim Warren, joining us now.

Good evening, Jim.

JIM WARREN, DEPUTY MANAGING EDITOR, “THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE”:  Good evening, sir, on these dog days of August.

UNGER:  Yes, sir.  We all know Tom Cruise, Jim, but who is Richard Armitage?  What can you tell us about him?

WARREN:  Oh, one of the more interesting guys I ever ran into in my eight years in Washington.  He is a 60-ish, bullnecked replica, almost, of Ray Nitzke (ph), the former Green Bay Packer linebacker, who is a son of a New England top, a Vietnam vet with several tours there, a close, close, close chum of Colin Powell, former deputy secretary of defense under Bush number one.

He is very tough, he is very blunt.  He is very conservative, but also, on social matters, like Colin Powell, quite moderate, and is pro-affirmative action.  And something he just refuses to talk about, and only because I knew him fairly well in Washington do I know that he‘s actually got a heart of gold.  He and his wife have either adopted, become foster parents to, or been very magnanimous toward a U.N. of kids, kids from all over the world, including some crack babies.

But he‘s also, again, as I said, very close to Colin Powell, and no surprise that both Powell and Armitage split Bush, two together, last year.

UNGER:  Jim, forgive the two part question here, but is it unusual for a Hollywood actor to get an appointment with the deputy secretary of state?  And once they get through the velvet rope at the State Department, do you think that Tom Cruise could get away with, you know, treating Mr. Armitage the way he treated Matt Lauer in that infamous “TODAY” show interview by calling him glib?

WARREN:  This is unusual that he had, let‘s see, 15 minutes more with Armitage than Armitage‘s intelligence briefing that morning, perhaps.  But then again, it was the end of the day, and maybe Armitage figured it was cocktail hour soon to come.

Could he get away with his Matt Lauer performance?  Well, I know Rich used to be at the gym before work at (INAUDIBLE), I think it was either 4:00 a.m. or 5:00 a.m.  I think he can bench press, you know, Connecticut or the state of Rhode Island.  I suspect, if Cruise had acted up, Armitage could crush him in his left bicep.  So I suspect Cruise was on his best behavior, even if he was railing about the awful Germans and what they‘re doing to Scientology.

UNGER:  What would make Mr. Armitage take this meeting?  In all seriousness, why would he sit down with Tom Cruise?

WARREN:  You know, if you look at our posting today on ChicagoTribune.com/TheSwamp, that question is not answered.  But, you know, someone reminded me today that there‘s an old line, I‘m not sure who it‘s attributed to, that Washington is Hollywood for ugly people.  And having spent eight years there, I will concede that I was one of the ugly people.

I mean, obviously there is this mutual traditional affinity having to do with power and celebrity.  The guys in Hollywood have got the money, the celebrity, the guys in Washington, you know, have the power.  But, you know, even though, if you look closely at that letter, it is clear that Armitage and company tried to blow Cruise off and get him to a lower-ranking guy.  He was persistent, insisted on this.

And Cruise, because of the megacelebrity, and I think—I would not doubt the possibility that there was some goodwill in Defense Department ranks for Cruise, given some of his movies, which undoubtedly, like, like, were done with the cooperation of the Defense Department, that, you know, Armitage said, Hey, what the heck, have him over.

UNGER:  I‘m thinking Armitage knows where Surry (ph) Cruise is.

Jim Warren of “The Chicago Tribune,” thank you so much for the details about the man who—

WARREN:  A pleasure.

UNGER:  ... fired Cruise for being weird.

WARREN:  Well, I...

UNGER:  And we‘ll get into that (INAUDIBLE)...

WARREN:  You‘d think he would have charged Armitage the government rate for photos, though.

UNGER:  Yes.  Thank you.  And we return you...

WARREN:  Ten grand...

UNGER:  ... the dog days in Chicago.

WARREN:  ... ten grand a glossy.

UNGER:  Now, details about the man who fired Cruise for being weird continue to get weirder today.  There are reports that Viacom chief Sumner Redstone ended the production deal between Cruise and Paramount Studios not on the advice of the studio head, but at the request of a 43-year-old former schoolteacher, who happens to be far more influential.

She‘s Mrs. Sumner Redstone.  Paula Fortunato managed to communicate across the 40-year age divide that separates her from her husband that she was not impressed with Cruise‘s medical know-how when he criticized Brooke Shields for relying on antidepressants to combat postpartum depression.

Redstone reportedly took his wife‘s dismay as an indication that Cruise was losing female fans, even though they made up almost half the audience for “War of the Worlds.”  And “The London Daily Mail” today reported that Cruise is now, quote, “understood to be incensed that his entire career risks crashing around him due to the whisperings of Miss Fortunato.”

