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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for August 23

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests: Rand Beers, Anne Kornblut, John Q. Kelley, Paul F. Tompkins

ALISON STEWART, MSNBC GUEST HOST (voice-over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?  The dire assessment for the war in Iraq.  The national intelligence estimate says:   the leaders there unable to govern, sectarian groups still divided, violence high, al Qaeda in Iraq, still very operational.  Democrats and even Republicans on Capitol Hill call for a change and a plan for U.S. troops to leave.  The White House says the surge is going in the rights direction. 

Now to the advertising war. 


NARRATOR:  They attacked us and they will again.  They won‘t stop in Iraq.  We are wing on the ground and making real progress.  It‘s no time to quit.  It‘s no time for politics. 


STEWART:  True tales of heroism and heartbreak, used commercials to sway public opinion.  Is it right? 

In the 2008 race, John Edwards takes direct aim at the Clintons‘. 


JOHN EDWARDS, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The American people deserve to know that their presidency is not for sale, the Lincoln bedroom is not for rent. 


STEWART:  The tragedy in Utah.  While mine owner calls the mountain evil.  The loved ones of the missing suggest it‘s not the mountain that‘s malevolent. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I don‘t understand how somebody can be so heartless.  Mr. Murray pretty much said he wants to leave them down there, not knowing if they‘re dead or alive. 


STEWART:  One lucky Lohan.  Did she get justice when she escaped any felony charges related to her DUI arrest? 

And I‘ll take world leaders without their shirts on for $800, Alex. 

The worldwide blogosphere ablaze with questions and theories about what in the heck Russia‘s president is doing posing for pictures like this.  I wish I could quit you, Vladimir. 

All that and more now on “Countdown.”

(On camera):  Good evening, everybody.  I‘m Allison Stewart.  Keith has the night off.  Three weeks before the Bush administration delivers its latest report on Iraq, today a top member of the Republican  party called for the White House to make sure the U.S. commitment in Iraq does not remain open ended.  Our fifth story in the “Countdown,” Senator John Warner, the Senate‘s leading Republican on military matters, says President Bush should start ordering some troops home.  And 16 of America‘s spy agencies conclude that Iraq‘s leaders cannot govern effectively. 

No public events today for President Bush, but his comments this week about Iraq and Prime Minister Maliki appeared to lay the groundwork for today‘s release of the a national intelligence estimate on Iraq. 

Quoting from it:  “The Iraqi government will become more precarious over the next six to 12 months.  The trains of the security situation and absence of key leaders have stalled initial political debates, slowed national decision-making, and increased Maliki‘s vulnerability to alternative coalitions.”

But what appears to be bad news for Mr. Maliki‘s job performance seems to be excellent news for his job security.  Quote, “We just that if Maliki will continue to benefit from recognition among Shia leaders that searching for a replacement could paralyze the government.”

The report also contends that if U.S. troops were to downscale their mission it, quote, “would erode security gains achieved thus far.”

Reacting to the report, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, quote, “Our troops are mired in an Iraqi civil war and the president‘s escalation strategy has failed to produce the political results he promised to our troops and the American people.”  Of course, as leader of the Senate Democrats, Mr. Reid almost had to say that. 

More surprising this afternoon was when Senator Warner, the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee, urged the president to send a message about America‘s frustrations with the Iraqi government, by bringing some troops home. 


SEN. JOHN WARNER, ®, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER:  We simply cannot, as a nation, stand and put our troops at continuous risk of loss of life and limb without beginning to take some decisive action which will get everybody‘s attention.  I think no clearer form of that than if the president were to announce on the 15th that in consultation with our senior military commanders, he‘s decided to initiate the first step in withdrawal of our forces. 


STEWART:  For more with what it means, we‘re joined by Rand Beers, who served under President Reagan and during both Bush administrations.  He‘s also a veteran of the Vietnam War.  He resigned from the NSC in March of ‘03, just days before the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Mr. Beers, thanks for your time tonight. 


STEWART:  President Bush sold the surge to the public and Congress by saying that extra American troops were needed to buy the Iraqi government the time it needed to unify and meet those political benchmarks.  But the NIE concludes the Iraqi government is unlikely to do that for at least the next 10 to 12 months.  What does that mean about the troops levels going forward in the next year?  How long do we have to maintain the escalation realistically? 

