updated 7/18/2007 12:06:15 PM ET 2007-07-18T16:06:15

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Chuck Nice, Jeff Bercovici, Jamie Masada

ALISON STEWART, MSNBC HOST:  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?  The U.S. mantra was to fight them over there, but now, them has every intention and maybe the capability to fight over here.  The national intelligence report released today says that al Qaeda is fixing to launch another attack on U.S. soil.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRAN TOWNSEND, HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER:  Of most concern is that al Qaeda will try to exploit the conflict in Iraq and leverage the contacts and capabilities of al Qaeda in Iraq, its most visible and capable affiliate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  Add to the mix, the suggestion that a U.S. conflict with Iran could lead Hezbollah to attack U.S. interests as well.

We will discuss the report with intelligence analyst Roger Cressey.  What do you call a surge of the surge?  Do not answer.  General Peter Pace says he and the Joint Chiefs are coming up with their own progress report on Iraq.  One possibility, troop build up.

And an emergency of a completely different kind.  A rhetorical question for the ladies.  If your famous is apologizing for using a call girl service, to you show up to his press conference wearing this?  We try and figure out with Mrs. Vitter thought wrapping herself in some sort of animal-reptile print hip hugging frock says stand by your man.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WENDY VITTER, DAVID VITTER‘S WIFE:  It was and is the right choice for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  Hot, ghetto mess.  You know it when you see it and now it is a new BET show that claims “self examination.”  You could call it that.  We will discuss if this is a do or a no you didn‘t.

Did Jon Lovitz beat up Andy Dick?  One could only hope.  A case of bad blood gets extreme when Lovitz allegedly pushed Dick against a rail over comments Dick made about the late comedian, Phil Hartman.  We‘ll talk to the owner of the comedy club where the fight went down.

And an ancient fertility god carved into the hillsides of England with

Homer Simpson?  Pagans pledge to form rain magic, hoping it will dissolve the sugary publicity stunt of man with donut.  All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening, Keith Olbermann is on assignment.  I am Alison Stewart.  Nearly six years after the 9/11 attacks, after four long years of war in Iraq and after the many billions of dollars that have been spent on the war on terror, a new intelligence report, the work of all 16 U.S. spy agencies warns that al Qaeda is gaining strength and is still determined to attack the United States.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, how is that possible:  Despite the president‘s contention that Iraq is the central battlefront in the war on terror, today‘s national intelligence estimate contends otherwise.  It describes Pakistan‘s tribal areas as the new quote “safe haven” for al Qaeda leaders.  That is the main reason al Qaeda has been able to reconstitute and expand and be bold enough look for biological, chemical and nuclear tools.

Iraq, it concludes, is just one of the terror group‘s regional franchises.  Last week, there had been leaks that the NIE was going to report that al Qaeda had regained his strength to a level it has not enjoyed since before the 9/11 attacks.  At Thursday‘s press conference, President Bush had been adamant it would not say that.

This afternoon, he was clearly pleased with the final draft.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT:  Al Qaeda is strong today, but they‘re not nearly as they were before September 11, 2001 and the reason why is because we have been working with the world to keep the pressure on, stay on the offense, to bring them to justice so they will not hurt us again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  Now, the report appeared to put White House homeland security advisers on the defensive by echoing an earlier assessment out of the Senate that Mr. Bush had been warned in 2003 that al Qaeda could exploit a U.S.-led invasion in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT:  The president was warned before the war that this was actually going to help al Qaeda gain influence and now you have a report suggesting that maybe it has.  Isn‘t that something that the president ignored?

TOWNSEND:  You are assuming that this is a zero sum game which is what I don‘t understand.  The fact is, we were harassing them in Afghanistan.  We‘re harassing them in Iraq.  We are harassing them in other ways non militarily around the world.

And the answer is every time you poke the hornet‘s nest, they are bound to come back and push back on you.  That does not suggest to me that we should not be doing it.  It suggests we are going to be warned that they‘re going to use this for propaganda purposes.  They‘re going to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  The very fact that al Qaeda may have gained influence in Iraq would seem to undermine the president‘s case that by fighting terrorists in Iraq we‘re preventing terrorists from coming to the U.S. and attacking here.  And as you might have guessed, the White House does not want anyone to infer that from the report, either.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN:  It does not say that they have a stronger hand.  What it says they are going to try to exploit for political and also for recruiting purposes anything it possibly can out of the ongoing conflict in Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  Time now to call NBC terrorism analyst Roger Cressey into the conversation.  Counterterrorism coordinator of the National Security Council staff until December of 2003.  Roger, good evening to you.

ROGER CRESSEY, NBC TERRORISM ANALYST:  Good evening, Alison.

STEWART:  So, leaks and presidential assertions aside, based on this report how strong is al Qaeda and why was it allowed to regain this kind of strength, especially in Pakistan?

