updated 8/15/2007 11:33:07 AM ET 2007-08-15T15:33:07

Guests: Eugene Robinson, Jon Soltz, Christian Finnegan

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST:  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?  Election 2008, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton versus Karl Rove?  He will not be the nominee, but will he be behind ‘08 equivalent of the swift boat slanderers, heading the anti-Hillary forces?  That would explain him calling her a fatally flawed candidate and her new response...

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HILLARY CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, aren‘t we glad to see him go?         

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OLBERMANN:  The senator rolls out her first national election ad.

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CLINTON:  You are a family and struggling and you do not have health care, well, you are invisible to this president.                 

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OLBERMANN:  And on the other side, day two for George Bush and Karl Rove in the drama “The President‘s Brain is Missing.”  What kind of brains would actually suggestion a draft?  The president‘s war czar said it is and has always been on the table.  In the age of entitlement, would anybody let themselves or their kids be drafted?

Still, it might be safer than buying them toys made in China.  Nine million more recalled, made with lead paint and loose magnets. 

Let‘s go to the videotape of Kevin Federline‘s ex-Israeli commandos serving legal papers on Britney Spears‘ former assistant. 

And our star of the game.  We appreciate the creativity, but was the money you got from the liquor store actually worth the pain of removing the disguise of the duct tape bandit? 

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Unbelievable.  People don‘t think this really happened.

OLBERMANN:  Not only did it, but there is a suspect.  Not only is there a suspect, there is an interview with the suspect. 

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DUCT TAPE BANDIT SUSPECT:  Look at me.  Do I look like a duct tape bandit, baby? 

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OLBERMANN:  I do not know since your head is not currently wrapped in duct tape. 

All that and more now on “Countdown.”

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SUSPECT:  You know this is not me.

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OLBERMANN (on camera):  Good evening, a nominee may be named Giuliani or Romney or Thompson or Mr. Surprise, but if the Democrats choose Hillary Clinton to run for president next year, her Republican opponent will actually be Karl Rove.  That, in our fifth story in the “Countdown,” seemed to underscore Senator Clinton‘s task to partially recreate herself.  It has been done in our country by Richard Nixon at least twice.  Clinton v. Rove, Clinton first.  The Associated Press story you know about.  Interviews with 40 Democratic candidates, consultants, and party chairs who voice, mostly anonymously, concerns that the Senator might be too polarizing, that she could cost congressional seats, that she will rally people to vote against her.  An echo of Mr. Rove‘s prediction in yesterday‘s “Wall Street Journal” that Clinton is a, quote, “tough, tenacious, fatally flawed candidate.”

Senator Clinton brushed off both charges to our Andrea Mitchell.

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ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Karl Rove took a parting shot and said that you are fatally flawed as a candidate. 

CLINTON:  Well, aren‘t we glad to see him go is the answer to that.  I am thrilled to be running this campaign.  And getting the response but I am getting all over the country. 

MITCHELL:  And there was an Associated Press report quoting Democrats saying that you might pull down the ticket. 

CLINTON:  I am ahead and I‘m winning and I‘m gaining support everywhere I go.  I do not think I haven‘t any right to anybody‘s vote.  I have to earn every vote and that is what I am doing everyday. 

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OLBERMANN:  In an effort to earn votes, the senator has unveiled her first TV ad in Iowa, trying to refocus her image by emphasizing her compassion and likability. 

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CLINTON:  As I travel all run America, I hear from so many people who feel like they are just invisible to their government. 

NARRATOR:  Hillary Clinton has spent her life standing up for people others do not see. 

CLINTON:  If you‘re a family that is struggling and you do not have health care, well, you are invisible to this president.  If you‘re a single mom trying to find affordable child care so you can go to work, well, you are invisible, too.  I never thought I would see that our soldiers, who serve in Iraq and Afghanistan, would be treated as though they were invisible as well. 

Americans from all walks of life across our country may be invisible to this president, but they are not invisible to me.  And they won‘t be invisible to the next president of the United States. 

I am Hillary Clinton and I approve this message. 

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OLBERMANN:  The White House deferring to the Republican National Committee on the politics of that ad before attacking the rest of it.  Spokesperson Dana Perino telling reporters, quote, “As to the merits of it, I think it‘s outrageous.”  Continuing, “And as to whether or not our troops are invisible to this president, I think that that is absurd and that is unconscionable that a member of Congress would say such a thing.”

Senator Clinton responding in turn to that attack this evening, saying, quote, “Apparently, I have struck a nerve.” 

I‘m joined now by our political analyst, Lawrence O‘Donnell, who also contributes to huffingtonpost.com. 

Good evening, sir.

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The latest Gallup poll revealing 47 percent of the respondents hold Hillary Clinton in high regard.  But the unfavorable view comes in at 49 percent.  Can you change the poll number enough to get elected president? 

