updated 7/15/2005 11:42:26 AM ET 2005-07-15T15:42:26

Guest: Mo Rocca, Jack Rice, Craig Crawford

ALISON STEWART, HOST:  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Karl Rove and his boss go for a walk today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. President, do you still have confidence in your deputy chief of staff?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  And the silence is deafening.

And Joe Wilson sits down for a talk with the “TODAY” show's Jamie Gangel (ph).

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “TODAY”)

JAMIE GANGEL, “TODAY”:  What do you think of Karl Rove?

AMB. JOE WILSON, HUSBAND OF OUTED CIA OFFICER:  Oh, I think he's—

I'm really very saddened by all of this.

GANGEL:  What does your wife think of Karl Rove?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  Resolve, solidarity, and silence in London.  Today, the London bombing investigation yields two more suspects, one of whom studied in America.

Porn in the USA.  Hillary Clinton, Grand Theft Auto, San Andreas, and why the senator says this naughty game is naughtier than you think.

And put up your dukes.  It is a sleazy insult.  It's raunchy.  And if you don't clean it up, we're not going to see it.  Reaction to the new “Dukes of Hazard” movie from the guy on the show who played Cooter.  His name was Cooter.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

And good evening.  I'm Alison Stewart, in for Keith Olbermann.

Two years ago today, columnist Robert Novak outed Valerie Plame Wilson as a CIA operative.  Might have escaped your attention at the time, but now that Karl Rove has been attached to the investigation, the case is getting hotter than summer in D.C.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, Rove rage.  Both houses of Congress trying to strip the president's top adviser of his security clearance, while Valerie Plame's husband is trying to strip Rove of his job.

An exclusive interview with Ambassador Joe Wilson very shortly.

But we begin with Karl Rove in the crosshairs.  And at least he had some company there today.  President Bush by his side, a visual show of support.  Some days, the pictures just speak for themselves.

But across town at the Capitol, Democrats in the Senate introduced an amendment aimed at taking away Rove's security clearance.  Naturally, once introduced, it had to be debated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER:  This is a cover-up.  It's an abuse of power.  It's diversionary.  It's time to quit playing partisan politics with our national security.  It's time for the White House to come clean.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN:  If you identify a CIA agent, you put that agent and this nation at risk, you're going to lose your security clearance.

SEN. NORM COLEMAN ®, MINNESOTA:  The circumstances that have motivated this statute are ones that are being reviewed right now by special counsel.  That's the way it should be.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

STEWART:  The amendment ultimately failed, but it was not for a lack of effort, Democrats enlisting some high-powered support, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, husband of the aggrieved, making the trek to Capitol Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILSON:  Irrespective of whether law has been violated, it's very clear to me that the ethical standards to which we should hold our senior public servants has been violated.

I'm here to support Senator Schumer today and his colleagues in calling for the lifting of his security clearance as a first step.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  Sure enough, Ambassador Wilson is calling that the first step.  He has a few more in mind.  As he told NBC's Jamie Gangel in an exclusive interview, he thinks Karl Rove should be fired, and he's accusing the White House of conspiracy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “TODAY”)

GANGEL (voice-over):  Former ambassador Joe Wilson is on the attack.

WILSON:  What this thing has been for the past two years has been a cover-up, a cover-up of the web of lies that underpinned the justification for going to war in Iraq.  And to a certain extent, this cover-up is becoming unraveled.  That's why you see the White House stonewalling.

GANGEL:  And he's angry with the man he believes is behind that cover-up, the president's top adviser, Karl Rove.

(on camera):  It's now public the President Bush's top adviser, Karl Rove, did talk to at least one reporter about your wife.  But Rove insists he never used her name and that he did not know that she was undercover, that he did not knowingly give her up.

WILSON:  My wife's name is Wilson.  It is Mrs. Joseph Wilson.  It is Valerie Wilson.  And he named her, he identified her.  So that argument, I don't believe, stands the smell test.

GANGEL:  He says he also did not know that she was an undercover operative.

WILSON:  I have no way of knowing.  I've never spoken to Karl Rove.  What I do know is that Mr. Rove was talking to the press, and he was saying things like, my wife is fair game.  That is an outrage.  It is an abuse of power.

GANGEL:  What do you think of Karl Rove?

WILSON:  Oh, I think he's—I'm really very saddened by all of this.

GANGEL:  What does your wife think of Karl Rove?

WILSON:  She doesn't think very much of him either, I can assure you of that.

GANGEL (voice-over):  Throughout this, Valerie Plame Wilson has turned down all interview requests, and after a year's leave of absence, is back working at the CIA.  Up until now, this tongue-in-cheek photo in “Vanity Fair” was the only public image of her.  But recently, the Wilsons have gone public, and these photos now show what the former undercover spy looks like.