So to summarize what we‘ve learned this week, Tom Cruise lobbies the State Department to change the way Germany handles Scientology.  Paula Fortunato lobbies husband Sumner Redstone to change the way Paramount handles Tom Cruise.  Tom Cruise‘s agents lobby anyone who will listen to change the way Sumner Redstone handles Paramount.

And they call August a slow news month.

“Village Voice” columnist Michael Musto is uniquely qualified to put all of this into perspective.

Michael, thank you for joining us.

And let me start by asking you for a credibility check on these reports about Paula Fortunato.

MICHAEL MUSTO, “VILLAGE VOICE”:  Oh, I‘m buying it, hook, line, and stinker, I mean --  Paula Fortunato is a much more credible ex-teacher than, say, John Karr.  And he‘s opposed to Page Six, where this originated.  It‘s my Bible, it‘s my religion, it‘s my Scientology.  So I‘m totally buying it.  It‘s totally true.

UNGER:  All right.  We‘re going go with it, then.  What was your reaction when you heard that Redstone‘s wife may have been the cause, a catalyst, to all of this?

MUSTO:  I wasn‘t really surprised, because believe it or not, a lot of

big corporate Hollywood decisions are made with these little intimate

personal touch.  That explains things like “Miami Vice” and even “Snakes on

a Plane.”  There had to have been a spouse going, Do it, do it

But what Sumner Redstone doesn‘t realize is, so his wife doesn‘t want to see any more Tom Cruise movies.  Who cares?  She doesn‘t pay.  She‘s guest list.  He should really get a second opinion from a paying customer.

UNGER:  Michael, not only did Cruise want to meet with Armitage, he had already met with several U.S. ambassadors about the Scientology issue.  Now, you‘re a fly on the wall, you hear this, your paint—you paint a picture for us, if you will, of these meetings.

MUSTO:  I think there‘d be lots of grinning and jumping on couches by the ambassadors, because they‘d be going crazy.  This is really sad.  I really would hope world leaders, or even just diplomats, would be too busy solving the ills of the world to really deal with celebrity pet peeves.

What next, Paris Hilton calling around for (INAUDIBLE), you know, chihuahua protection or something?  Tony Blair is lucky that she‘s never heard of him, though she has heard of Linda Blair.  She‘s seen “The Exorcist,” so Linda better worry.

UNGER:  Michael, there are apparently—there was also a request to meet with Dick Cheney, with Vice President Dick Cheney.  How do you think it would have gone if Cruise had gotten the meeting I think he was trying so hard for with Cheney?

MUSTO:  I think Tom would be dodging a lot of stray bullets, because they‘d be hunting, obviously.  I think Tom would be begging Cheney to bring his lesbian daughter to Scientology.  But mainly, I think Tom would be begging Cheney for some money for that alleged hedge fund.  He‘d be saying, Please, Dick, don‘t leave me hanging like Lieberman.  You know, I need a career.

UNGER:  To some of the news that has kind of emerged today, producer Kathleen Kennedy is quoted in today‘s “New York Daily News” saying that Cruise regrets what he said about Brooke Shields.  Why do you think that is?

MUSTO:  Well, let‘s see, Mel Gibson regrets what he said because he got caught, and it hurt his career.  Murderers regret murdering people because they get caught, it hurts their career.  Tom only regrets this because not only was he caught being himself, but it hurt his brand, it hurt his career.  And it‘s big of him to apologize anyway, but still, I hear what he really said was not, I‘m sorry, but Where‘s Surry.  Where the hell is that kid?

UNGER:  Richard Armitage knows, apparently.  What is your bottom-line take here?  Was Tom fired, or did he leave?  Or is everyone trying to save face?

MUSTO:  I think they parted amicably, or at least that‘s what you would have heard in the old days.  This is the new era, where studio executives tell the truth.  You‘re dead, dead, start behaving, Lindsay Lohan, you‘re fired, Tom Cruise.  I really think that‘s what happened.  There is not going be an “MI4,” certainly not at Paramount.

And as for that hedge fund, good luck, Tom.  But I actually hear it‘s an over-the-hedge fund, and he‘s going to be doing the voice of the Beaver in the sequel.

UNGER:  Michael Musto of “The Village Voice,” thank you so much for your time tonight.

MUSTO:  Thank you, Brian.

UNGER:  President Bushes, plural, father and son together in Maine on vacation.  Will there be any talk of exit strategies?  Or will it all be fishing and fun?  The relationship between presidents 41 and 43.

And a new look at the lessons of September 11 raising some eyebrows.  The comic-book version of the “9/11 Commission Report,” outrage from some, praise from others.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNGER:  President Bush turning this last weekend in August into a long weekend, heading down East to the family compound at Kennebunkport for some downtime.