O‘DONNELL:  It is the most of a one to change, especially when 100 percent of the public knows you and 49 percent have made this unfavorable judgment.  But she‘s done it before, Keith.  When she first ran in New York State, her unfavorable was relatively high and she did change a lot of minds.  It is very unusual for an incumbent president, which is what Hillary Clinton is comparable to as a candidate because she is known by 100 percent of the electorate—very unusual for them to change minds.  She has done it anecdotally.  I know people in New York who did not want to vote for her at the beginning.  They changed their minds.  They voted for her.

She is a very effective campaigner.  Her ad campaign will be very effective.  She is going to be, as we have seen, an effective campaigner, pretty much flawless in debate performances.  She will change minds.  She probably will not make mistakes.  How far down can she push that 49 percent?  I think that number can only go down.  I don‘t know how low it can go.  It will probably the highest negative that any of the candidates have going into this election, but she‘s gotten a long way with a high negative for a politician? 

OLBERMANN:  Now turning this towards Mr. Rove‘s free agency here.  Nicolle Wallace, the former communication director at the White House for Mr. Bush, said of Senator Clinton, quoting, “Hillary is running the most Rove-like campaign out of all of them.  She has almost operationalized the idea of turning your weakness into strength, message discipline that is almost pathological.  She does not get off message for any reason and never skipping an opportunity to exploit her opponent‘s weakness.”

Is that an accurate assessment?  Given how successful Rove was in getting George Bush elected twice, is following that path or pathology going to succeed or would it backfire for any Democrat? 

O‘DONNELL: We could quibble about some of the adjectives, but that is fundamentally a description of recent winning campaigns in national politics.  That is the way that campaigns have to be run.  That is not dissimilar from the way Bill Clinton ran his presidential campaigns. 

The Clinton campaign machine is very disciplined.  We have seen it throughout the campaign so far.  Not a single mistake has been made by anybody in that campaign.  That is the kind of performance you should expect for the rest of the way.  If what they are saying is that Hillary Clinton is going to run a very effective, professional presidential campaign, I guess I have to agree with that. 

OLBERMANN:  Taking this backwards.  We have Rove versus Clinton—and I will explore that at length with Eugene Robinson in a minute—but the other way around, Clinton versus who?  The quick response to the Rove comment, that we saw in the little interview with Andrea Mitchell, then the Dana Perino statement, then the quick response again, “I have struck a nerve.”  She was quick to respond to that Edelman letter last month.  Is there a Clinton strategy right now to run a campaign ran out against George W. Bush? 

O‘DONNELL:  The Republicans have made this work perfectly for her.  Rove has served her very well this week.  The White House has served her well by engaging on this.  They did not have to engage on a campaign commercial in the Democratic primary.  She has been incredibly lucky in the way they have engaged on this.  It allows her to go straight at what many in the Democratic Party consider to be real poison, like Karl Rove and the way this Bush White House operates.  It is amazing that they have given her this gift.  They should not be jumping in there and helping her out like this if they want to prevent her from getting the nomination.             

OLBERMANN:  Our own Lawrence O‘Donnell.  As always, great thanks for joining us. 

O‘DONNELL:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  And now part two, Karl Rove‘s next move.  I am joined now by “Washington Post” columnist Eugene Robinson, whose latest columnist bid farewell to the boy genius. 

Thanks for your time tonight. 

EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, “WASHINGTON POST”:  Good to be here, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Rove said yesterday he is not looking for a formal role in 2008.  So we know he is not going to be in a tuxedo, but will he be in the campaign somehow? 

ROBINSON:  No white tie and tails for Karl this time around, but of course he is going to be involved in politics.  What else is he going to do?  He lives and breathes politics and has for essentially his adult life.  In a sense, we will have Rove unbound.  He is no longer a White House official.  He can do and say as he wishes.  Perhaps we will hear more of what we heard the other day when he called Hillary Clinton fatally flawed. 

I do agree that Hillary Clinton, or any Democrat at this point, relishes the opportunity to run against Karl Rove and George Bush rather than any of the prospective Republican candidates. 

OLBERMANN:  As much as Mr. Rove thinks he is history‘s gift to the Republican Party, I did not see anything, word one from any of the Republican seekers for the nomination, even send us a post card, Karl.  I mean, if nominated, would any of them actually turn him down, would anybody say Karl Rove does not speak for the Republican Party? 

ROBINSON:  I can‘t image any candidate now or at any time I can imagine cozying up to Karl Rove to the point of bringing him on board the way George Bush because, if you have Karl Rove as a main adviser, you are saddling yourself with the losing aspects of the George Bush presidency.  You are saddling yourself with Iraq, immigration, all the things that the Bush administration got wrong. 