CRESSEY:  The simple answer, we took our eyes of the prize when in 2002 and 2003, we shifted our focus and emphasis to Iraq.  We created the conditions that allowed al Qaeda to establish this de facto sanctuary inside Pakistan.  That‘s one key part of it.

The other part of it is this area on the Afghan border favors al Qaeda from a geography perspective.  The tribal populations are sympathetic to al Qaeda and we also have the bigger issue of President Musharraf and how limited he is dealing with this problem on his own border.

STEWART:  The president has long argued that al Qaeda in Iraq could follow U.S. troops home from that country.  Is there anything in the report that supports the president claim?

CRESSEY:  What is interesting is that the report really emphasizes the exact opposite.  Which is even if Iraq and al Qaeda magically disappear, the real threat is al Qaeda central, which is based inside Pakistan right now.  That is the main group that is trying to attack us.  Al Qaeda in Iraq is a significant problem, but it‘s a local problem right now.

Now the longer the Iraq War goes on, the greater potential for regional instability and for al Qaeda to reach out beyond it.  But frankly, it is a mess that we had a great hand in making.  These are the unintended consequences that we helped contribute to in Iraq.

STEWART:  Now, there is one paragraph about Iraq and there is this phrase that al Qaeda wants to quote, “leverage the contacts and capabilities of the al Qaeda in Iraq.”  What does that actually mean?

CRESSEY:  What it means is that Iraq has become such a great recruiting, training ground for jihadists that bin Laden and his followers will look to what happens in Iraq for opportunities.  In terms of personnel, veterans of that battle.  The audio and particularly the video that comes out of Iraq is a compelling recruiting tool for the worldwide jihadist movement.

So bin Laden is going to try to leverage what is going on inside Iraq right now to help his broader global movement and to help support his broader point, which is the United States is at war with Islam.

STEWART:  And while we‘re discussing broadening out, the report also talks about other groups getting in the action, that Hezbollah may be more likely to consider attacks against the U.S. should the U.S. threaten Iran, is that a threat that should that be taken as seriously as any other?

CRESSEY:  That is a very serious threat we should worry about.  In the context of a U.S. Iranian confrontation, if that ever happens, Iran will try and hit us asymmetrically which means they are not going to go direct on against the U.S. military.  They are going to use proxies.  And Hezbollah is the most effective proxy there is.  Global infrastructure, a demonstrated record of an ability to kill Americans.  Before 9/11 they were referred to as the A team in the terror business and they are still up there right now.  So yeah, they are a serious player.

STEWART:  There was a positive note and a troubling note.  For the positive note the report says that counterintelligence has thwarted attacks.  The more frightening note is the idea these independent cell just taking up the cause is just because.  Can counterintelligence handle these small rogue groups?

CRESSEY:  Your intelligence is only as good as the information you have to act upon.  So if these unrestricted free agents, if you will, in the jihadi business, are not appearing on anyone‘s of radar screen or in anyone‘s terror database, it is almost impossible to identify them and neutralize them.

What we saw happen in London and Glasgow a couple weeks ago is a great example of that.  A group of doctors and you did not know what they were about.  So that is the worry.

STEWART:  MSNBC and NBC terrorism Roger Cressey.  Tanks, Roger, we appreciate it.

CRESSEY:  Thanks, Alison.

STEWART:  Meanwhile, there are new signs tonight that instead of leaving Iraq the Bush administration might be looking to escalate the numbers of troops there again.  Surge the surge.

Marine General Peter Pace, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says that come September we could be looking at surge the sequel.

On a plane to Baghdad yesterday, General Pace told reporters the Joint Chiefs were developing their own report on where things stand in Iraq.  That would compete with General Petraeus‘ report as well as that of the U.S. ambassador to Iran (sic) Ryan Crocker.

General Pace said they were looking out scenarios that included a second escalation of U.S. forces if, he said, President Bush thought it might help the U.S. and Iraqis reach their goals more quickly.

For the record, General Pace thinks that the first surge is just beginning to work.

Let‘s bring in our own Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek.”  Nice to see you, Richard.

RICHARD WOLFFE, “NEWSWEEK”:  Good to be with you, Alison.

STEWART:  It‘s a deja vu sensors seem to be going off all over the place.  President Bush commissioned a whole bunch of reports to compete with the Iraq Study Group‘s assessment.  So why are all of these separate reports being prepared?

WOLFFE:  Obviously, they‘re looking for different options.  We know what Peter Pace is going to say.  He just said it in Baghdad.  He said there was a sea change already.  So they are looking to put a positive spin on the steady progress that they think there is in Iraq.

In fact, it is not really a military assessment that is going to be crucial here certainly in terms of the politics.  It is a political judgment.  What kind of political progress are these guys making in Baghdad?  And it‘s a singular mark of the failure here, the rupture not just between the Sunni and Shia and Kurd, but between Washington and Baghdad that there hasn‘t even been token progress toward reconciliation.