Let‘s face it, his work week, while short, was not easy for him, what with admitting the war in Iraq is a strain on the psyche of the country and all, the kind of week that, in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, might lead to him, well, turning to one‘s father for advice, a Hallmark moment if there ever was one.

But as Andrea Mitchell reports for us tonight, as presidents go, as Republican presidents go, as Republican presidents named Bush go, the two could not be more different.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Speeding along the Maine coast, two presidents, father and son.  Both went to war, but with very different results.

FORMER SENATOR ALLAN SIMPSON, BUSH FAMILY FRIEND:  I think George I was ready to talk to anybody.  He had been in a diplomatic station, he was a diplomat.  George W. had never been engaged in the process of professional diplomacy.

MITCHELL:  Forty-one and 43.  Friends say the father, more Connecticut Yankee, built coalitions, negotiated with his enemies.  The son, more swagger and Texas cowboy, likes to go it alone.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I am the decider. 

And I decide what is best...

MAUREEN DOWD, AUTHOR, “BUSHWORLD”:  W. was determined to be all Texas, to be really tough, and that led him into this really tough foreign policy, where everything was black and white.

MITCHELL:  Both men‘s legacies defined by the Middle East.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, November 27, 1990)

GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH, President OF The United States:  We‘re not walking away until our mission is done, until the invader is out of Kuwait.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, November 27, 2003)

GEORGE W. BUSH:  We will stay until the job is done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MITCHELL:  Forty-one didn‘t go to Baghdad, afraid that would lead to civil war.  Did the son invade Iraq to finish what his father had not done?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, September 24, 2002)

GEORGE W. BUSH:  Because, after all, this is the guy that tried to kill my dad at one time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MITCHELL:  At least publicly, the father won‘t criticize the son‘s Iraq policy, but he‘s known to be agonized by it.

RON KAUFMAN:  When President 41 left office, he made the decision not to ever criticize the next president on foreign policy.  He‘s certainly not going to do it to his own son.

MITCHELL:  But 41‘s friends cringed when the White House said recently that the elder Bush‘s decisions may have even led to 9/11.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  When the United States walked away, in the opinion of the (INAUDIBLE), of Osama bin Laden in 1991, bin Laden drew from that the conclusion that Americans were weak and wouldn‘t stay the course, and that led to September 11.

MITCHELL:  Despite their close ties, it‘s a complex relationship, especially over Iraq.

DOWD:  That, to me, is the single most amazing fact of the—this Bush White House, that he invaded the same country and tried to, you know, go up against the same dictator that the father did, and didn‘t ask his advice beforehand.

MITCHELL:  So will they talk about fishing and golf this weekend, or an exit strategy from Iraq?

A month after the war began, the president told Tom Brokaw he doesn‘t seek his father‘s counsel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH:  I don‘t spend a lot of time hashing over policy with him, because he knows that I am much better informed than he could possibly be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MITCHELL:  But when under attack, friends and former aides say, they are fiercely protective of each other.

TORIE CLARKE, FORMER BUSH AIDE:  I doubt that there are many people at all who actually know how they feel about each other in terms of foreign policy and some of these decisions.  I just don‘t believe it.

MITCHELL:  And as the first President Bush once wrote his son, “You may want to say, ‘Well, I don‘t agree with my dad on that point,‘ or, ‘Frankly, I think Dad was wrong on that.‘  Do it.”

Andrea Mitchell, NBC News, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

UNGER:  Will the Bushes see this guy on summer vacation?  Hay, it‘s crazy hot-coal-eating guy.  Someone, quick, give him a Mento.

And if you can‘t stand the heat, get out of the guest chair.  Ann Coulter meets her match and has a tizzy, begging for help on live television.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNGER:  I‘m Brian Unger in Los Angeles, sitting in for Keith Olbermann.

Two-fifths through our nightly five-course news meal, and it‘s time each night at this point to sort of cleanse our palate for a helping of nutjobs.  It‘s delicious.

Let‘s play Oddball.

And beginning in Bushir (ph), Iran, it‘s a guy wolfing down, yes, hot coals.  This unnamed man, I‘ll call him Jimmy, watches as his lovely assistant fans the coals, holds the burning lumps between his teeth, and then it‘s over the lips, past the gums, look out stomach, here it comes.

That‘s right, Tony Robbins walks on coals.  This guy eats them.  You tell me who the motivational genius is here.

Finally, when all the coals are in his belly, Jimmy‘s assistant pulls out some burgers and franks and grills them burgers on Jimmy‘s stomach.  Well, that‘s what kind of should happen.  Hey, Jimmy, get some Zantac.