Will any of the candidates reject any sort of freelance help that Rove gives either through back channel advice or through public speaking or op-eds that he might write that say things that a candidate might not want to openly say, but might want to have out in the public arena.  For example, it looks like the Democrats will likely dominate Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.  I have had a number of Republicans point out to me that either of those candidates winning the presidency would be historic.  I do not think that a Republican can actually run openly on a platform of bigotry, saying we cannot have a woman president, a black president, this is America.  But Karl Rove could insinuate and the hint and encode perhaps a more accessible code than a candidate can use, could perhaps mobilize a base around, essentially, bigotry. 

OLBERMANN:  Even doing that would be a tight rope act.  It would be fun to watch him fall.  Give your impression of what Howard Fineman said about Rove last night here, that he thinks that the focus is going to—he‘s going to be the lead hit man, specifically against Hillary Clinton.  A, does it work—does Karl Rove want to sideline Hillary Clinton in the primaries or do they want to take her on in the general election?  Doesn‘t it, as Lawrence O‘Donnell suggests, work in reverse?  Does it not elevate her already to the status of might as well be an incumbent president if he incumbent president and his people are seen attacking her. 

ROBINSON:  It definitely elevates her right now.  She‘s the one they are focused on.  As the Republicans say, she is the likely candidate.  A lot of them believe that she is the likely candidate and want to concentrate some early fire against her.  It helps her in the nomination battle. 

In the general election, I think whoever the Democrats nominate, whether it is Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, they can expect the Republican Party to come out with both barrels blazing.  It is not one to be a white gloves campaign in any sense of the word. 

OLBERMANN:  It will be Joe McCarthy and William McKinley coming back from the grave to campaign against the Democrats, whoever it is. 

Columnist Eugene Robinson of the “Washington Post.”  As always, thanks for your time tonight. 

ROBINSON:  Good to be here.

OLBERMANN:  As Rove goes, so goes Washington, perhaps.  Another pillar of the far right is bowing out after months of speculation about it.  NBC News has confirmed that Congressman Dennis Hastert will retire at the end of his term in January 2009.  He will make the announcement Friday morning at the Kendall County Courthouse in his Illinois district.  Hastert was the longest serving Republican Speaker of the House in U.S. history, carrying the gavel from 1999 until the Democrats won Congress back in 2006, edging out by mere months another long ago Illinois man (ph), Speaker Joe Cannon. 

Sometimes though, the past does not stay in the past.  More hints tonight about a revival of the military draft. 

And 9 million more toys recalled, again, ones manufactured in China. 

Concern here, but panic there.  You‘re watching “Countdown” on MSNBC.

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OLBERMANN:  Realistically, you have to be at least 40 years old to remember the last great American social upheaval, Vietnam, an unpopular war combined with a military draft, tearing the country apart and inflicting wounds that have yet to fully heal.  If you‘re not that old, all you have to do is read history about that draft or any other, even the one so unpopular it set off riots during the Civil War.

In our fourth story tonight, that word has been mentioned again—draft by the president, who has insisted it is not under consideration, but by his new war czar, with another perhaps more unpopular war in Iraq and unrelenting violence there, 175 dead, perhaps 200 more injured in a suicide tanker bombing in northern Iraq just today and the deaths of four more American troops also announced.

General Douglas Lute, the president‘s so-called war czar, asked in an NPR interview if a stressed military and extended deployments could mean a return to the draft, answering as follows:  “I think it makes sense to certainly consider it.  And I can tell you, this has always been an option on the table, but ultimately, this is a policy matter between meeting the demands of the nation‘s security by one means or another.”

After failing to enlist enough recruits for two months in a row, the Army narrowly met its July recruitment goal, but only after offering an extra $20,000 to the recruits to show up for basic training by the end of September. 

Some pull back today.  Army Chief of Staff General George Casey told the Washington Press Club that the volunteer military is resilient and committed, but it faces, quote, “decades of persistent conflict, although right now there is no consideration to reinstate the draft,” in his words. 

Jon Soltz was an Army captain who served in Iraq in 2003, now chairman of votevets.org.

As always, Jon, thanks for your time tonight.

JON SOLTZ, IRAQ WAR VET & CHAIRMAN, VOTEVETS.ORG:  Thanks so much, sir.

OLBERMANN:  What do we sense is going here?  Are they testing the waters about a revival of the draft? 

SOLTZ:  I think they are being respectful military officers and trying to make a statement to the White House that says, hey, the Army and Marine Corps has been broken by this administration.  And they are looking for manpower and they need manpower to continue the surge.  And they don‘t have it.  So I think it‘s a warning to the president. 

OLBERMANN:  Congressman Rangel was one of the first to suggest a draft as a matter of fairness because he thinks the war is being fought mostly by poor and middle class Americans, not people like Mitt Romney‘s son.  I think you can make an argument that there is a de facto draft in that sense.  Certainly, a real one would get people‘s attention or the announcement would get people‘s attention.  But am I misreading this?  Would any administration seriously endorse the idea of a draft just get crushed, and no merely by the kids who‘d be eligible for it, but by their parents? 