Because whatever the troops are doing out there in Iraq, they are only supposed to be buying time for the Iraqis to get their act together.  So in a sense, these military reports, no matter how many there are, are really beside the point.

STEWART:  Of course the troops are doing the very best they can but General Pace says there could be a surge or even a decrease.  His words were, “a plus up or a come down.”  So let‘s start with a come down.  Now because the president has said he will listen to his generals, could Pace provide cover for the White House so they could change course and save face.

WOLFFE:  He is certainly providing the kind of a political cover, and so is General Petraeus in terms of how the rotations have to play out and troops coming out.

I fully expect and have for several months for the White House to say, “we‘re going to bring lots of troops home.”  But they have to because of the way the rotations are structured.

You could see several thousand troops go home and still maintain a sort of surge strategy, surge light if you will.  Really, of the president wanted cover, he does not need Peter Pace, he doesn‘t need General Petraeus.  He already has the Iraqi prime minister saying, “Go home whenever you want.  We are ready to take things over.”  In a sense the president doesn‘t need any more cover that he could give himself.  He could change this today if he wanted to, but he does not.

STEWART:  Now, to the possibility of a second search, already 158,000 troops including that additional 30,000, can the president and his Senate supporters politically stand another surge?  Given that in Washington, DC there is about a 30 hour standoff on whether or not to vote about legislation to bring troops home?

WOLFFE:  Well, I think the president can and I was in that press conference just last week.  I think he is in a way liberated from all of these troubles that his own party is facing.  In terms of senators in his own party, well, they can survive for now but I think as they approach their own reelections next year, they are going to start to sweat a whole lot more.  So for the time being, they can survive, but not much longer.

STEWART:  Does this add to the notion that the White House might be setting up General Petraeus as a fall guy?  Some people have suggested that.  Democratic Senator Jack Reed said on a recent trip to Iraq he got the distinct sense that the White House was blocking General Petraeus from pursuing a new direction in Iraq.

WOLFFE:  Well, I do not know that they want him to fail, but they are certainly pushing him out there because they think he has much more credibility than they do.  And that is a very widespread feeling in the White House.

So he has become the spokesman, the chief pitch guy.  But if he fails they all fail so I think they‘re locked in this one together.  There is no single fall guy here because in the end, the buck stops with the president.

STEWART:  And finally, General Pace said he is very worried about the military families and the strain of having their loved ones gone for so long.  Is this an issue that really needs to be paid attention to by the politicians?

WOLFFE:  Well, I think it is curious and remarkable that you have not seen the president do the kinds of events that he used to do.  Remember how he used to give speeches all the time in front of the troops?  Those days are over and that‘s a mark of the politics and the strain on the families and just the hole that the president is in right now.

STEWART:  Richard Wolffe of “Newsweek” and MSNBC.  We do appreciate your time, Richard.

WOLFFE:  Any time, Alison.

STEWART:  And everyone at home, we do want to let you know that we are following some breaking news tonight out of Brazil.  A passenger plane crashed at an airport in Sao Paolo.  Local television reports the plane had landed and failed to brake probably under heavy rain.

Brazil‘s airport authority has said the plane crashed into a gas station.  It was Tam Express Airlines jet flying a domestic route, it was not an international flight.  The airline confirmed that there were 170 people aboard.  Fire officials have confirmed that crews so far have rescued six people.

There was no immediate information on other possible survivors or victims.  Once again, a Tam Express Airlines jet crashes in to a gas station after landing at an airport in Sao Paolo.  Updates on this network as the events warrant.

Politics and the war, front and center and cot worthy on Capitol Hill right now.  The Senate is in the middle of an all-night debate forced by Democratic leaders after the GOP blocks an up or down vote on Iraq legislation.

And Black Entertainment Television doing a little bit of damage control.  Critics say its new show “Hot Ghetto Mess” is all mess and nothing more.  The network says it is doing the right thing.  We will tell you which advertisers are bailing and why.  You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEWART:  Tonight, the U.S. Senate will do what millions of American,

servicemen, women, and their families have already done about the Iraq War

lose sleep over it.

In our fourth story on tonight‘s COUNTDOWN, Democrats in the Senate have begun in marathon, all-night debate to highlight Republican obstruction of an up or down vote.  Load in the cots there.

In the what goes around comes around division, Republicans once argued that America deserve an up or down vote on President Bush‘s judicial nominees.

Now, Democrats argue that America has a right to an up or down on the Levin-Reed Amendment which would bring U.S. troops out of Iraq by April except for small security and counterterrorism contingents.

Democrats in the House passed a similar measure last week and they have the votes in the Senate, too.  But Senate rules permit minorities of 40 or more to block votes from coming from the floor, which Republicans will do tomorrow morning.