(on camera):  What does she think of all this this week?

WILSON:  Well, you know, we have two 5-year-old twins.  And they occupy most of our free time.  She's obviously nonplused at this unwanted attention brought on our family.  But she's tough.  You don't do the job that she has done for this country for 20 years without being mentally strong.

GANGEL:  Your critics have said that this is partisan on your part, that you are part of Democratic attempt to discredit Iraq policy.

WILSON:  That's simply not true.

GANGEL:  You were a Democrat?

WILSON:  I exercise my rights as a citizen of this country to participate in the selection of my leaders, and I'm proud to do so.  I did so in the election of 2000 by contributing not just to Al Gore's campaign, but also to the Bush-Cheney campaign.

GANGEL:  Do you and your wife believe the perpetrators of this will ever be punished?

WILSON:  We have great confidence in the institutions that have made our country great for 229 years.  We would not have served our country for a collective 43 years if we did not believe in it.  And yes, we do have confidence that justice will be done.

GANGEL:  Bottom line, what do you think the White House should do now?

WILSON:  Well, I think the president should call in his senior advisers and say, Enough is enough, I want to you step forward and cooperate.

GANGEL:  Do you think, even though what Karl Rove did may not have broken a law, do you think, from what you know, he should be fired?

WILSON:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  The president said in the middle of 2004, he would fire anybody who was caught leaking in this manner.  Karl Rove has now been caught.

The president has said repeatedly, I am a man of my word.  The president really should stand up and prove to the American people that his word is his bond, and fire Karl Rove.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  And reporting from Washington, that was NBC's Jamie Gangel.  She gave the president and Karl Rove a chance to respond to Ambassador Wilson, but they're still working that no-comment mantra until the investigation is over.

No matter what that investigation turns up or doesn't turn up, there's something that is not in question.  CIA officer Valerie Plame's career and life will never be the same.

But what about her colleagues, not to mention the assignment she was working on?  Or the agency itself?

We're joined now by former CIA special agent Jack Rice, who is now the host of his own radio show on WCCO in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Good evening to you, Jack.

JACK RICE, FORMER CIA SPECIAL AGENT:  Good evening, Alison.

STEWART:  At the time she was outed, Valerie Plame was working for a CIA front company, and obviously she didn't work there alone.  Can you explain the ripple effect of her outing?

RICE:  Well, this is potentially huge, because what happens now is, everything that she touched, every person that she touched, every asset that she may have come across, is now potentially exposed.  Every intelligence organization in the world will now go back and scour their files to see if she was ever in their country, was ever involved with anybody, and try to wrap up every operation.  The potential is huge.

STEWART:  And you're talking about in terms of five, 10 years ago, even.

RICE:  Oh, certainly.  Because if you can get a good operation going, if you have a good asset that has very good access, that person can be involved for years, decades, potentially.  And you open those people up.  I'm not just talking about physically for her directly, but for all of those assets, and sadly, for the intelligence that some of those assets may provide.

STEWART:  In your experience, is something like this, the outing of a CIA agent or operative, has it ever happened?

RICE:  Well, there's been one prosecution in the past under this statute that everybody's been talking about.  But it's a very rare circumstance.  It doesn't happen that often.  So when it does, it can be a big deal, and it should be a big deal.  This should be nonpartisan.

STEWART:  Is it likely that national security has been compromised because of this?

RICE:  I think it's very possible.  We'll never completely know.  Ideally, I hope it hasn't been.  But at the same time, what happens here is, if we ever, either side, either political party, start using politics over what's right, over patriotism, we're going to have a very serious problem in this country.

STEWART:  And in terms of that ripple effect you talked about, in terms of things being compromised and people's situations being compromised, and their assignments being compromised, how could the damage be repaired?

RICE:  I think in this case, what needs to be done is, it needs to be addressed.  It needs to be treated as seriously as it should.

Look, if we—if you look at this two ways, you can look back and see what this may have done.  You can go back and see what she may have done, and you can look at those assets.  That is one implication.

There's a second implication, at what may happen in the future, what happens for any future operations, what other CIA or other intelligence operatives may be willing to do in the future.

If there's a perception that you're going to see people in blue pinstripe suits in Washington wrapping themselves in the flag and talking about God and country while they're exposing CIA and intelligence operatives, you're going to have a real hard time convincing CIA officers to get out into the field and risk their lives for those people.

STEWART:  Jack Rice, a former CIA special agent.  Thank you so much for your time and your perspective tonight.

RICE:  Thank you, Alison.

STEWART:  Other questions of damage tonight, or damage control, anyway, at the White House, as in, what would the president do without his political guru, Karl Rove?  They call him the architect.  How do you build something if nobody's drawing the plans?  They call him Bush's Brain.  That's a pretty significant organ to do without.