SOLTZ:  That depends on what you make the draft look like.  The draft at the beginning of the Vietnam War had all kinds of waivers systems, like if you went to college, you got out of it.  Or you could be like George Bush and go to the National Guard, and Dick Cheney, who got five deferments.

But if you make a draft like we had after 1968, 1969, and 1970, where there were no waivers and just a lottery system, you would see complete public uproar.  The war in Iraq cost the Republicans Congress.  They want to continue with this political problem.  Right now, with the war so unpopular, I think there would be quite an uproar.  That‘s why I just don‘t see it happening.       

OLBERMANN:  Sometimes we gloss over what a draft is.  It is taking kids, mostly, forcibly against their will, and getting many of them killed.  The protests in the ‘60s we know about.  It was ever increasingly controversial, the war, the draft.  But we tend to forget, over the course of a century and a half nearly, the first draft, during the war we look back at as a noble time in American history, the Civil War, it sparked an actual three-day long riot in New York City, dozens of deaths, wide scale arson.  Can you conduct a draft in the middle of a war if the country is not convinced it is a war worth fighting? 

SOLTZ:  This is obviously a very important point that General Abrams understood when he designed the volunteer military at the end of the Vietnam.  That is why now we deployed the National Guard and Reserve.  It was like a circuit breaker protection for the Army where the war did affect every part of the country and every place, because he understood that you cannot fight a long protracted war without the support of the American people. 

The president is a lame-duck president as of yesterday when his brain left the White House.  Now we have a situation where the public is totally against this.

Unless you see a total change in the atmosphere where you have a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, I do not think you can even talk about the draft.  It is important to note that there is no strategic reserve in this country, even the brigade from the 87th Airborne, the ready brigade, is in Iraq right now.  We have no way to protect our assets right now because of Iraq.  We are vulnerable from that sense.  That‘s why I think, under this case, still, not enough public support to do this.  Politicians would lose their jobs. 

OLBERMANN:  In brief, Jon, to some people from the Brookings Institution and elsewhere are claiming that the surge is showing positive results.  If we have suicide bombings—four today, 175 killed, 200 or more wounded.  What are the troops, what are the recent vets telling about the present situation up-to-date? 

SOLTZ:  I have a very close friend who is sitting right now north or

Iraq in Diyala Province, part of the 1st Calvary Division, and it is

exactly what we thought, as General Batiste said, former commander of 1st

Infantry Division in that region—this is whack-a-mole.  Our soldiers are

going to go into Baghdad.  They‘re going to control the terrain.  But

you‘re see destabilization like we saw today in other parts of the country

the ameba affect, whack-a-mole.  It‘s obviously about a situation.  We don‘t have enough troops to control the situation.  The surge is not going to work because there have been no political agreements whatsoever from the Iraqis. 

OLBERMANN:  Jon Soltz, the chairman of votevets.org.  As always, Jon, great thanks for your time. 

SOLTZ:  Thanks so much, appreciate it.

OLBERMANN:  Breaking news this evening.  Don Imus negotiate away his lawsuit and is promptly hit by one from one of the Rutgers basketball players he called, quote, “nappy headed ho‘s,” unquote. 

Have you seen this man?  He is accused of stealing—yeah, duck tape, but he‘s also accused of stealing other stuff.  And it is all there when “Countdown” continues.

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OLBERMANN:  Fifty-six years ago today, the legendary newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst died.  Among a thousand other things, he was the prototype for the title character in the Orson Welles-Herman Mankiewicz classic, “Citizen Kane.”  The film version, of course, had the man dying with one final word—Rosebud.  In the movie, the Rosebud was the sled.  In real life, the legend goes, Rosebud was Hearst‘s nickname for his mistress, the actress Marian Davies.  Well, part of her.  We‘ll let you look that up online somewhere.  The inside joke of “Citizen Kane” was that Hearst would die with Rosebud on his lips.  He didn‘t. 

Quickly, now, let‘s play “Oddball.”

We begin in Szechuan Province of China where four pandas were born on the same day.  That would be two each to two adoring panda baby mamas.  It is a near miracle considering only 34 pandas were born in captivity all of last year.  With all this surveillance, there must be plenty of evidence that the pregnancies were not the result of immaculate conception.  But, holy Geronimo, the little critters sure are lucky as the plunge of this Hong Kong black and white demonstrates.  He was A OK.  He fell down. 

Everybody knows that heavenly intervention normally involves inanimate objects, like this, the grilled cheese Virgin Mary or Jesus in a tree.  You may recall—you have to look for it and avoid thinking about “The Big Lebowski.”  There you go.  See it now.?