Our very own David Shuster is covering this political pajama party from Washington, DC.  And David, let me just ask you about a little bit of business.  Is it mandatory that the senators appear tonight and to stay all night?

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, that depends on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.  If he wants to be really tough, he can force certain parliamentary measures that would force every senator to come to the chamber.

Sometimes the way they will work this out is they will have what‘s know as a quorum call, so they‘ll basically say there has to be 51.  But it totally depends on Harry Reid.  If he wants to, he could cut this off an hour from now and save everybody.  So it all depends on how tough he wants to be.

STEWART:  So the big question is basically numbers, if the Levin-Reed amendment won‘t come up for a vote, even it came to the floor and pass, the president, he would not sign it.  So what is the goal tonight?  What is this all about, David?

SHUSTER:  Well, the goal is to simply to punish Republicans.  Democrats want to sort of make a point to the American people who see that it‘s - the polls suggest that people blame both the Democrats and Republicans equally for the fact that the war grinds on.  Democrats want to at least make the public relations point that no, we‘re trying to do everything we can to end this but Republicans are blocking this procedurally.

So what essentially Harry Reid is doing is saying, OK, Republicans are not going to allow a straight up and down vote, if they are going to require us to get to 60 votes just to have a vote on the Reed-Levin Amendment, we are going to make them pay for it and we are going to make them pay for it by forcing them to spend all night in the U.S. Capitol.

At a certain point, Harry Reid could sort of back off and say, OK, we have made our point and it‘s clear to the public now that Republicans are the ones that are trying to keep this vote from even happening.

But in the meantime, it is, again, the Democrats trying to put the Republicans on the spot and say, if you are not going to let us vote up or down on the Reed-Levin Amendment which would effectively end the war, we‘re going to force you to not only spend all night in the Capitol but we‘re going to force you to come to the Senate floor and explain why you are not willing to end the war and why you are not even willing to allow an up or down vote on an amendment that would do it.

STEWART:  Now, Senator John Kerry told “The Hill” that at least 60 senators do support a change of course in Iraq, but the Republicans will not vote because they are really caving, were his words, to party leadership.  Is that true at all from your reporting and would those folks ever come forward?

SHUSTER:  Yeah, from our discussions and from what we have been hearing from some of the key Republican senators and also some demonstrators, some of the Iraqi vets who are talking to senators today.

All the reporting is that there are plenty of Republicans now who feel the war has not worked out and it is time to start bringing troops home but they need another two months of political cover from their party.

That they gave their word to the White House that they would give Petraeus until September to come back with the report.  And therefore the Republicans feel like they cannot at this point just a couple of months to confirm Petraeus they can‘t now come back and say, let‘s end it now.

So the frustrating thing to a number of Democrats and of course to a number of Iraq War veterans who want this to end is what is going to happen to all those soldiers that are killed in the next two months—what will they have died for if the Senate is going to inevitably reach this point anyway?  And if it is the will of the Senate that this war is going to come to an end, why not end it now before more U.S. soldiers are killed?

STEWART:  Let me ask you about a few nuts and bolts before I let you go.  This is such an odd situation.  We have not had the Senate work past 4:00 a.m. since 1994.  Will there really be any work done?  Will anything actually come out of tonight?

SHUSTER:  No, the only thing that is going to come out are the statements on the Senate floor as far as people exploiting their positions.  And it has been noted that some of the debate, for example, on the defense authorization bill—I mean, there are something like 100 different amendments to the actual bill that would give U.S. forces a raise in their pay, or give them certain kinds of equipment, all of that is pushed aside.

So the argument Republicans are making is that every hour that the Senate spends debating whether or not they should be able to vote on this Reed-Levin amendment with 50 votes or 60, that that is time that is wasted that could have been spent on other stuff.  That is the point.  Harry Reid has made it clear that this is the debate there is going to be this week in Congress, the debate is the Iraq War and whether it should end right now.  And he has pretty much said that this is the thing that the American people want the Senate to be focusing on.

STEWART:  David Shuster out of DC amid all the cots.  Thanks, David.

SHUSTER:  Thanks, Alison.

STEWART:  An all-nighter in the Senate?  Anybody keeping track of Senator Vitter?  Oh, we joke.  He said he was sorry.  What about his wife and her style choice for the occasion?  Is an apology necessary there?

And what‘s up here?  “The Simpsons” going to irritate the gods with a display like that?  Some answers next on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEWART:  I am Alison Stewart in for Keith Olbermann and now is the time we pause the COUNTDOWN to bring you a date of historical significance.  An important anniversary or the birthday of a legendary human being.

Tonight - we have all three in one.  On this date in 1952, the man who tore down the Berlin wall, the man who pioneered talking car technology, the man who got wasted and ate burger on the floor while his kid taped it was born.  David Hasselhoff turns 55 today and in honor of the Hoff‘s double nickel, I say, let‘s play “Oddball.”