Subtract Rove from Bush, and here to help us do that math is our own political guru, Craig Crawford of “The Congressional Quarterly.”

Hey, Craig.

CRAIG CRAWFORD, “THE CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY”:  Hi, Alison.

Hey, we haven't had this much excitement in Washington since you came down here a few months ago.

STEWART:  Well, you know, I don't like to talk too much about that.

CRAWFORD:  OK.

STEWART:  How much of the president's show of support is about loyalty?

CRAWFORD:  A lot, you know, loyalty both ways.  These men have been very loyal to each other for third, about three decades, Alison.  You know, Karl Rove first met George Bush at the train station when he was sent to hand him the car, his car keys as a young aide for the Republican National Committee.  It was Karl Rove's idea for George Bush to run for governor of Texas.

And they've been together all these years.  So this would be a very tough one.  Now, if Rove provides two roles for George Bush, both policy and politics.  For “Star Trek” fans, if George Bush was Captain Kirk, it's like blending Mr. Spock's logic with Dr. McCoy's human passion.  He's sort of hardware and software all in one person.

STEWART:  So this is as much about loyalty as it is about necessity for the president, to keep Karl Rove around.

CRAWFORD:  I think the loyalty is a huge factor, but I think Karl Rove, his skills at message management and discipline within the Republican ranks, and his mastery of some of the policy, things like Social Security, the Supreme Court nomination, the ideological battle over that coming up, several issues down the road, I think Karl Rove is going to be instrumental to this president to have a successful second term.

STEWART:  With everything that's gone on, and all of this discussion, if Karl Rove keeps his job, do you think he can still be effective?

CRAWFORD:  He will, he may lose some of his authority, in that he's not as feared, because he would be wounded.  And someone like Karl Rove rules a bit by fear.  He's a very domineering man.  He's, in many ways, President Bush's hatchet man, so that Bush can be the good guy.

So that would be one chink in his armor, I think, if he does stay in office.  But for right now, I don't think there's enough to convict him of anything.  The Republicans are going to continue to rally around him as long as there's no actual proof of any crime.

STEWART:  So your gut-check says he's keeping his job.

CRAWFORD:  He's keeping his job.  The caveat, of course, is, unless there's an indictment or something we don't know yet.  But right now, there's just not enough proof in these Matt Cooper e-mails, the “TIME” magazine reporter, that shows that he actually knew that she was an undercover agent, Valerie Plame, or that he actually revealed that she was an undercover agent.

And the law, the intent requirement of the criminal statute here, would require that.  And it's not being shown to us so far.

STEWART:  Craig Crawford with “Congressional Quarterly,” we thank you so much.

CRAWFORD:  All right.

STEWART:  And invite me back to D.C., we'll make some more trouble.

CRAWFORD:  Oh, please do.  All right.

STEWART:  Emily, that girl has grown up into a full-fledged hurricane in the Atlantic, and she's still growing.  Who will Emily visit. And why are we already up to the name Emily?

And Senator Clinton enters the values debate.  It's the junior senator versus the Grand Theft Auto video game.  And, oh, yes, it involves hidden porn within the game.

You're watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEWART:  Yesterday the launch of the space shuttle “Discovery” was scrubbed, and today we were supposed to find out if liftoff by the end of this month was doable.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, a definite maybe.  NASA officials said they were still troubleshooting the problem, a faulty fuel sensor, and it would probably take several days.  Deputy Program Manager Wayne Hill said a Sunday launch was still possible, but only if, quote, “we go in and wiggle some wires and find a loose connection,” end quote.

You can always try the rabbit ears while you're at it.

But if the problem is with the actual sensor inside the fuel tank, NASA could miss the July window completely, and there would be no launch of “Discovery” until September.

There is at least one thing NASA officials don't have to worry about, that's Hurricane Emily.  It's not expected to wander anywhere near Cape Canaveral.  But that's no comfort to those who are in its path.

You know what we have on our hands here?  A bona fide record-breaking start to the hurricane season.

Our correspondent, Ron Mott, is in Pensacola Beach, where last year's wrath and the first blows of this year's storm season has left some residents worn out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RON MOTT, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Arlene, Brett, Cindy, Dennis, and now Emily, sweet-sounding name provoking waves of fear and loathing in Florida, especially along the northern Gulf Coast.  That's where three of the storms have come a-knocking.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We're thoroughly disgusted.  We just got back in our houses not even two or three months ago from Ivan, and now we're going through this again.

MOTT:  All this just 44 days into the six-month-long hurricane season, five named storms, the fiercest start since the United States began keeping records in 1851.  Why?