And to an animal shelter in Denver, Colorado.  And this is Lola the kitten.  Lola was born with a genetic deformity that prohibits her from using her hind legs.  In the wild, it might be curtains for old Lola.  But this is a lemonade-out-of-lemons type story.  Since Lola can‘t use her back legs, she does a walking handstand.  Oh, look at her go, right there.

Lola learned she had the hidden talent while she was being chased by a group of bully kittens, getting up on her fronts and leaving all of those sort of other cats in the dust, kind of like the scene from “Forrest Gump.”  Lola is currently awaiting adoption in Denver, and working on balancing a saucer of milk on her nose.

And finally, to Indianapolis, where, during the enchanted under-the-sea dance, a lightening storm transported this bicyclist back to the future.  That‘s right, an entire square mile of the town, completely on the fritz, strobed rhythmically from 5:00 in the morning until the sun came up.

Besides the light show, pedestrians noticed a strange electric smell in the downtown area.  Power officials blamed a switch failure for the hypnotic blinking lights.  And by switch failure, of course, we assume they mean the switch operator took a midnight trip to Margaritaville, if you know what I mean.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin in the center of another controversy.  Deflecting criticism that it‘s taken too long to clean up New Orleans, Nagin invokes New York City‘s recovery at ground zero, calling it a hole in the ground.

And from controversy to distraction, Hollywood braces for the Emmys this weekend.  Host Conan O‘Brien gives us a preview of festivities like only he can.

All that and more, ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRIAN UNGER, HOST:  I‘m Brian Unger in for Keith Olbermann.  In just 17 days it will have been five year, the fifth anniversary of the attacks of September 11, and in four days it will be one year since Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on the Gulf Coast.  In our No. 3 story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, the math adding up to controversy as well as commutation.  Did New Orleans‘s mayor, Ray Nagin insert foot firmly in his mouth when he took a swipe at rebuilding efforts at Ground Zero on New York?  Mr. Nagin recently spoke of the efforts to rebuild in his own city in a “60 Minutes” interview to be broadcast on Sunday.  Here‘s a part of what he said when asked why the rebuilding of New Orleans was moving so slowly. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS:  You guys in New York City can‘t get a hole in the ground fixed and it‘s five years later.  So let‘s be fair. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNGER:  Now in fairness, this was one brief clip released by “60 Minutes,” the point Mr. Nagin made when he tried to explain those remarks today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NAGIN:  Yeah, I‘m a very direct person.  You guys know that.  You ask me a question, I‘m going to answer it as best I—appreciate it.  You may not like some of the words I use but for the most part nobody‘s disputed, you know, the context of what I‘m been trying to say. 

QUESTION:  (INAUDIBLE) comments you made on “60 Minutes.”

NAGIN:  I don‘t know, I haven‘t seen the piece.  I haven‘t even seen the trailers.  I think “60 Minutes” is being very smart about their business.  They followed me around for three hours—for three days.  They‘ve taken one quote and they‘re using it as a promo quote and it‘s created a little bit of controversy. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNGER:  No apology there but is in apology even necessary?  There is, in fact, a huge hole in the ground still at Ground Zero, but some called Mr. Nagin‘s comments insensitive given that 2,749 people have perished at that site alone.  Others felt that the complexity of reviving that 16 acre track of land.  We have a sampling of both from former New York Mayor Ed Koch and Congressman Peter King.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FMR.  MAYOR ED KOCH, NEW YORK:  I wouldn‘t quarrel with Ray Nagin.  He‘s frustrated, his city has not been treated fairly by FEMA and the federal government.  He‘s wrong on the facts.  What is troublesome in New York can‘t be compared with the ruin of New Orleans and the difficulty in people finding homes.  In New York City we are quarreling about whether or not we have a $500 million monument as opposed to some of us who say it should be much more simple, but that whole area has been revived economically. 

REP.  PETER KING, NEW YORK:  For you to refer to Ground Zero as a hole in the ground is absolutely immoral and disgraceful.  Our country has too many problems today; we shouldn‘t be fighting with one another.  No one in New York City or New York area ever, ever was critical of New Orleans last year.  We did all we could to help you, we should be going forth as Americans.  Admit you made a mistake, you made a big mistake. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNGER:  Now, as the years have passed since the attacks of 9/11, that event has been remembered and rendered in various mediums, but no one might have predicted this one:  a comic book and as its source material, perhaps the most authoritative account of that day so far, the 9/11 Commission Report.  The accuracy of this graphic adaptation has impressed even the co-chairman of the 9/11 Commission.  But when horrific elements of that day are accompanied by comic book devices like the word “blamm,” you can expect uestions of taste to be raised.  Our correspondent, David Gregory spoke with the book‘s creators and raised some of those questions.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It was frightening and I guess, at the point, being an old New Yorker, that some reason I wished I was in New York. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I just kept saying over and over again, “unbelievable.”  I just kept saying that word and to this day it still seems unbelievable. 

DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Our memories that day are about what we saw, images of horror and heroism.  Now, five years later, a knew way to look at 9/11. 

(on camera):  When you hear about the idea of the 9/11 Commission Report, as essentially, a comic book, your first reaction is, what, are you crazy? 

SID JACOBSON, AUTHOR:  Well, that‘s our burden.  That term “comic book” is our burden. 

THOMAS H.  KEAN, 9-11 COMMISSION CHAIRMAN:  This report represents the unanimous conclusion on the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. 

GREGORY (voice-over):  Through color, caricature, and captions, Ernie Colon and Sid Jacobson have brought to life the 9/11 Commission Report.  The national best seller that examined what led to the attacks and the government‘s response. 

KEAN:  My initial thought was what?  What are they doing to our report?

GREGORY:  Tom Kean, the co-chairman of the commission admits the lengthy report with hundreds of footnotes and overlapping timelines was hard to follow. 

KEAN:  People aren‘t going to read the whole report, we recognize that. 

ERNIE COLON, AUTHOR:   I tried reading the book, and though it was very well written, it‘s very dense with facts and names, time and places and I thought, Sid and I are in the business of clarifying thing. 

GREGORY:  It took a year and a half to distill 600 pages down to less than 150. 

COLON:  What we have in the book, for example, is a timeline in which you see several events happening at the same time, and you can see that at a glance. 

KEAN:  It‘s accurate.  I mean, the graphic version is accurate.  That‘s what happened.  It‘s accurate according to the report, they didn‘t change anything. 

GREGORY (on camera):  At various points you use sound effects for some of the moments of impact.  Over the top? 

COLON:  Not to include it would be like putting out a movie now without sound. 

GREGORY:  But you can see people who would look at the “r-rrumble:

when the towers come down, the “blamm!” when a plane goes into the Pentagon and think it‘s offensive. 

COLON:  I can‘t imagine that it‘s offensive.  What they might feel that it‘s a little jarring, maybe, or out of place. 

GREGORY:  Who does this reach?  Who do you want it to reach? 

COLON:  Everyone.  And it can reach everyone.  I think it‘s important for people to understand what‘s in that report.  And the graphic medium, comics, if you will, whatever, can do it in ways that you can‘t by seemly reading it.  Picture‘s worth 1,000 words.

GREGORY (voice-over):  But turning those words into pictures was often emotional. 

(on camera):  What gave you some of your inspiration for these moments, as well? 

COLON:  Well, the inspiration was easy.  These people‘s heroism, the tragedy is inspiration enough.   The fact is, I don‘t really feel that my art is up to it.  But it‘s the only craft I know. 

GREGORY:  Is there opinion in this book? 

JACOBSON:  Not our opinion. 

GREGORY:  Not your opinion?

COLON:  No, certainly not mine. 

We want to represent what the 9/11 Commission report said.  That‘s it. 

GREGORY:  This is graphic journalism.

COLON:  Yes.

GREGORY (voice-over):  Carrie Lamack (ph) isn‘t so sure.  Her mother, Judy Larow (ph), was killed onboard American Airlines Flight 11.  And to her the drawings are insensitive. 

CARRIE LAMACK (ph), MOTHER KILLED ON 9/11:  The graphic images of people burning and planes exploding is not something that I think is appropriate for young children, and I don‘t know what adults asked to see it in economic book form . 

GREGORY (on camera):  Do you understand where she is coming from? 

JACOBSON:  I suppose I do, but is it any less than showing it in a film?  Is it anything really less than explaining it verbally? 

GREGORY:  What is it you hope people will take away from that it. 

COLON:  Clarification, information, and hopefully to take it as a starting point towards something more positive than not knowing. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

UNGER:  David Gregory, thank you very much. 

And on a far lighter note, Ann Coulter has stepped into it again.  “It” being “Hannity & Colmes” last night.  And the pungent smell resulting from Ms. Coulter‘s claim that, “things are going swimmingly in Afghanistan.”  When the co-host standing in for Alan Colmes, Kerstin Powers (ph), challenged her on that point and others, Coulter became increasingly flustered and then some.  Let‘s go to the videotape. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERSTIN POWERS, HANNITY & COLMES:  How about let‘s find Osama bin Laden?  How about let‘s find Osama bin Laden?  You‘re talking about how, you know, Democrats don‘t want to do things on terrorism, which I actually will in a second go ahead and list the things they want to do, but how about the fact we invaded Iraq when, you know, over in Afghanistan everything was falling apart and the fact that we let Osama bin Laden get away and the president said he doesn‘t even think about him, he doesn‘t even care about him.