BEERS:  The estimate is very cautious in the language that it chooses.  And it says it is unlikely to happen in the next six to 12 months, but more ominously, it says there will be no political reconciliation, no long-term progress in security and no long-term economic development unless the four major factors that effect political reconciliation begin to change.  Those four are the Shia insecurity that the Sunnis will somehow return to power, the Sunnis‘ unwillingness to accept their minority status in Iraq, the violence that‘s occurring within those two sectarian communities as different leaders vie for leadership of those communities and finally, al Qaeda. 

It seems to me that none of those factors have any fundamental shifts that that are likely in any near-term time.  I think we‘re seeing an estimate which says we don‘t see it changing in the next six to 12 months but we can‘t see it changing in the foreseeable future. 

STEWART:  The report doesn‘t predict that Mr. Maliki will be ousted.  Instead it says that, quote, “searching for a replacement could paralyze the government,” end quote.  So if Maliki doesn‘t go, but the job doesn‘t get done, what or who are the alternatives? 

BEERS:  To try to deal with the whole mix of political problems.  Maliki is only a symptom of the problem in his inability to move the political constituencies.  The fundamental shifts are going to have to occur in the grand bargain that people have talked about, the grand political reconciliation.  It‘s going to require that the Shia are prepared to give something back to the Sunni and the Sunni are going to have to accept that they are no longer going to be the rulers of Iraq. 

STEWART:  Two of the four points you laid out earlier. 

BEERS:  Right.  Right.

STEWART:  The report says that many of the security gains are the result of Sunni groups frightening al Qaeda in Iraq.  But aren‘t those also the same troops posing a threat to the Shia dominant government in Baghdad?  It‘s kind of a catch-22.

BEERS:  It‘s absolutely a catch-22.  Those kinds of accommodations without some kind of broader political settlement are simply putting at risk the whole longer-term fabric.  If those groups are dissatisfied in a time in which the U.S. is withdrawing then they will simply become rearmed and opponents of the central government. 

STEWART:  Let‘s look at this from another angle.  Is there anything in this report you think that bolsters the White House‘s argument that U.S.  forces, and lots of them, need to stay in Iraq? 

BEERS:  I think that what the report says that if you want to have a military solution, you‘re going to have to keep U.S. forces there for the indefinite future.  And I think that that runs smack into the political situation here in this country in which the voters are dissatisfied with that open-ended commitment.  And as you said earlier, Senator Warner is as well. 

STEWART:  Former Bush counterterrorism advisor Rand Beers.  Thanks for joining us this evening.

BEERS:  Thank you.

STEWART:  It would be easy to mistake these final weeks before General Petraeus hands in the report for the dog days of a presidential campaign.  The air waves of outer reaches of basic cable have become the battle ground of an ad war over the war. 

Republican activists bankrolling a $15 million five-week ad aimed at getting Republicans in Congress, who are being vocal about their unhappiness about the current strategy, getting those folks to simmer down. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I lost two family members to al Qaeda.  My uncle, a firearm in 9/11 and my husband, Travis, in Iraq.  My husband fought for my children.  Congress did the right thing voting to defeat terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Switching their votes now for political reasons, it will mean more attacks in America.  Call your Congressman and Senator.  Tell them surrender is not an option.  Victory is America‘s only choice.


STEWART:  Now anti-war groups are suggesting that they started the ad blitz earlier this summer by also targeting lawmakers and that the pro-war folks are merely responding to that. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mitch McConnell supported Bush‘s endless war in Iraq.  Now Bush‘s general says we have to stay there for 10 more. 

DAVID PETRAEUS, GENERAL, IRAQ COMMANDER:  The average counter-insurgency is somewhere around a  nine or a 10-year endeavor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Where are we going to get the troops to stay that long?  The draft. 

DOUGLAS LUTE, LIEUTENANT GENERAL, U.S. MILITARY:  I think it makes sense to certainly consider it.  It‘s always been an option on the table. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Tell Mitch McConnell to end this war.

Paid for by the Campaign to Defend America.