MAX MAYFIELD, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER:  The sea surface temperature over the Atlantic is actually very, very warm over a large area of the tropical Atlantic and the Caribbean, one and a half degrees above normal temperatures.

MOTT:  Mayfield says those warmer temperatures are just natural fluctuations.  And while science might explain the phenomenon, it cannot untangle the bundle of nerves and frustration that's building here.

There may be a silver lining in the clouds swirling around Emily, as far as Floridians are concerned.

JEFF RANIERI, WEATHER PLUS METEOROLOGIST:  Worst-case scenario, could take some of the rain bands over parts of southern Florida, but the heart of this system should still be projected to head over parts of Mexico.

MOTT:  But even if she misses, behind Emily...

MAYFIELD:  ...off the coast of Africa...

MOTT:  ...two more tropical depressions, ready to ride the next big wave toward paradise.

DAVE AXTELL, KEY WEST, FLORIDA:  You can go live on an earthquake fault.  You can go live under a tornado zone.  Or you can live in a hurricane zone.  Take your pick.  So I choose hurricanes.  At least I know when they're coming.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEWART:  NBC's Ron Mott reporting.

And one little island is still reeling from Hurricane Dennis.  It's this one, it's B.P.'s semisubmersible oil rig off the Louisiana coast in the Gulf of Mexico.  And it's listing, which is a pretty way of saying, one big mess.

B.P. is working to fix the $1 billion platform they call its Thunder Horse.

Still ahead, the latest on the war on terror, developments in London and in Iraq.

And also, a very special Oddball today with the final day of the running of the bulls.

And a big tribute, COUNTDOWN-style.

And later, we're weeks away from the “Dukes of Hazard” movie hitting the big screen.  But someone wants to keep you from seeing Jessica Simpson in her Daisy Dukes (ph).

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEWART:  I'm your mistress of ceremonies while Mr. Olbermann is on vacation.

And we arrive at the ceremonial pause in the COUNTDOWN, where the video is stupid and the people just a little bit stupider.

Let's play Oddball.

And to the place where we always root for the animals, the eighth and final day of this year's running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain.  Today's run was the fastest this year, the bulls making it to the ring in just two minutes and 15 seconds.  If they knew what they were getting themselves into, they might have taken their sweet bull time.

But because they were in a hurry, the final numbers reflected that.  Only two minor injuries, and no gorings in the bulls' last chance at revenge.  And tonight's revelers will end the annual festivities with parties in the streets and singing.

But this year, we hear there's a twist.  The bulls are going to dress up like dime-store hookers, easily seduce the drunken victims, and then just at the right time, give them the shock of their lives.

OK, we made up that last part.

So as we bid a teary goodbye to the annual bull fest, let us pay our respects to the beast that just can't catch a break.  Here's Keith with COUNTDOWN's tribute to the bulls.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC (voice-over):  In England, it's the cheese chase.  In Finland, you carry your wife on your head.  Here in the U.S., we shove tube steaks into our pieholes.  Broken bones, chapped necks, and gastrointestinal meltdowns ensue, but only those who choose to participate get hurt.  There are no victims, just volunteers.

In Pamplona, it is otherwise.  Each year for 400 years or more, fireworks go off, gates swing open, and the bovine assault on the biped wearing the neckerchief begins, hunting runners with the singular imperative of making them ride the high-horn highway, these bulls will not be denied.

Right here, turn number three saw more pile-ups than lower Wacker Drive in Chicago.  And after four centuries, you'd think somebody would have done something about those plastic cobblestones.

Thus, Boss Torres, already facing his own death in the bull ring and dealing with animals dumber than himself, obviously, must also face a road surface ill designed for the kind of braking and handling required for a half-ton beast on hooves.

You can understand why they pile it on the bipeds in a manner that might even be frowned upon in the National Hockey League.

And there they go.  Here, a bull goes down, gets run over by his amigo, yet undeterred, he exacts his revenge.  Hello.

The odds are stacked, yet the bull fights on, taking his fleeting vengeance where he can, at the bottleneck at the very entrance of the Plaza del Toro, for instance.  Ignoring the tail-tugging and the manly slow green hat waving, he bravely pierces a pile of people, never knowing the fate that he will face inside the stadium.

We have yet to see, however, true bull vengeance, in which one of them gets into one of those houses and takes human hostages.

At the end of the line, all bulls go to heaven, and all runners party their tiny little heads off.  But for eight days in July, these bulls have at least a shot at skewering the citizens of Pamplona.

For some, it doesn't quite work out.  For others, they glory in their one moment in time.  Cue the song.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEWART:  That was magic.

A sex scandal rocks one of the most popular video games.  Who hid porn inside the game Grand Theft Auto?  Senator Hillary Clinton is leading the charge to find out.