The latest from a home in Manchester, Connecticut, Jesus on a kitchen cabinet.  The Smith family, having lived in this house for a year and never noticing the bearded one protecting their peas and carrots until...

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  My daughter came in and said, mom, look, it is God.  I looked up and said it is a picture of Jesus.  My son and husband noticed it and we could not believe we never noticed it before. 

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OLBERMANN:  Then the daughter said, what the hell, mom, are you blind?  Kidding.  I made that last part up.  Anyway, the Smiths say they are not putting kitchen-cabinet Jesus up on eBay because that would be bad luck, not to mention a likely ensue with a plague of mold and film crews from “Flip that House”.

The news from the toy department continues to be very bad, not sports, the actually toy department.  More Chinese made toys recalled.  Can we trust imports from China? 

Can Britney Spears trust her own sister in the escalating war over custody of her own kids?  Details ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three news makers of this day.  Number three, an unnamed 21-year-old woman at the Changes bar in Wallingford, Washington.  It was karaoke night and she did not like the song. 

As a man began to belt out the song, “Yellow” by Coldplay, say witnesses, the woman rose to her feet and began screaming, oh no, not that song.  I can‘t stand that song.  She promptly went up and socked the singer.  The ensuing melee was so riotous police closed the street on which the bar stands. 

Number two, a failed burglar in Estero, Florida.  I better just read the Associated Press account; a man wearing a mop tried robbing a gas station in Estero, but left empty handed.  Police are looking over surveillance video from inside the gas station.  They said the suspect wore the mop on his head.

Number one, Sheriffs Deputy Mike Moore of Elko County, Nevada.  Though he was off duty, he pulled over a female motorist, either for speeding or making an illegal turn.  His report contradicts itself on that point.  But before he could administer a breathalyzer test, she drove away. 

So Deputy Moore pulled her over again and called for backup and turned the arrest over to other officers.  The punch line?  The alleged bad driver, twice pulled over by Officer Mike Moore, was officer Charlotte Moore, his wife.  I am thinking there may be additional details on this story later, perhaps in a reality TV series. 

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OLBERMANN:  If you ever had an inkling that Ken and Barbie had some sort of toxic relationship going, you might have been on to something.  Our third story, another big recall of toys made in China has parents scrambling through toy chests.  It is the second in as many weeks, and another in what seems to be an endless chain of potentially poisonous products coming out of the People‘s Republic. 

It literally includes two Barbie play sets.  Tonight we have two reports, the first on the recall itself from our correspondent Kerry Sanders.  Kerry?

KERRY SANDERS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Keith, tonight questions of how this could happen.  Mattel says it spot checked its imported toys, 65 percent, which come from China.  But tonight Mattel admits the system clearly failed. 

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SANDERS (voice-over):  Barbie, Batman, Polly Pocket—in all, millions of toys manufactured by Mattel recalled because of safety concerns, some made with lead paint, others with powerful magnets, that if swallowed can be fatal.  The one constant, all the toys were made in China. 

NANCY NORD, US CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION:  The company has stopped sale, has instructed that all products be pulled off retail shelves, and has made a production change to address this issue. 

SANDERS:  Nationwide today, parents began a mad scramble, sorting through the toy box.  In Atlanta, three year old Charlie‘s mother took all his toys away to examine each one against a recall list on the Internet.

SALLY FIELDING, CONCERNED PARENT:  I‘m just going to be really careful with what I purchase from now on.  I think I will definitely check where it is being made.

SANDERS:  Medical experts say it is not enough to just take the toys away.

DR. JOHN ROSEN, MEDICAL EXPERT:  If your child has been playing with one of these toys for a month or more, be very, very cautious and request from your pediatrician to have your child tested for lead. 

SANDERS:  Mattel first recalled 1.5 million different toys two weeks ago.  Company officials now say even then they suspected there were problems with this latest group of toys.  They confirmed those suspicions four days ago. 

(on camera):  Why did it take so long to alert the public?  Mattel says it followed government rules.  And why does this keep happening?  Critics say because there is not enough government regulation on imports. 

(voice-over):  How did the lead paint can use in the first place? 

Mattel blames a subcontractor in China. 

ROBERT ECKERT, CEO MATTEL:  In violation of our roles, that subcontractor did not use the paint supplied by the vendor.  They went and got their own paint. 

SANDERS:  Watch dog groups say it will take more than self-policing to protect consumers. 

ED MIERZWINSKI, US PUBLIC INTEREST RESEARCH GROUP:  There should be more protections against dangerous imports, more inspectors at points of entry, and there should be more fines levied on companies that break the law. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANDERS:  Mattel executives say they are not ruling out the possibility of even more recalls.  Keith?