STEWART:  Now, by the time General Petraeus delivers his report to Congress next month, currently slated for delivery on the date of September 11, 2007, at least 33 media markets across the country will be blitzed with this ad. 

For more, let‘s turn to our political analyst, Lawrence O‘Donnell, who also contributes to “The Huffington Post.”  You also might recognize him from the show “Big Love” on HBO.

How are you? 


STEWART:  We look at the media age.  This war is four and a half years old.  Are these ads, which are full of heartbreak, could they, do they actually displace actual debate? 

O‘DONNELL:  They don‘t displace the debate.  They take up very little space.  The budget doesn‘t allow for buying a lot of these ads.  It‘s hard to say which way they‘re going to cut.  Each one of these ads has a heart-stopping family tragedy at the center.  You have widows, mothers in the ads of soldiers who have been killed in Iraq.  You have a double amputee walking through one of these ads. 

Now this administration was very afraid of showing images of the wounded and of dead American soldiers coming back from this war early in the war.  If the people who are supporting the president politically now believe that showing images of double amputees from the Iraq war is somehow helpful to their message and not provocative of the question of how many more double amputees do we want coming back from Iraq having achieved what.  It‘s a very dangerous way to try to drum up support for the president. 

It‘s an understandable attempt but using it in swing districts is also very dangerous.  The way you hold on to Congress members who are in swing districts is allow them the latitude to go whatever direction they have to in order to get re-elected.  You don‘t try to push the Democrats to the left those districts and push Republicans to the right in those districts, which is what these ads are trying to do.  They are trying to push Republicans who are wavering into a strong support for the president‘s position in Iraq, which now, within the Republican Party, is a minority position. 

STEWART:  Now the scripts in some of these ads connect 9/11 and the war in Iraq, making al Qaeda link that didn‘t exist before the war started.  Do you think that view still exists? 

O‘DONNELL:  In the 2004 election, a majority of an electorate believed the president‘s illusion of those facts and the notion that there was a connection.  Now you don‘t have a majority view on that.  A very large majority has turned against the war.  I don‘t think there‘s anything really that returning soldiers can say, from their individual perspective, to get that majority to turn back in favor of the war. 

We‘re going to hear a lot from both sides.  There‘s a lot of anti-war returning Iraq war veterans and now you‘re seeing some pro-war Iraq war veterans speaking out.  And I‘m not sure that either side is going to be able to turn this argument one way or the other.  The public is moving on the larger policy question.  The public wants to know is there a new strategy to get us to a new place in Iraq.  And I don‘t think the public has heard that.

STEWART:  The 9/11 anniversary is still a very somber remembrance in this country.  Many people say it should never be used for political purposes.  Do you think there‘s a possibility of a backlash here using 9/11 in these ads? 

O‘DONNELL:  I don‘t think so.  I don‘t think there‘s anything to backlash against in these ads.  People who are opposed to the war will feel very sorry for the people who appear, and not take their policy guidance from them.  I think they have a place in the debate but will not be persuasive.  They don‘t strike me as the kind of thing that can turn a majority of the country that has turned against this war in to supporting this war.

STEWART:  Freedom Watch is the group that spent the $15 million to air these ads. wrote a thank you note to former Bush Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, who serves on the board, to say every extra TV time talking about Iraq‘s drip, drip, drip of bad news for politicians who won‘t break for Bush.  Is engaging in wishful thinking or are they on to something? 

O‘DONNELL:  It depends on which way they cut.  I have a theory they can cut against the war.  Obviously those airing the ads think they will cut in terms of creating support for the war.  I‘m not sure which way they‘re going to go.  Moveon has a point.  I wouldn‘t bring that kind of flippancy to material that involves this kind of human tragedy though.  And we‘ll see which way these ads play. 

STEWART:  Lawrence O‘Donnell, of MSNBC and the “Huffington Post.” 

Thanks for your time tonight. 

O‘DONNELL:  Thanks, Alison. 

STEWART:  Senator Hillary Clinton is used to slights from Karl Rove. 

Now she‘s getting guff from John Edwards after facing criticism from Mrs.

Edwards.  The gloves are off in the 2008 race. 

Behind the scenes at a critical meeting in a Utah mine tragedy, some of the loved ones of the missing miners say they were yelled at by Bob Murray the day he told them the rescue efforts were basically over.