An American connection to the London attacks surfaces, and police are releasing new images of one of the bombers.

More on both of those stories ahead.

But first, here are COUNTDOWN's top three newsmakers of this day.

A special incognito bad bandit edition tonight.

Number three, some bad guy with a whole lot of loose change is running around Jersey City, New Jersey, five minutes from here.  Someone's knocking off the city's parking meters, 184 meters, to be exact.  He only nets $5 or $10 a meter, so police are a little puzzled.  I don't know, the guy might want to try a laundromat or the arcade, maybe.

Number two, a wannabe bad guy in Arcata, California.  Picture this, 4:13 in the morning, your doorbell goes off, and there's a bearded man with a list of demands.  Give up your catsup, barbecue sauce, and spices.

He didn't get a thing, not even a salt packet.  Moral, man, you do not want to mess with people's condiments at the height of barbecue season.

And number one, an even bigger summer blunder, this time in Belgium.  A female shopper was trying to get away with a few five-finger discounts—you know what I'm saying? -- except she wasn't really dressing for the 90-degree heat.  Guards were tipped off by her bulky appearance.  She was arrested and undressed, wearing a full jogging suit, a sweater, four polo shirts, three T-shirts, four sleeveless tops, a pair of shorts and sneakers.  No need to call CSI Brussels.   (INAUDIBLE) what not to wear maybe.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEWART:  This time last week, it was thought the London train bombings were separated by gaps of up to 21 minutes long.  It was thought the devices were detonated by remote, not by suicide bombers.  And it was thought those responsible had infiltrated from the outside of the U.K.

Our third story on the COUNTDOWN: What a difference a week makes, the investigation picking up steam, the pieces starting to fall in place, new information tonight that puts some of the bombers inside the United States and identifies a man who may have been the mastermind of the plot.

Chief investigative correspondent Lisa Myers has the details from London—Lisa.

LISA MYERS, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Alison, Western intelligence sources tell NBC News that three of the suspect in this plot, including one of the bombers, had U.S. connections.  These sources also say authorities are now back to believing that the explosive material was homemade, similar to that found in the shoe of shoe bomber Richard Reid.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over):  Police sources say an apartment in this Leeds building served as the bomb-making factory and that the suspected bomb maker is Egyptian-born biochemist Magdi el Nasher (ph), who may have made the explosives in the bathtub.

PETER CLARKE, SCOTLAND YARD ANTI-TERRORIST BRANCH:  This has been and still is a fast-moving investigation, with new leads emerging literally by the hour.

MYERS:  Nasher has a U.S. connection.  He studied for five months North Carolina State University in 2000.  More recently, he's been a student and lecturer at Leeds University, where he received a Ph.D. in May.  Authorities say Nasher is believed to have left Britain just before the attack.

Intelligence sources say also being sought today, a British-born Pakistani with alleged al Qaeda connections.  Authorities say he, too, has visited the U.S. and is believed to have arrived in Britain not long before the attacks by ferry.

The third U.S. connection is a suspected bomber, Jermaine Maurice Lindsay.  Sources say his mother lived in the Cleveland area and that he visited her several times.  Today, police released the first pictures of suspected bus bomber Habib Hussein (ph), wearing the backpack they say he stuffed with explosives.  Investigators appealed for help in tracking his movements that day.

CLARKE:  Did you see this man at King's Cross?  Was he alone or with others?

MYERS:  Today, the driver of the bombed number 30 bus praised British resolve.

GEORGE PSARADAKIAS, DRIVER OF BOMBED BUS:  We show our deep contempt for those who planted the bombs and those who masterminded them.

MYERS:  Showing their resolve, thousands of Londoners turned out tonight for a vigil.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

Tonight, intelligence officials say the evidence so far indicates that this plot was hatched in Pakistan and has a clear link to al Qaeda but does not prove that al Qaeda actually planned or ordered this attack.

And Alison, there's a lot going on in the United States tonight.  The FBI is busy running dozens of names sent by the British, to see if they have terrorist connections.  And active FBI investigations are underway in Cleveland and Raleigh, North Carolina.  The FBI already has obtained documents from the Raleigh landlord who leased an apartment to the alleged bombmaker—Alison.

STEWART:  Lisa Myers in London.

One week later, the human toll of the tragedy continues to climb, London police saying tonight that at least 54 people were killed, including the bombers.

This day was devoted to remembering the victims, the United Kingdom coming to a standstill at Big Ben's noontime cue, even London's infamous traffic grinding to a halt, an eerie bumper-to-bumper, shoulder-to-shoulder tribute to honor the victims in silence, the queen leading her nation in this act of remembrance, the prime minister, as well, people everywhere pouring out of their workplaces in what was also described as a show of defiance, even the throngs of tourists at Covent Garden falling silent, a two-minute tribute one week to the day since four bombers claimed at least 54 lives, including their own, during the morning rush.