OLBERMANN:  Kerry Sanders in New York, great thanks, Kerry.  The toy recall are not the first to tarnish China‘s reputation, each one threatening the new prosperity of that nation to such an extent that a former government official who had overseen the tainted goods found himself not with a golden parachute, but in front of a firing squad.  Ian Williams has been standing by in Beijing for the latest reaction from the Chinese government.  Ian?

IAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Keith, there is yet to be any official reaction here in Beijing.  The authorities have insisted that the vast majority of exports are safe.  But they will be stung by the latest blow to the made in China label. 

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WILLIAMS (voice-over):  It‘s Beijing‘s worst nightmare, millions more China made toys removed today from shelves worldwide.  The world‘s biggest toy company makes 65 percent of its products in China.  It is the second time in a month Mattel has had to do this.  The last recall also involved toys contaminated with lead paint. 

The Chinese government responded then with tough new rules and barred the offending companies from exporting.  It was reported yesterday that the head of one of those companies had committed suicide.  One of China‘s top export safety officials concedes there are safety problems. 

“We attach high importance to those problems,” he said.  Problems which have spanned pet food, fish, toothpaste, tires, drugs, as well as toys.  One reason, analyst say, exporters are under fierce competitive pressure to cut costs.  Although Beijing has beefed up its rules, they‘re not always implemented locally.

ANDREW BROWNE, BEIJING BRUNSWICK CONSULTANT:  It simply does not have the enforcement mechanisms in place.  Central government is not big enough.  Supervisory bodies do not have the power. 

WILLIAMS:  Four out of every five of the world‘s toys are made here.  China has more than 10,000 toy makers, mostly in the south.  One concern is that defects are not being spotted by companies with less rigorous quality controls than Mattel.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAMS:  China has fast become the workshop of the world, a manufacturing juggernaut.  There is a lot at stake, and the government will be keen to try and minimize the damage to their manufacturing reputation.  Keith?

OLBERMANN:  Ian Williams, filing from Beijing.  Thank you.  Yet another product warning; do not cover your face in duct tape and then go rob a liquor store.  If you do, they will necessarily nick name you the duct tape bandit. 

And for what nicknamed those Rutgers basketball players, Don Imus tonight has been sued by one of them.  Late breaking details next.

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OLBERMANN:  Legendary is the shadowy character of the half light, a masked man with one foot in law, the other in crime, the Lone Ranger, V from “V For Vendetta” and, of course, every Mexican wrestler ever.  But now, in our number two story in the COUNTDOWN, a masked man who may out do them all, the duct tape bandit. 

The story of tonight‘s COUNTDOWN star of the game, a man who may have simply misunderstood either the book the “Duct Tape Bible” or those 2003 instructions from the Department of Homeland Security.  He comes from Ashland, Kentucky.  And correspondent Doug Korstanje of our affiliate WSAZ.

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DOUG KORSTANJE, WSAZ (voice-over):  Despite what it looks like, this is not the victim in the robbery attempt at Shamrock Liquors.  Kacee Kazee is the suspect.  Police say Kazee did this to himself, wrapping his head in duct tape to conceal his face.  Store manager Bill Steele could not believe what he was seeing. 

BILL STEELE, STORE MANAGER:  He had every opportunity to put a brown paper poke over his head and poke holes in it or a plastic bag, you know.  But duct tape?  I mean, it is just unbelievable.  People do not think this really happened. 

KORSTANJE:  Fortunately, Steele he had his own duct tape attached to a wooden club.  That sent the suspect fleeing to the parking lot, where employee Craig Miller tackled Kazee. 

CRAIG MILLER, STORE EMPLOYEE:  I had him basically like this and just squeezed him where he could not go anywhere, cutting off his air.

KORSTANJE:  We are not done yet.  The story gets even stranger.  We interviewed Kazee in the jail and he says police have the wrong man, despite the police pictures that might suggest otherwise.

(on camera):  When they call you the duct taped bandit, that is not you? 

KACEE KAZEE, DUCT TAPED BANDIT:  Look at me, do I look like a duct taped bandit, baby?  I am not no duct tape bandit.  Do you hear me?  Live one on one, Ashland, Kentucky.  You know this is not me.  Now look, do the math.  Do the homework.   

KORSTANJE:  Store employees say Kazee also a t-shirt up around his face, making them think of corn-holio on “Beavis and Butt-Head.”  Throw in some duct tape, and it does sort of become a cartoon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Now I just sit back and laugh about it.  He was lucky, because the cops say when they peeled it off, he was sweating so bad, it did not stick. 

KORSTANJE:  But police say they have enough to make the charges stick, and that is good enough for the employees that stopped a robbery in progress. 