We begin in the British countryside where the Cerne Abbas giant, an 60 foot chalk outline of a man sporting a big club and a pixilated woody has a new neighbor.  It is a Homer Simpson in his underpants hoisting a doughnut.  We‘re not exactly sure how Homer wound up there, but we suspect it may have something to do with a certain movie opening up next week.

The pagans of Cerne Abbas who originally drew the chalk drawing in the 17th century are none too pleased to share the countryside with a giant movie poster.  To foil the promotion the pagans are praying for rain so like the pile of sugar in Homer‘s backyard, the rain will wash the Homer away.

Remaining in Europe, we had to France.  Stage nine at the Tour de France.  And the “Oddball” staff can‘t this enough her, no one and no pup really gets hurt in this clip.  That said, if you‘re thinking about taking your pooch to France for the big bike spin next year, pack a leash.  The golden retriever, acting like a golden retriever, dope-dee-dope-dee-do, in a friendly and cheerful way, walked in front of the T-Mobil writer Marcus Burghardt who clearly was not aware there would be canine hazards this year.

Again, the writer was fine, the dog eat shook it off.  Nobody cried.  How do we know the doggie didn‘t get hurt?  He was later seen enjoying a nice brie, baguette and Bordeaux.  Vive le France.  Shake it off, pooch.

And if dog getting hit by bike brought you down, here is a dog clip to cheer you up from the web, which happens to be world wide, in case you didn‘t hear.  It is the stupidly simple hit sensation dog bites water.  Look at the dog bite water.

Wait, there is more.  It‘s rare that you can trace the origins of an animal clip like this, but the Youtube clip says it was posted by Louis C.K.  That‘s right, the comedian, actor, writer/director of the hilarious movie “Pootie Tang.”  Now, Louis, with all the cash you got from Pootie, buy the dog a water bowl, or a toy.  You can afford it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEWART:  The dog days of summer leading to a programming controversy at BET.  Hot ghetto mess debuts next week and some advertisers are already running from the show before the first episode even airs.  And comedian Andy Dick finds himself in a less than funny situation, beat up allegedly at the hands of a fellow comedian, Jon Lovitz.

The bloody details ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three news makers of this day.  Number three, Tim Dang Hoon, the South Korean tourist, visiting the city of Ornassi (ph) in India.  He recently filed a formal complaint against a thief who stole his glasses from a hotel room.  The thief, a monkey.  Hoon claims that when he opened his hotel room for some fresh air, the monkey swooped in and swiped the specs. 

Indian police are now on the look out for a monkey wearing glasses.

Number two, Dana Farrell Shelton, who called 911 for help when he was surrounded by a bunch of guys with guns in a Florida bar.  It turned out it would be an easy call for the cops because the guys surrounding Shelton were police officers.  They had already responded to a call that he was getting rowdy in the bar.  Yes, that genius called the cops on the cops. 

Number one, Luis Miguel Gomez of Spain, who recently lost custody of his ten year old son when his ex-wife complained to a judge that he was an unfit father.  How did she know he was an unfit father?  She had photographic proof.  She saw this picture in her local newspaper of her ex husband and her son running with the bulls in Pamplona. 

Have you ever heard of camping, pops? 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEWART:  An African-American female lawyer from Washington D.C. and now a cable entertainment network executive wants to hold a mirror to certain aspects of the black and urban community.  But since the reflection she is showing in that mirror is primarily big booty and shaking booty and black girl fights, it‘s causing a wee bit of controversy.  In our third story on the COUNTDOWN, we introduce you to “Hot Ghetto Mess.”  It‘s a TV show soon to be seen on Black Entertainment Television that is losing advertisers even though it hasn‘t yet broadcast even one of its six episodes. 

The program is based on a website of the same name.  That site begins with a screen that says, if you are not completely appalled, then you haven‘t been paying attention.  In a note from the editor, the lawyer, Miss Donaldson, says that her mission is self examination; quote, I am just holding up a mirror to my community, so don‘t blame me if you do not like your reflection. 

Here is a sample of the many videos uploaded to the site.  This one is entitled Mama is fighting.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  The head of BET Entertainment, Reginald Hudlin, says the TV version includes viewer submitted home videos, plus some man on the street interviews that are supposed to encourage, quote, viewers to improve themselves and their communities.  The motto of the show is we‘ve got to better. 

Let‘s bring in pop culture pundit and comedian Chuck Nice of VH-1‘s Best Week Ever.  Hey Chuck.

CHUCK NICE, VH-1:  Hey Alison, how are you?

STEWART:  I‘m doing all right.  So far, we do not know exactly what the TV show is going to be like, but if the website is any kind of indication, so far it is mostly some well endowed black women shaking the junk in the trunk.  One of the entries is actually titled Big Booties Hoes. 