MICHAEL BROWN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  What happened to “mission accomplished?”

POWERS:   -- what about that? 

ANN COULTER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST:  Um, I look forward to hearing that list.

POWERS:   OK, you will in a second.

COULTER:  .but as for catching Osama, it‘s irrelen (ph) things are going swimmingly in Afghanistan... 

POWERS:   Oh no they‘re not.

COULTER:  He‘s like a fading movie star now.

BROWN:  Swimmingly? 

(LAUGHTER)

POWERS:   Things in Afghanistan are going horribly, but this is interesting, now Osama bin Laden is irrelevant.

COULTER:  Who do think was—who killed.

POWERS:   .the person—the mastermind behind al Qaeda attacks on the United States is completely irrelevant—is that what you‘re saying?

COULTER:  Right, he was handed to Bill Clinton twice.

POWERS:   Oh, Bill Clinton‘s involved?

COULTER:  And he said no.

POWERS:   Because I think that actually George Bush was president around 2001.

COULTER:  OK wait, I know you‘re trying to imitate Alan Colmes

POWERS:   Yeah...

COULTER:  .but at some point he does let me answer. 

POWERS:   OK, Michael, let‘s go—Michael, why don‘t we talk about the things that the.

COULTER:  Well, goodnight, nice being here. 

POWERS:   .the Democrats actually are doing about the fact that all of the Republicans.

COULTER:  Sean?

POWERS:   .have voted against.

COULTER:  I think I can leave.

POWERS:   .all of the things that the Democrats have brought up like increasing funding for border security, increasing funding for.

COULTER:  I think I can leave now.

POWERS:   .port security, increasing funding for airline security

COULTER:  (INAUDIBLE)

POWERS:  I mean, they were not true, Michael?

BROWN:  Real homeland.

COULTER:  I mean, we‘re done.

BROWN:  .security starts at home and as long as... 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNGER:  I think that‘s call smack down and that was the sound of Coulter taking off her microphone.  It is also worth noting that Ms. Powers is the first to reveal on FOX NEWS that Ann Coulters kryptonite is mere reason. 

Coming up, an amazing story of survival.  An 18-year-old escapes from a secret room hidden under a garage to reveal she was a hostage since her kidnapping eight years ago.  And drama of a much different sort, Jennifer Lopez is with child and she‘s probably not all that happy with how the news got out.  That‘s next, but first time now for COUNTDOWN‘s “Top 3 Sound Bites” of this day. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SPECTATOR:  That‘s record.that‘s record.”

SHIRLEY MCVANE, TURTLE OWNER:  They say, oh Shirley, you‘re getting nuts, you‘re 81-years-old.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Matters of faith or a point of view.  In Shirley McVane‘s eyes, she sees the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary on her turtle‘s tummy. 

MCVANE:  There‘s no doubt.  You can‘t doubt it‘s the Virgin Mary.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I was in shock to see something like that.  But yeah, I believe it.

DAVID LETTERMAN, “THE LATE SHOW”:  You know, I have one of those big satellite dishes and I get the al Jazeera Arabic Network.  Here‘s somehting odd I saw on satellite TV about the end of the world on Tuesday, watch. 

On August 22, devout Shiites commorate the return of the 12th imam and prepare for the final day for life on earth.  So why not celebrate with al Jazeera‘s Rockin‘ Armageddon Eve?  Join us as we count down the apocalypse with teen heartthrob Kalid el-Hajezi (ph), and comedy of Farooq the Cable Guy.  And (INAUDIBLE) dancer and traditional detonation of the giant ball in Timelet (ph) Square.  Regis Philbin hosts al Jazeera‘s Rockin‘ Armageddon Eve, Tuesday after Unknown Supervisor.  (INAUDIBLE) al Jazeera.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNGER:  A girl vanishes at the age of 10.  The missing persons case grows stone cold until this week.  At the age of 18, she escapes her kidnappers underground layer to reveal she‘s still alive.  No, it‘s not a “Lifetime” movie.  A truly amazing story of survival next on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNGER:  It sounds more like a movie than real life.  This, the most common phrase attributed to stories so horrific we wish were fictional with characters so twisted we wish they were fabled.  This is one of those stories. 

In Austria, a young girl, who was abducted off of the streets when she was just 10-years-old, kept in a cellar for eight years, managed to finally escape her captor and has just been reunited with her family.  Our second story on the COUNTDOWN, survival against all odds.  Paul Davies of our British affiliate, ITN reports on one woman‘s incredible story. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAUL DAVIES, ITV REPORTER (voice-over):  Her face is hidden under a blanket, the police say her eyes are sensitive to daylight having been kept away from it for so long.  But there‘s no doubt this is the young girl disappeared so mysteriously eight years ago. 