The toll significantly higher in Iraq.  New figures released today on the number of civilian deaths there, more than 8,000 Iraqis, both citizens and police, dying as a result of insurgent attacks in a 10-month period, another 15,000 wounded, the numbers from Iraq's interior ministry at the behest of “The New York Times” reflect records compiled beginning in August of last year through the end of May.  Just last month, Iraq's interior minister estimated insurgents were responsible for as many as 12,000 civilian deaths since the start of the war.  Not accounted for, the number of citizens killed during American military actions, those figures a matter of considerable debate.

The civilian figures illustrate an escalation in death and destruction at the hands of the insurgency in Iraq, but those are just the numbers, cold and analytical in comparison to the images of the very people who are vastly more than statistics.  Our correspondent in Baghdad is Richard Engel.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  They arrive any way they can, by ambulance or pick-up, wheeled or carried.  The injured flood into Baghdad's Yarmuks (ph) Hospital's emergency room...

DR. OSAMA HASAB, ER RESIDENT:  This is a battlefield.  It's very small, but it's a battlefield.

ENGEL:  ... where life and death is played out: car bomb victims in western Baghdad, a construction worker shot in a gunfight between insurgents and police, a Shi'ite cleric and his bodyguard assassinated, a boy hostage thrown out of a moving car by kidnappers, just some of the 800 cases treated in this tiny room each week, twice as many as before the war.

HASAB:  This room is a bad dream to every doctor here.

ENGEL:  Holding it all together, ER director Dr. Jamil al Bayati (ph).  He says the emergency room, built mainly to deal with car crashes and house fires, is not equipped for urban war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Rooms are bare, as you see.

ENGEL (on camera):  It's a very simple room.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, it's (INAUDIBLE)

ENGEL (voice-over):  Like most doctors, Bayati earns less than $600 a month and has little to work with, only one 30-year-old X-ray machine.  And his ER filled with flies and discarded bandages.  Air freshener and incense mask a dank smell.  Infection here is not a risk but an assumption.

(on camera):  The doctors and nurses say they show up every day ready for battle but that the one thing they can't get used to is seeing their own friends and family brought here.

(voice-over):  Nurse Hadi Karim (ph) was an army medic during both Gulf wars.  He says the injuries now are more horrific.  The worst is treating the kids, Karim says, you can't stop their crying.  One day, it became personal.

“I received a patient with two bullet wounds,” he says.  “I washed away the blood and saw his face.  He was my best friend.  We don't need more equipment,” Karim says.  “What we need is peace.”

The best they can do is stop the bleeding and patch people up, but the staff say they're not in the business of miracles here.

HASAB:  We are trying to do our best, but of course, we are losing as a community.  We are losing.

ENGEL:  Losing a war, measured here in blood, bandages and unrelenting grief.  Richard Engel, NBC News, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEWART:  The insurgency a concern not only for those in Iraq.  According to the latest NBC News “Wall Street Journal” poll, Iraq has eclipsed the economy as a top priority in the minds of Americans, 40 percent of those polled saying Iraq is the number one issue the administration needs to address.  Just seven months ago, it was seven points behind job creation and economic growth.

But while the nation's involvement in Iraq may not be being called into question, the president's honesty is.  The poll, conducted days before the latest controversy surrounding top presidential adviser Karl Rove, only 41 percent giving President Bush high marks for honesty, down 9 points from January, the majority, 45, giving him a poor ranking.

Another issue of trust front and center tonight, between parents and videogame maker.  Sex scenes are hidden in one of the most popular videogames on the market.  And now Senator Hillary Clinton is demanding an investigation.  And Tom Cruise may have gotten engaged in gay Paris, but he will not be storming any Bastille today or any other day.  The city council yanks the welcome mat for the superstar.

Those stories ahead, but first here are COUNTDOWN's top three sound bites of this day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Cops cruised Woodward Tuesday evening, clearing a path for an out-of-control bus.  Behind the wheel, a 14-year-old.  The teen came to a jerky stop in downtown Pontiac, and no one was injured.  The teen busted, the bus broken.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, the Lord will give us another bus.

CONAN O'BRIEN, COMEDIAN:  The White House today says President Bush is standing by his top adviser, Karl Rove, even though Rove apparently revealed the identity of a CIA agent.  Yes.  However, the president says he will fire Rove if he reveals the ending to “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

AL ROKER, “TODAY” WEATHERMAN:  And welcome back.  We are here at Universal Studios Hollywood.  And this part of a new show called “Fear Factor Live.”   This feels very strange, I must tell you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  They do.