So can you understand why, as a TV show, no matter what the stated mission is, how it might rankle some people? 

NICE:  Well, maybe it could rankle some people, but perhaps those people should take the time to determine whether or not, now that we can see clearly that these women do have big booties, are they indeed hoes?  I mean, is there any empirical evidence that shows in fact they are, because then perhaps it‘s just reporting of the facts.

STEWART:  Now, BET‘s head of entertainment, Reginald Hudlin, says this should encourage viewers to improve themselves and their communities.  Miss Donaldson has said hey, if I have a clip of a guy doing a happy crack dance, it may not be pretty.  But it‘s true.  Do you think these shows could provide some kind of inspiration to do better?

NICE:  Of course.  If you are a happy crack head who likes to dance, then maybe you would look at this and see a need for improvement. 

STEWART:  You mean you‘re dancing skills? 

NICE:  Yes.  Maybe I should watch dance off, pants off before I smoke my crack.  I mean, this is doing a public service, right? 

STEWART:  I see, but I have to be honest, if you go on the web, it is getting harsh out there.  One website is called BET pimps for selling this kind of programming, especially to the man, meaning Viacom.  Another big critic is a site called What About Our Daughters, which says the show will simply be demeaning to blacks, period, reinforces really bad stereotypes.  From what you see on the website, do these folks have a point? 

NICE:  What about our daughters that are living up to these very bad stereotypes?  You know, don‘t they deserve equal time?  Don‘t our big bootied ho daughters that are living up to these stereotypes, don‘t they deserve a say in this matter as well.  No, honestly, let me stop before somebody thinks I‘m serious here.  Let me just chill out for a second here. 

Listen, BET and Mr. Hudlin and the producers of this show, and the website, quite frankly, maybe they are pulling the wool from the black sheep over everybody‘s eyes, but this is the same warmed over stereotypical crap that people have tried to pull off as exploitation of the black community for years.  Just because you are black and doing it does not mean it is OK. 

STEWART:  Now, two advertisers, Home Depot and State Farm Insurance, have decided to pull their ad from the show, even though it hasn‘t really aired anywhere.  Is it fair to criticize or run scared without seeing the show?  Should it provide context and discussion? 

NICE:  Part of me says I applaud these advertisers for pulling out, just that the mere mention of this horrific subject matter.  But then the other part of me says, hey, maybe they are missing out on that crack head demo. 

STEWART:  Yes, they are always at the Home Depot—

NICE:  Who needs a house more than crack heads?

STEWART:  -- in the glue aisle.  I actually know some prominent African Americans who have gotten a petition online about keeping the show off the air.  It reminded me a little bit of “30 Rock” where nobody believes Tracy Morgan‘s character when he says a group called the Black Crusaders are out to get him for not being a good role model.  Our own Lester Holt actually made a cameo.  Let‘s take a look. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I know the movie is important to you and you are stressed out and everything, but keep it together.  OK?

LESTER HOLT, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Fortunately there were no injuries. 

Tracy Jordan, the black crusaders are coming for you. 

We will have more on the weather coming out. 

TRACY MORGAN, ACTOR:  Man, I wish somebody else had seen that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  First of all, do you believe in the black crusaders?  And is this something that maybe middle-class black folks don‘t get, that this world exists, this “Hot Ghetto Mess” world and it needs to be addressed in some way? 

NICE:  First of all, middle-class blacks absolutely know that the world exists on a small level.  This is not a broad brush stroke that represents all of the black community.  We certainly know that.  Me, being a part of middle class black America, we know that it exists.  Yes, I do believe in the black crusaders. 

More important, I believe in the black caped crusaders, of which I am one.  We are activists by day and we fight crime by night.  So, look out “Hot Ghetto Mess.” 

STEWART:  Well, I do not want to keep you from your duties.  Super hero and comedian Chuck Nice, contributor to VH-1‘s “Best Week Ever.”  Get your coat, cape and get on. 

NICE:  Absolutely, take care Alison.

STEWART:  To the buzz in D.C.  Was Mrs. Vitter throwing down the gauntlet to Capital Escorts when she chose her look at me dress for last night‘s big apology?  And Donald Trump returns to NBC for celebrity apprentice and things are looking Rosie if the Donald has his way.  Details ahead on COUNTDOWN. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEWART:  When Louisiana Senator David Vitter appeared before the media last night, his first public appearance since we learned his phone number showed up on the D.C. Madame‘s records, he brought with him a woman, a woman wearing a form fitting, skin tight, printed dress with a plunging V neckline.  In our number two story tonight, it turned out that woman was his wife!

That‘s right, Wendy Vitter, the former prosecutor who told reporters during the Clinton/Lewinsky mess that if her husband ever strayed, she would leave the marriage with his cajones in her hands, showed up to his I have sinned press conference in full va va voom mode. 