You‘re watching “Countdown” on MSNBC.


STEWART:  You know what they say, two‘s company, three‘s a crowd unless the third person makes a break for out it.  On our fourth story in the “Countdown” to 2008 and John Edwards giving it all he‘s got trying to elbow his way past Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in the Democratic primary roller derby. 

The leading rivals in the New Hampshire ring today duking it out for attention, both sticking to what each seems to believe is his or her ace in the hole.

Senator Clinton emphasizing her experience as well as health care. 

Senator Obama countering that people are tired of the same old-same old and want change, trying to convince voters that all that experience in Washington led to the current situation in Iraq. 

Also in the Granite State, at Dartmouth, former Senator John Edwards was busy beating a familiar drum, a steady backbeat of populous themes, with a symbol crash of criticisms of his rivals.  He criticized the rhetoric of change—that would be the Illinois Senator—and fellow Democrats who are part of a system rigged to favor the same old power brokers—that would be the Senator from New York. 


JOHN EDWARDS, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The choice for our party could not be any clearer.  We cannot replace a group of corporate Republicans with a group of corporate Democrats.  Just swapping Washington insiders of one party for the Washington insiders of another is not what we need.  the American people deserve to know that their presidency is not for sale, the Lincoln bedroom is not for rent and lobbyist‘s money can no longer influence policy in the house or the Senate. 


STEWART:  Edwards is a distant third in most national polls but not in Iowa, where the polls show a three-way tie with Obama and Clinton. 

Anne Kornblut, national political reporter for the “Washington Post” joins us from Manchester tonight. 

Anne, good to see you. 


STEWART:  Today Edwards said the system is rigged by the wealthy and the greedy.  His tone sharper.  How is that playing in a state that goes by the motto “Live free or die?” 

KORNBLUT:  Look, he‘s got grassroots support out here, here and in Iowa, where I saw him last week.  It may not be quite reflected in the polls.  He‘s been drawing reasonably large crowds.  He still has support left over from the last time around.  It‘s too soon to say how this particular line is working.  I will say it‘s a different John Edwards than the one we saw four years ago.  This one sounds a lot tougher.  He really is taking on the Clintons and in particularly, Bill Clinton.  That‘s really a first.  Most of the Democrats haven‘t done that so far. 

STEWART:  Let‘s talk about this new John Edwards.  The spouses in this campaign have received additional attention.  Elizabeth Edwards has been in the front and center, not shy about the opinions of her husband‘s competitors.  Is this new push to get John Edwards delivering his own message?  And why now? 

KORNBLUT:  As we‘re coming around the corner to Labor Day, this is the homestretch.  What we said was a campaign that started too early has caught up now.  He needs to show signs of progress both here and in Iowa to stay in the game.  I think for a while he and Elizabeth have been taking turns being the ones on the attack.  We‘re seeing him come out now making that final push. 

STEWART:  I want to see if something passes your smell test as a reporter.  Joe Trippi, former campaign manager for Howard Dean, is advising Edwards and he says Edwards is the secret Democratic weapon that Karl Rove fears, that‘s why Rove is attacking Hillary.  Do you buy that? 

KORNBLUT:  I don‘t think that‘s the reason that Karl Rove is attacking Hillary.  He sees her as a flawed candidate and they do fear her.  Obviously, John Edwards is a viable candidate.  He did very well last time.  His message has resonated.  But I‘m not sure that‘s the real explanation of why Rove said what he said. 

STEWART:  Senator Clinton is slowly unveiling her health care plans.  Today she talked about rolling costs and improving training for doctors and nurses.  Saving universal health coverage for next month.  Why is she doing the show rollout? 

KORNBLUT:  I hadn‘t expected her to necessarily roll out a full plan all together.  Once you do it and it gets exposed to scrutiny, the details get examined.  She‘s been a little behind some of the other candidates in rolling out the details of the plan.  In part because she‘s had so much history on the subject.  Back in the early 1990s she led her husband‘s commission on it.  It didn‘t work but she said she has the scars to prove her experience.  She‘s been criticized for not having the details.  She said today she‘s going to roll it out in the next month.  We‘re going to see the full coverage plan.  I think she‘s doing it to prevent being accused to not having a specific plan. 