Natascha Kampusch was just 10 when she vanished while walking to school in Vienna.  A massive police search failed to find any trace of her until she reappeared with an incredible story. 

She told detectives she‘d been held for eight years at this house, forced to live in a fortified cellar.  The head of the investigation told ITV News she escaped when her captor was distracted and left her cell door unlocked. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The door was unlocked and the kidnapper was on the phone so he had no absolute control over what she did and she just took the chance to escape. 

DAVIES:  Police launched a manhunt for 44-year-old Wolfgang Priklopil.  But the suspected kidnaper threw himself in front of the night express train shortly after Natascha‘s escape.  The passport Natascha was carrying on the day she was abducted was found in her makeshift cell, and although the schoolgirl is now a young woman and her appearance has changed considerably since these pictures were taken, she soon convinced police of her true identity. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Talking to her, she could answer which only she can answer that were never in the press or which people just cannot know. 

DAVIES:  Natascha‘s father, Ludwig, broke down as he tried to describe the moment he was reunited with his daughter.  She‘s now being given psychological help at a secret location.  In time police hope she‘ll help them understand the methods and motivation of her kidnapper who kept his prisoner and his dark secrets for so long.

Paul Davies, ITV News.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

UNGER:  Another story of survival against the odds coming from Mexico, tonight.  Three fishermen who claimed they were lost at sea with no food and no water for nine months, but as our correspondent, James Hattori reports tonight, their story itself is more than a little fishy. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMES HATTORI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  A brief emotional reunion with relatives, Thursday night for three Mexican men who say they spent nine months adrift at sea. 

(on camera):  How did you survive? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s been nine months and days, you know, and we didn‘t know he was alive. 

HATTORI:  They say a total of five men set out last October from the town of San Blas going shark fishing.  Their ordeal began with mechanical problems, then strong winds swept them 5,5000 miles toward the Marshall Islands, northeast of Australia.  That‘s where, last week, a Taiwanese fishing boat rescued just three of the men who looked sunburned and thin, but otherwise in remarkably good shape.  They say they survived on their 27-foot boat drinking rain water and eating raw fish and birds, but two men starved to death, the survivors said, because they couldn‘t stomach the food. 

(on camera):  Early on the survivors story didn‘t seem to add up.  Initially, there was no mention of the two dead men, leading to suspicions of murder, even cannibalism.  And back home, family members said they were gone three, not nine months and no missing persons reports were filed. 

(voice-over):  Also fueling skepticism, the Mexican coast where they live is used by drug smugglers.  In Hawaii Thursday, during a stopover, they got a taste of Mexican food at a local restaurant and acknowledged that some have doubts about what happened.  As they changed terminals in Los Angels, the fishermen kept to their story. 

SALVADOR ORDONEZ, FISHERMAN (through translator):  I just want to say hello to my fellow Mexicans and if they ever face difficult times, just keep trying. 

HATTORI:  A U.S. Coast Guard official says their story is plausible, though unprecedented. 

LT.  RICHARD ROBERTS, U.S. COAST GUARD:  Nine months at sea without anything is an amazing story. 

HATTORI:  The Mexican government said it would investigate, but now with the huge welcome this morning in Mexico, officials have backed off for now.  The only thing likely on the survivors minds.

They‘re final home.  Thank god, at last, home. 

James Hattori, NBC NEWS, Los Angeles. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

UNGER:  And on to our nightly round-up of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs.”  And the bit question that‘s gripping the nation, will there be a mini J-Lo soon?

The 19-year-old Jesse McCartney says yes that J-Lo is pregnant.  How does she know this?  Because his girlfriend is going to be in the movie version of “Dallas,” Lopez was also reportedly going to be in that movie, in the role of Sue Ellyn Ewing.  McCartney told an Atlanta radio station that Lopez was removed from the project because she‘s pregnant, “That‘s why she‘s not on it, she got preggers.”

But J-Lo‘s publicists has told “Us Weekly,” “She is 100 percent not pregnant” and a source close to Lopez says that Lopez is shooting the cover of a fashion magazine.  The source saying “Do you think she could wear cotour if she were pregnant?”  Jesse McCartney, please leave the runway, you‘re out.