ROKER:  It's very hard.  I wish somebody would play a song by Sting—

Matt.

MATT LAUER, CO-HOST, “TODAY”:  You are out of your mind, Al!  Thank you very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEWART:  The subject of pornography sometimes makes it into this newscast—in the most indirect way, of course.  And car chases almost always find a place on “Oddball.”  And as for politics, well, it's darn hard to pass up a good Hillary Clinton story.  Now, in our number two story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, we have got all three.  Trifecta~!  Senator Hillary Clinton wants the FTC to find out who is responsible for pornographic material in the videogame Grand Theft Auto San Andreas.  Our correspondent is Chip Reid.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHIP REID, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  The Grand Theft Auto videogames are already notorious for their graphic violence.  But the latest version, San Andreas, has a new twist that has some parents seething.

COMPUTER VOICE:  How about a little coffee?

REID:  Scenes of graphic sex, so graphic we won't show them.  But this freezeframe should give you some idea.  The scenes are buried inside the video and can be accessed only by downloading a program from the Internet.  But parents say, for many teens, that's as easy as tying their shoes.  Ronald Moten (ph) has picketed stores that sell the video and now prohibits his two young children from playing any videogames.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You can't really go too far from your children because you don't know what they can be exposed to.

REID (on camera):  The San Andreas game, which has sold more than five million copies, is rated M for mature.  In theory, that means you're supposed to be at least 17 years old to buy it.  But the reality is very different.

(voice-over):  A recent study found that 50 percent of boys between 7 and 14 successfully purchased M-rated videogames, 87 percent have played them.  The nonpartisan group behind the study has now issued a national parental warning, calling for Andreas to be re-rated as adults only.

DAVID WALSH, NATIONAL INSTITUTE ON MEDIA AND FAMILY:  The games that parents think their kids are playing may not be the games that their kids are playing.

ENGEL:  The mystery now, who put the sex scenes in San Andreas?  The company that makes the game, Rockstar, blames an Internet hacker.  Today, Senator Hillary Clinton called for a federal investigation.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK:  The ability of our children to access pornographic and violent material on an M-rated video game is spiraling out of control.

REID:  And, she said, making the difficult job of being a parent even harder.  NBC News, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEWART:  And from Grand Theft Auto to great big egos in our nightly round-up of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs.”  Paris says to Tom Cruise, Au revoir, crazy.  Even after the actor, Scientology poster person put that little old city on the map when he asked his short-term girlfriend, Katie Holmes, to get hitched right there at that Eiffel Tower thing.  That same day, the city of Marseille gave him a medal of honor.  For what reason, nobody really knows.

But when the possibility of bestowing Cruise some sort of Parisian prize, city officials pledged, quote, “never to welcome the actor Tom Cruise for Scientology spokesperson and self-declared militant for this organization,” end  quote.  Scientology is considered a dangerous cult by some French authorities, as opposed to just kind of creepy.

Can the “Dukes of Hazzard” movie even come close to living up to the quality and ethical standards of the TV series?  One of the old stars says no and you should stay away from the theater.  We're giving out two “Get a Grip” awards tonight.  Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEWART:  Flash news tonight coming from Chief Justice of the Supreme Court William Rehnquist.  He says he is, quote, “I'm not about to announce my retirement.”  He says he'll stay on the Supreme Court as long as he is healthy, the Associated Press getting their hands on that statement from the Chief Justice.  He was released from the hospital earlier today.  He had been hospitalized over the last two days for treatment for a fever.  Of course, he is suffering from thyroid cancer.

Art is truly in the eye of the beholder.  As much as some may grow

misty at the sight of their Monet water lily desk calenders—I have one -

·         others may find them to be cliched and pedantic, and those people we call French.

Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN tonight: Thank goodness for good old American cinema because, now, that's art.  Specifically, the big screen adaptation of the legendary TV series, “Dukes of Hazzard,” the gritty portrayal of one Southern family's struggle against a totalitarian society, starring the dude that brought us “Jackass,” as well as Jessica Simpson.

What could be wrong about that?  A lot, apparently, former Georgia congressman Ben Jones objecting to the film's departure from the core family values of the original television series and asking true “Dukes” fans to boycott the film.  Jones, you may recall, played the role of Cooter during the show's six-year run.  On his Web site, Cootersplace.com—I know sounds like a porn site, but it's not—the actor writes, “This kind of toilet humor has no place in Hazzard County.  Rather than honoring our legendary show, they have chosen to degrade it.”