Anne Kornblut, thanks for your time. 

KORNBLUT:  Thank you. 

STEWART:  When you actually become a president, you get to do a lot of things, but is posing for shirtless pictures one of them?  Is it just the latest weapon on a weird war on terror?

Hammering out legislation Bolivian style.  You have to love good, healthy debate and a right hook.  “Oddball” is just around the corner.


STEWART:  It was on this date way back in the year of 2000 that a certain fat neighborhood guy, Richard Hatch, took home a million bucks in the title of the original “Survivor.” 51 million watched the show‘s finale.  Last year Hatch got sentenced for 51 months in the pokey for not paying taxes on his winnings. 

Let‘s play “Oddball.”

We begin many La Paz, Bolivia, which means the peace.  In the South American country, lawmakers trading haymakers.  The country‘s Congress erupted during a debate over whether some of the country‘s high court judges were corrupt.  Plus they‘re broken over the Lindsay Lohan news.  Security broke it up.  They hugged it out.  Luckily, only one guy got hurt, but a bunch of chairs were broken.  Everybody has to sit on the floor.

To Philadelphia.  This is Pat Rashette.  In the news after he was arrested this week for allegedly sexually assaulting his 79-year-old mother.  Nothing too extraordinary about the story until a local reporter visited his home.  The reporter didn‘t get an interview with Pat.  She got Pat‘s cheese steak. 


REPORTER:  I‘d like to talk to you about the charges against you involving your mom. 

PAT RASHETTE, SUSPECT:  That‘s what I think of TV news. 


STEWART:  So you‘re a news radio guy then, I guess.  Hello, fellow. 

He retreated into the house to finish his deep tissue massage. 

Putin the R in Russia; President Putin strips down and posts his topless photos online. 

You think Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie got off easy?  Lindsay Lohan has reached a plea deal.  Amount of jail time?  One day.  I kid you not.  Those stories ahead.  Now here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three news makers of this day. 

Number three, Bill Bolechala of Elk City, Oklahoma.  He managed to serve 24 years in the military, including a stint in Vietnam, and never got shot, until now.  While standing at a car dealership on Tuesday, he suddenly felt a sharp pain and saw blood pouring from his side.  He‘d been shot by a bullet fired by police nearly a mile away at their gun range.  What are the odds?

Number two, the arcade gaming making company Atlus.  Its latest invention, arm spirit, lets players pick a strength level ranging from maid to professional wrestler.  The arm wrestle and artificial arm. 

Unfortunately for at least three young men who went up against the machine, the artificial arm was so powerful it broke their arms.  It must have been set to professional wrestler on steroid strength. 

At number one, the Texas Rangers, who did something that hasn‘t been done in 110 years, score 30 runs.  That‘s a modern-day Major League record for runs in a game.  And the Baltimore Orioles, who were hosting the game, only scored three.  We haven‘t got time to bring you all the details of the Rangers record braking run-o-rama, so enjoy some highlights. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He has got the home run!

All the way back.  Gone! 

There she goes.  Grand slam!

Metcalf, another slam!


Vazquez to right field.  You want to go for 30?  You got it!  Uncle, 30 unanswered runs in Baltimore. 


STEWART:  It‘s official.  Lindsay Lohan has reached a plea deal requiring her to spend one day in jail, a whole 24 hours.  In our third story in the COUNTDOWN, the question is once again raised, after two DUI busts within nine weeks, both involving alleged possession of cocaine, is a celebrity getting special treatment? 

Los Angeles prosecutors filed seven misdemeanor counts against Miss Lohan today, two counts of driving under the influence, two counts of driving with a blood alcohol level above .08, two counts of being under the influence of cocaine, plus one count of reckless driving.  Then late today word that Lohan had reached a plea deal on all charges, requiring her to spend one day in jail, serve ten days of community service, and complete a drug treatment program, with 36 months of probation and an 18-month alcohol education program. 

Joining me now, criminal law attorney John Q. Kelly.  Thanks for being with us, John.


STEWART:  The deputy district attorney said Ms. Lohan was, quote, getting what everyone else would get.  Is that accurate? 