Sunday night is Emmy night in Los Angeles and anyone who lives here

knows what that means—god awful traffic.  Emmy host, Conan O‘Brien

previews what he‘s most looking forward to from Sunday night‘s show.  That

is next.  You are watching COUNTDOWN>

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNGER:  If you ran a TV network that failed to get Emmy nominations for it‘s most beloved shows, how best to protest being slighted?  Well, on the night of the ceremony you drive your rival network, NBC, into the ratings seller by airing the blockbuster “Pirates of the Caribbean.”  In our No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN, one network featuring a gal named Emmy, the others got a guy named Johnny—Depp.  There is considerable controversy over the 58th Emmy ceremony this year, in fact, ABC is feeling snubbed for its series “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives” not getting any major nominations.  It‘s counter programming against the Emmys by airing the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” instead, and the network is not alone in criticizing a new Emmy voting process that ignored shows like “Lost,” “House,” even “The Soprano‘s.”  So then, in the spirit of ignoring the artistic, political, and commercial issues entwined in this year‘s Emmy awards, we bring you NBC‘s Josh Mankowitz who spoke to NBC‘s Conan O‘Brien who is hosting the Emmys this Sunday on NBC. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOSH MANKOWITZ, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  The legendary red carpet has been rolled out and dusted off, ready for a tribute for all that is good in television. 

CONAN O‘BRIEN, “LATE NIGHT”:  I thought yeah, that is a show I could get behind.  I can‘t be part of the Grammy‘s because I think all music is evil and... 

MANKOWITZ (on camera):  But television.

O‘BRIEN:  Television is only good.  There‘s no such thing as low quality television, apparently, I looked into it.  It‘s all excellent. 

MANKOWITZ (voice-over):  Conan O‘Brien will host the 58th Annual Emmy Awards. 

(on camera):  You look at the faces.  Some of people you know, some of them been on the show?

O‘BRIEN:  Yes. 

MANKOWITZ:  Is that different than perform performing for a crowd of people that you don‘t know? 

O‘BRIEN:  Yeah.  Yeah, unusual the crowd.  It‘s unusual to perform in front of so many people that you hate and despite and owe you money, so that can add an edge to the performance. 

MANKOWITZ (voice-over):  With that in mind,

O‘BRIEN:  He got this from a whore house.

MANKOWITZ:  Conan gave me a quick preview of the seating plan and L.A. 

Shrine Auditorium and what to expect Sunday night. 

(on camera):  All right, Patrick Dempsey in the front row, here. 

O‘BRIEN:  See, I believe this is very controversial.  I don‘t think Patrick Dempsey should be here.  I think Patrick Dempsey should be here and Chandra Wilson should be here.  I‘ve made my views known to the Academy and so far they‘ve ignored me and I may not host if this isn‘t resolved.  This photograph of Eva Longoria I‘m going to be taking with me at the end of the day.  It‘s a beautiful photograph.  God, she‘s—she‘s gorgeous.  This is for my personal use.

MANKOWITZ:  Is there a celebrity in the crown that you kind of have been looking forward to meeting? 

O‘BRIEN:  No. They‘re—really they‘re not—this is just between us. 

MANKOWITZ:  Yeah, sure.

O‘BRIEN:  They are not good people. 

MANKOWITZ:  Really? 

O‘BRIEN:  No. You I like.  But, you know, look at the “Today Show,” look at those, you know what I mean? 

MANKOWITZ:  Yeah.

O‘BRIEN:  These are all—they‘re all degenerate gamblers, Al Roker, he‘s in Atlantic City every weekend.  Kiefer Sutherland, right here, 24, um, these numbers are important:  A2527. 

MANKOWITZ:  What does they mean? 

O‘BRIEN:  Those correspond, I believe, to the ages of the women he‘d like to meet after the show.  This is just stuff that I know that most people don‘t. 

MANKOWITZ (voice-over):  Here‘s some other stuff a lot of people don‘t know.  Many of the nominations involve TV shows that will live on only in reruns, like “The West Wing,” “Will & Grace” and “Six Feet Under.”  For the first time, celebrity‘s gift baskets will be taxed, this year they‘re worth a reported $35,000 each.  And there will be a special tribute to the late TV impresario, Aaron Spelling, featuring performers from his many shows over the years. 

(on camera):  Some of those people you don‘t see very often anymore.

O‘BRIEN:  I do.  I see them.  I know where they work.  They work at

Starbucks and I go there just to, you know, order a latte and then say “you

were great on ‘Dynasty.‘”

KRYSTLE GRANT JENNINGS CARRINGTON, “DYNASTY”:  Well you miserable bitch.

MANKOWITZ (voice-over):  It all starts Sunday night. 

(on camera):  What are you looking forward to? 

O‘BRIEN:  The end of the show. 

Josh Mankowitz, NBC NEWS, Hollywood.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

UNGER:  And the Emmys there at 8:00 Eastern this Sunday on your local NBC station.  There might be cash reward too if you catch Keith Olbermann in the audience somewhere.

That does it for this Friday edition of COUNTDOWN from Los Angeles. 

I‘m Brian Unger in for Mr. Olbermann.  Thanks for watching.

Our MSNBC coverage continues now with SCARBOROUGH COUNTY.  

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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