Despite her slinky dress, the head she turned the most seemed to be her own, as she dropped the hard line she took during the Clinton affair for a kindlier, gentler Vitter in the Vitter affair. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WENDY VITTER, WIFE OF SENATOR:  I forgave David.  I made the decision to love him and to recommit to our marriage.  To forgive is not always the easy choice, but it was and is the right choice for me. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  Allison Janney so plays her in the movie.  Let‘s bring in Jeff Bercovici, senior writer at Radar Online, a site described as covering pop, politics, scandal and style.  Jeff, you are the right guy to talk to.  Thanks for being with us. 

JEFF BERCOVICI, RADAR ONLINE:  Happy to be here.

STEWART:  When you first saw Mrs. Vitter standing by her man, what was your reaction? 

BERCOVICI:  I think you have to call it disbelief.  The idea that somebody would wear that kind of outfit to any sort of crisis control press conference is hard to believe enough in itself.  But to go to a conference where your are addressing your husband‘s infidelity with prostitutes and you yourself are looking like—apologies for this—but she‘s looking a little like a prostitute.   

STEWART:  She looks saucy, we‘ll say. 

BERCOVICI:  I think it brings up associations that you don‘t want to bring up in that situation.

STEWART:  And he is really not in the position right now to say, honey, could you slip into a cardigan and some pearls? 

BERCOVICI:  Exactly. 

STEWART:  What do you think Mrs. Vitter accomplished with that particular fashion choice?   

BERCOVICI:  You can only speculate, but I see two possibilities.  One is you do see in a lot of cases where, after a woman‘s husband has strayed, she changes her look afterwards, tries to make herself more attractive to win him back, as it were.  The other possibility, though, is maybe this is revenge.  Maybe this is her passive aggressive way of getting back at him.  I‘m going to make you look like a jerk at the press conference.  I‘m going to remind everyone of exactly what you did.

STEWART:  It could be personally.  She‘s like hey, just because my husband went out looking for hamburger does not mean he does not have steak at home.  I‘m a good looking gal. 

BERCOVICI:  Absolutely.  I think any time we hear that a man in public life has cheated on his wife, you always wonder—even if it‘s not fair—you always kind of want to see what she looks right.  The same is true if it‘s a woman who cheats.   

STEWART:  Let me ask you—If someone‘s asking you as a consultant, what is the inappropriate outfit for appearing in public by your husband‘s side to say you‘re find with his notorious life with an escort service? 

BERCOVICI:  That is a question I get asked a lot, actually.  There is one word answer and that is boring.  There is a pretty unforgiving dress code in Washington.  You see candidates spouses in a lot of pastel pant suits and Navy dresses.  There is a reason for it.  In politics, in general, if people are talking about what you‘re wearing, it‘s a bad thing. 

STEWART:  Finally, is it possible we have witnessed some kind of sea change here where respectable wives are going to go there?  They‘re going to go to this next level, considering what their husbands may be doing in their off hours? 

BERCOVICI:  You may be on to something.  We could actually be seeing a complete reversal of the laws of skankery.  I know that you must have seen when Paris Hilton got out of prison that she was wearing a very prim Channel type jacket and maybe that is just—everyone is going to trade places from now on.  Maybe we will see Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail in a platinum wig and fish nets. 

STEWART:  The world is topsy turvy.  Cat and dog living together if that happens.  Jeff Bercovici with Radar Online, thanks for stopping by. 

BERCOVICI:  Thanks for having me.

STEWART:  A rocky relationship marking the transition into our nightly round up of celebrity headlines, that‘s Keeping Tabs.  Donald Trump and Rosie O‘Donnell; could the two bury the hatchet?  I wouldn‘t hold your breath.  But here‘s the deal, NBC announced plans to bring back Trump‘s reality show “The Apprentice” next season.  Only, this time around, there will be fewer, a lot fewer Trump wannabes, as in zero.  Instead, an entire cast of celebrities. 

Who tops on Trumps‘s star studded list of potential candidates?  Rosie O‘Donnell.  We are not kidding, either.  After the spring that those two had, why not put them on TV together?  O‘Donnell‘s people responded, quote, it will never happen in this lifetime or beyond, end quote.  What about beyond beyond?  Could you pencil us in?

Whichever celebrity wins the long interview process won‘t work for the Donald.  Instead, all the prize money will be donated to charity.  Are you suffering the side effects of all that non-stop Paris Hilton coverage a few weeks back?  There is something on E-bay that could cheer you up, Hilton‘s performance in the movie “House of Wax” was overlooked by the academy.  But how can you forget that death scene when she died by pipe, stunt pipe to be clear. 

Now, fresh for the taking and just a mouse click away, you can own set pipe that killed Paris Hilton‘s character Page at the end of the movie.  The current bid on that price 710 dollars.  If you did not know how “House of Wax” ended, well, it is not like I told you about Harry Potter.  Relax. 