Before you think Cooter done gone and lost his mind, maybe he's just misunderstood, like the movie “Glitter,” which in case you remain unaware, was a cinematic masterpiece ahead of its time.  So says the film's star, Mariah Carey.  Out promoting her latest drop, “The Emancipation of Mimi,” she told a Swiss newspaper that the reason “Glitter” was not a box office hit was, according to Mariah Carey, it was September 11.  Quoting here, “The talk shows need something to distract from 9/11.  I became a punching bag.  Today, it's in to make '80s music.”

Frankly, I'm just confused, which is why I need the help of television personality and curator of culture—that's Mo Rocca.  Mo, thanks for helping me out.  I appreciate it so.

MO ROCCA, TELEVISION PERSONALITY:  Of course.  I'm always here for the

·         to come to the rescue, yes.

STEWART:  How could so many have been so wrong about “Glitter,” Mo?

ROCCA:  Well, you know, Mariah also said in the interview that “Glitter” was ahead of its time.  And to be fair, it was ahead of its time.  It was two years ahead of “Gigli” and three years ahead of “Swept Away,” the Madonna classic.

I take issue with her rationale, though, that the September 11 terrorists are the reason that “Glitter” came and went so quickly.  She's essentially asking us to thank the terrorists, and I'm not going to thank them for anything.  As for whether or not the media was beating up on her to distract the audience from the horror of September 11, well, shouldn't she be proud of that, then?  Shouldn't she fall on her sword for that?

STEWART:  Now, does Mariah have a point in there somewhere, though, that you know you like to do a pile-on.  Everyone likes a little Schadenfreude, I mean, when there's like a “Glitter” or a “Gigli” or a Don Johnson solo album.

ROCCA:  Yes.  I think, actually, by the way, she should make a European film perhaps titled “Schadenfreude” because oftentimes, that's the way to prove her acting chops, her high art chops.

Look, I think Mariah might have unintentionally contributed to the

pile-on when she went on “TRL,” on “Total Request Live” in a delirium with

an ice cream cart, talking about how all she wanted to do was have all the

time to look at rainbows and eat ice cream.  And of course, after “Gigli's”

·         after—excuse me—after “Glitter's” performance at the box office, she had about two years to look at rainbows and eat ice cream.

STEWART:  “Gigli,” “Glitter,” it's pretty much synonymous.

ROCCA:  Yes.  Exactly.

STEWART:  Yes.

ROCCA:  “Giglitter.”  Yes.  Yes, yes, yes.

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART:  Let's move on to “The Dukes of Hazzard.”   What do you say to “Dukes of Hazzard” purists who fear the film version will just bastardize the television version?

ROCCA:  Well, you know, I'll tell you, first of all, it must be said that Congressman Cooter has only read the script, and much can change in the translation from page to screen.  He might have been reading a first folio edition of “The Dukes of Hazzard.”  I've read the second folio edition, and I can tell you in that edition, there's a wonderful fourth-act soliloquy from Jessica Simpson, so—but by this point, I think we're probably onto the third quarto edition of “The Dukes of Hazzard.”

I—it probably has been modernized.  I mean, the original was much more homespun, was much more family-friendly.  I mean, Daisy Duke's shorts, of course, were tiny because the Duke family couldn't afford more denim fabric.  But I think we'll just have to wait and see.  I mean, this reminds me of “The Last Temptation of Christ,” when people were judging it before they'd even seen it.

STEWART:  Well, she could afford pantyhose to wear underneath the shorts, kind of like at Hooters, you know?

ROCCA:  Sure, sure.

STEWART:  Hey, the big, overarching theme here is sometimes famous or nearly famous people are, shall we say, detached from reality.  Why doesn't someone just close to them just tell them to stop?

ROCCA:  Well, honestly, I think that the two are separate cases.  Mariah Carey is back on top again, but what she's showing is that she's totally humorless and that she wants to be vindicated on every count.  I mean, her ambition is that monstrous that she can't afford to laugh at herself for what was clearly a mistake.  I'm actually pro-Cooter.  I'm pro-Ben Jones because the guy is really—Cooter is really put out, so to speak...

STEWART:  There's a T-shirt in that Mo.

ROCCA:  ... and keeping the flame alive.  I'm serious.

STEWART:  There really is.  I'm pro-Cooter.  It could happen.

ROCCA:  Yes, which is why I'm advising everyone to go to Cooter's (INAUDIBLE) museum in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  It's open seven days a week.

STEWART:  Hey, Mo, we got to go!

ROCCA:  It's 865-430-9909 for more information!

STEWART:  We appreciate it.

Good night from Mo Rocca and from COUNTDOWN.

ROCCA:  Go, Cooter!

STEWART:  Tucker Carlson's up next.  Go, Cooter.

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

END   

Content and programming copyright 2005 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2005 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.

Watch Hardball with Chris Matthews each weeknight at 7 p.m. ET

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,