Doug Korstanje, WSAZ News, News Channel Three, Ashland.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Turning to our roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs.  Breaking Tabs news, Don Imus, his producer, Bernard McGuirk, CBS and NBC are sued tonight by one of the Rutgers women basketball players to whom Mr. Imus referred as, quote, nappy headed hoes, unquote.  Rutgers Center Kia Vaughn, an all Big East player, who averaged nearly 13 points and more than nine rebounds per game last season during her sophomore year filed the suit in New York State Supreme Court in the Bronx today.  Miss Vaughn claiming his sexist and racist remarks about her team damaged her reputation. 

Her attorney says this is about Kia Vaughn‘s good name.  She would do anything to return to her life as a good student and respected basketball player, a more simply life before Imus opened his mouth on April 4th.  No money figure yet mentioned.  This providing a counter point to what had been something of a good day for the fired shock jock.  Imus and CBS had come to terms, undisclosed, of course, over his firing and his threat to file a breach of contract suit against that company for 120 million dollars.

As to reports that Imus might be back on the air shortly, the president and general manager of WABC radio in New York says that despite those reports, there are no negotiations between his station and Imus, quote, we have not reached out to Don Imus and he has not reached out to us.” 

One of the most beloved figures in sports died today.  His daughter said her father wanted to be remembered as a nice guy.  That is exactly the case tonight.  Phil Rizzuto, baseball hall of famer, American League most valuable player in 1950 and iconic Yankees broadcaster died last night from complications from pneumonia.  He spent 13 seasons as the Yankee‘s shortstop.  The team won the pennant in ten of those years and the World Series in eight of them.

Late 1956, he went into the play by play booth, and with singular idiosyncrasy, he endeared himself to 40 years of listeners, who were delighted by his terror of lightning and his joy of beating the traffic out of the station.  He once left a Yankee game in Detroit in the eighth inning, one he was broadcasting, flew home to New York, to discover, to his amazement, that the game was still being played in the 22nd inning. 

His stream of consciousness announcing was so strangely beautiful that two writers converted whole sections of it into a book of poetry.  To our amazement here, he was a nightly viewer of COUNTDOWN.  Phil Rizzuto is survived by his family, his wife, Cora, their children, Phil Jr., Patricia, Cynthia and Penny, two grandchildren and generations of baseball fans who simply adored him.  Phil Rizzuto was 89 years old. 

The sister of Britney Spears has now chosen sides in that battle for custody of her niece and nephew.  That‘s ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World. 

The bronze to Bill Shine, senior vice president of programming for Fox Noise, this afternoon announcing the cancellation of the network‘s first attempt at a comedy show.  You mean, first attempt at an intentional comedy the show.  The “Half Hour Comedy Hour” will end its run next month.  Shine‘s memo to the staff indicates there may be an attempt to retool it for future scheduling needs. 

Sir, “The Half Hour Comedy Hour” was the finest political satire show with canned laughter, jokes predicated on human suffering and material so lame that the pretend news anchors wouldn‘t even use their own names on the air, the best one ever.  And you canceled it? 

Our runner-up, Police Chief Paul Hames of Saanich, British Columbia, in Canada, defending his officer who twice pulled over the car of Mr. Gavin Docherty, a construction foreman who was in a real hurry.  Mr. Docherty was headed to the emergency room, and I mean headed literally. 

The officer stopped him for speeding and let him go to the emergency room, and there issued him a ticket for not having fastened his seat belt.  Mr. Docherty had to speed to the emergency room because in his job as a construction foreman, he had accidentally gotten a nail driven into his forehead.

Said Police Chief Hames, who insists his first concern is safety, “The public will see a nail in a forehead and not see the other side of the story.”

Our winner, John Gibson of Fox News.  In part of this insane discussion that America, quote, needs, unquote, another 9/11 to create national unity, Gibby played a tape of comedian Jon Stewart‘s heartfelt anguish from September 20th, 2001 as a New Yorker who lived near the Trade Center.  Gibson and his producer mocked it.  He called it Jon Stewart sobbing.  That idiot sidekick called Stewart a, quote, phony. 

Firstly, to anybody who subscribes to the theory that this country needs another 9/11 with hundreds or thousands killed; here is a funny thing, I don‘t see any of you suggesting you or your family should be its victims. 

Secondly, Gibby, Jon Stewart‘s expression of pain after 9/11 and yours, Gibby, and mine, that was the unity.  No matter what kind of administration propagandist I think you are and how I will mock you for it, I would never doubt the sincerity of your pain.  You have a lot of damn nerve doubting the sincerity of anyone else‘s.  John Gibson, today‘s Worst Person in the World. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Though it may be too late to do anybody any good, it may have suddenly dawned on Britney Spears to use the paparazzi to her advantage.  In our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, why just last night, at a Los Angeles eatery, she fed her kids, took them to the bathroom, and strapped them into the car seats, with flash bulbs popping all around her.  Is she a super mom, or what? 