Andy Dick gets taken to school by Jon Lovitz.  The two come to blows inside the Laugh Factory in L.A.  The owner of the comedy club joins us next to explain what the big fight was all about.  That‘s next on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEWART:  When comics attack.  And the scandalous tale of how John Lovitz allegedly beat up Andy Dick.  According to the “New York Post” it happened last Wednesday night at the Laugh Factory in L.A.  Mr. Lovitz quote as saying, quote, I pushed him against the rail and I pushed him again really hard.  A security guard broke it up.  I am not proud of it.  But he is a disgusting human being, end quote. 

The bad blood between the comics goes way back to a Christmas party in 1997.  It was a party at the house of Saturday Night alumnus Phil Hartman.  Lovitz tells the Post that Mr. Dick was doing cocaine and gave some to Hartman‘s wife Brin.  She had been sober for ten years, but five months after the party, following a downward spiral, she shot herself and then her husband. 

Cut to last year when Mr. Dick, again drunk, according to Mr. Lovitz, walked up to him at a Hollywood restaurant and said, quote, I put the Phil Hartman hex on you.  So at the Laugh Factory last week, Lovitz wanted Mr.  Dick to apologize for that comment.  Mr. Dick first denied ever saying it.  Then said he did it because Lovitz had accused him of killing Phil Hartman and then Mr. Dick asked Mr. Lovitz to be in his new movie. 

Apparently that of all things was the final straw.  A security guard stopped the guard ultimately.  The Post also quote the Laugh Factory owner, Jamie Masada.  But he joins us now, so we can ask him our own questions.  Jamie, thanks for being with us. 

JAMIE MASADA, OWNER OF THE LAUGH FACTOR:  You‘re welcome, Alison.  It is a crazy stuff like that happened between the family of comedy and they are all great.  They are all wonderful.  They are going to make up.  And, you know, it is among some dysfunction families, sometimes you have a little fight.  What do you do?  You get in a fight with your brother, your sister and all of that stuff, and that is what has happened and hopefully they all come together and it‘s going to be OK. 

STEWART:  Is that account in the “New York Post” accurate from what you saw and know about that night? 

MASADA:  Part of it was accurate about what John did.  John was very upset about what Andy said to him.  And my security people on the door, Brian and Brother Wood, broke it up.  There were a bunch of comedians in the lobby at the time that happened.  Andy could aggravate a lot of people.  At the time that happened, a lot of comedians start applauding and screaming, oh great, John, go for it. 

And that is what happened, unfortunately.  But, you know, again, between any dysfunctional—I have been in this business 28 years.  Between any dysfunctional family, this type of stuff happens.  I saw it from Richard Prior—the latest one was Dave Chapelle.  He was on the stage for six and a half hours.  I was begging him, Dave, get off the stage.  Dave, get off the stage.  And that is what happening.  What can you do?  You‘ve got to go with it. 

STEWART:  Based on Mr. Lovitz and Mr. Dick, was there alcohol or anything else involved that evening? 

MASADA:  No.  Mr. Lovitz I‘ve got to tell you—John Lovitz is one of the persons, very loving, very caring.  You have got to push his buttons too far to do that.  Andy had maybe a couple of drinks.  But John does not drink.  He does not take any absence, nothing at all.  So that‘s all I could say, that John did not take anything.  I know Andy had a drink. 

STEWART:  So after the fight what happened?  Did Lovitz leave?  Did Andy Dick stick around?

MASADA:  No, after the fight actually Andy, with his friend, they all walked out.  And John Lovitz stayed in the lobby, waited.  He was waiting to see if he comes back or he was going to call somebody, or anything.  Afterwards, you know, everything calmed down and John came down and had a bottle of water and everybody was OK.  It was, you know, calmed down and everything was all right.  I think it‘s going to be OK.

STEWART:  From what you know about these two, was this a long time coming? 

MASADA:  I think this type of stuff, yes.  It was something that you could foresee because of what is happening.  John Lovitz thinks that Andy had something to do with Phil Hartman‘s death and that type of stuff.  It turned that whole thing on, because wasn‘t there that party.  Andy did give some substance to Phil—yes. 

So that type of—and that was there.  And I will tell you that Phil Hartman was the best friend of John Lovitz and John took it very, very hard on that. 

STEWART:  Understandably.  Jamie Masada, owner of the Laugh Factory, thanks for telling us about that crazy night. 

MASADA:  Thank you.  Have a good night. 

STEWART:  That is it for this Tuesday edition of COUNTDOWN.  I‘m Alison Stewart, in for Keith Olbermann.  Until we meet again, check out my pod cast at NPR.org/Bryant Park.  Keith back tomorrow.

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

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2007 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2007 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.

transcript

Watch Countdown with Keith Olbermann each weeknight at 8 p.m. ET

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,