Miss Spears has got to do something, since now ever her own sister is reportedly siding with Kevin Federline‘s attempt to get primary custody of those kids.  Jamie Lynn Spears told her big sister, reportedly, that she had brought Mr. Federline‘s actions upon herself, according to “Life and Style” Magazine. 

Quoting an insider—boy there are a lot of those—“Jamie Lynn sobbed, you wanted those babies and look what you‘re doing.  I‘m glad Kevin‘s going to take them.”

Last night, Spears was running on all cylinders at Cravings Restaurant in Los Angeles, according to TMZ.com.  After feeding her young-uns and taking them potty, Spears carefully strapped one child into the car seat, then watched while an assistant handled the sibling.  They left the scene at 10:00 p.m. 

Meantime, there is now video of Spears‘ assistant, who is also her cousin, being served a subpoena by that former Israeli commando Mr.  Federline hired to do so. 

Stick your fingers in your ear.  Joining me now, comedian Christian Finnegan, also a contributor to VH1‘s “Best Week Ever.”  Christian, good evening. 

CHRISTIAN FINNEGAN, VH1:  Good evening to you, sir.

OLBERMANN:  So now, that new video of a Spears‘ assistant and her cousin, Allie Simms—one person, by the way—proved that everybody in Spears‘ family has not necessarily deserted her.  I mean, a former Israeli commando is trying to hand her a subpoena, but she is actually doing her best and her loudest to not touch it. 

FINNEGAN:  I‘m not sure she is trying to protect Britney so much as she is preserving her own mental health.  You have no idea how long it has taken this woman to block out everything she has witnessed at that house.  Do you really think she wants to revisit it?  As it stands, she can‘t even look at a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos without suffering Vietnam style flashbacks.  She just huddles in the corner, muttering about the horror.

OLBERMANN:  If you take this account from TMZ.com at face value, it really did seem like Ms. Spears was doing a good mom routine for the cameras, although she complained, reportedly, when the paparazzi followed her to the bathroom door with her kids.  Does this mean she just figured out how to play to the camera? 

FINNEGAN:  I do not think she was acting, mostly because I saw her movie “Crossroads,” and therefore know it‘s not much of an option.  I just think, you know, she is not acting.  She is just sort of a moving on and hopefully those kids won‘t wind up in protective services some day. 

OLBERMANN:  To that point, if you are going to take your 10 and 22 month old kids out for dinner and have the whole world see you doing that with a new custody fight ahead of you, don‘t you want to be getting out of the restaurant a little bit earlier than 10:00 p.m.? 

FINNEGAN:  First of all, she keeps those kids up late for a very valid reason.  She needs to make sure that they will still be asleep when she gets home the next morning.

OLBERMANN:  As to this bit with the sister turning against Britney Spears.  That may not be all that surprising, if these reports are correct, that her mother has been siding with Kevin Federline for a while now.  But shouldn‘t the kin folk be showing more support to a member of the family? 

FINNEGAN:  These people are giving PWT a bad name.  Say what you will about the Hatfields and McCoys, but at least they didn‘t turn on Kim.  I am beginning to think that the Spears family may, in fact, be varmints.  I don‘t use that word lightly.

OLBERMANN:  She might be turning elsewhere for help now.  “People Magazine” saying that she was in this Los Angeles drug store buying the well know Hallmark help book, “50 Truths Worth Knowing,” which is described by Hallmark as uplifting.  Important truths are often revealed in simple and surprising ways, to say nothing of the fact that it‘s available at the popular price of 12.95.  

FINNEGAN:  Scoff if you want, Keith, but I too go to Walgreen‘s for all of my personal growth needs.  I walk right up to the counter and I go, I would like a tube of Lanicane (ph), an extra large box of Joo Joo Fruits and the meaning of life.  They ask me if I would like cash back.

I have actually read this book and it is too bad nobody got it to Britney months ago, because it turns out the number one truth worth knowing is it is never a bad idea to put on underwear. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, and the second one is women should not shave their heads unless absolutely necessary. 

This last thing here, 24Sizzler.com, another one of the celebrity news sites, says Mr. Federline is actually quite the daddy.  He has childproofed, does not go out gallivanting anymore.  But he‘s planning to go back to the studio.  We have to settle for two out of three?

FINNEGAN:  I see this as an opportunity.  If Kevin can somehow combine his parenting skills, with an S, with his rap skills, with a Z, I think he could be like the next big thing in children‘s music.  You know, parents who wish the Wiggles were a bit more gangster.  

OLBERMANN:  So what‘s the guy‘s name?  He‘s either Zamfir or Yanni, right?

FINNEGAN:  Raffy, I believe.

OLBERMANN:  Christian Finnegan, comedian and contributor to VH1‘s “Best Week Ever,” thanks for saving that one for me and thanks for your time tonight.

FINNEGAN:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  That is COUNTDOWN for this the 1,567th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

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

END   

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