KELLEY:  I think it is.  And under the circumstances, I think it is appropriate.  The jail is not the big thing here.  It‘s the 36-month probation, where the court has a complete over her.  She‘s got to satisfactory complete the rehabilitation, which has been difficult for her up until now and hopefully she‘ll be able to do it. 

STEWART:  Lohan evidently was not charged with felony cocaine possession because on both occasions prosecutors say the amount tested were below the .05 grams required for felony charges.  But could they have charged her with any felonies at all? 

KELLEY:  Well, no.  The law is very clear.  If it‘s under .05, there‘s not enough weight there to be charged with the felony possession.  As soon as the lab reports had come back, had they charged originally, it would have been dismissed anyway.  So they would have actually been overcharging her if they did that. 

STEWART:  So Lohan will get one day in jail.  But there is other breaking celebrity jail news. 

NBC News is reporting that today Nicole Richie checked into jail to serve our four-day sentence.  But no sooner was she in, one hour and 22 minutes later she was out.  So John, that might be a record. 

KELLEY:  I had heard an hour and 10 minutes actually.  I think they‘re padding it a little bit.  She‘s one of these people who I think she‘s on the right track now.  She‘s with child.  She has toned down her lifestyle.  I actually think Paris got rail-roaded a little bit with the time she did in jail.  These kids are young.  They‘re going to take a while to straighten out.  They need the hold of the court and they need someone looking over their shoulder to make sure. 

Someone like Lindsay, if she violates her probation, she could get up to a year in jail.

STEWART:  Ms. Lohan is required to go to all these drug treatment and alcohol education programs.  One even involves visiting a morgue.  Do you think her sentence is an adequate deterrent based on your experience? 

KELLEY:  I do.  The morgue thing—she had two DUIs and fortunately nobody was hurt.  But I think the purpose of the morgue visit is to impress upon her that her actions could have very dire consequences on others.  People get killed by drunk drivers and that‘s what the purpose of that visit is.  I think she‘s going to come to realize that.  It‘s part of the package.  She‘s got to stop drinking.  She‘s got to stop doing drugs.  And she‘s got to be a little bit more responsible.  She‘s a great actress and I think she will ultimately straighten herself out.

STEWART:  I did enjoy “Mean Girls.”  She was pretty good in that.

KELLEY:  She was.  I have to admit I saw it. 

STEWART:  Her lawyer made this deal behind closed doors in the judge‘s chambers.  Lindsay was nowhere to be found.  Is that customary?   

KELLEY:  Of course it is.  Under these circumstance you‘re talking about a misdemeanor.  It‘s a run of the mill crime overall, and there‘s no reason to create the media frenzy and circus atmosphere you saw with Paris Hilton.  She‘s got to be dealt with.  She‘s got to pay her consequences.  The court has to do its job.  The criminal justice system has to function properly.  And this is the way it operates.  It was a first offense. 

She‘s going to serve her sentence.  She‘s going to pay her debt to society and get rehabilitated, hopefully.  And life goes on.  Everything can‘t be a one-week media frenzy when this happens. 

STEWART:  So John, what happens if in about two or three months she decides she‘s going to have a cocktail and then another one and jump behind the wheel of her Mercedes.  How will she be viewed in the eyes of the law?

KELLEY:  If the law catches her, that circumstance is where she could end up doing a year in jail.  If she falls off the wagon, has a drink or two in our—her own home or something, no harm, no foul.  But as soon as she commits a crime, she‘s set up for some very dire consequences.

STEWART:  Attorney John Q. Kelly, thanks for walking us through that. 

KELLEY:  Sure, Allison.  Bye.

STEWART:  Is the tragedy in the Utah mine collapse only compounded by the treatment of the families of the missing miners?  The families talk to NBC News and reveal details of the heart breaking meeting, where mine owner Bob Murray told them the search was basically over. 

Can you tell fall is in the air?  There‘s a new controversy over a new reality TV show.  Has CBS finally crossed the line with the show “Kid Nation?”  Is it child abuse all in the name of ratings?  That‘s ahead on COUNTDOWN.


STEWART:  At number two tonight, there may be a little bit of justice for families experiencing anguish and heart break.  To the latest now on the fate of six missing miners at the Utah mine disaster.  Today the Senate committee that oversees mine safety said it would investigate the cause of that tragedy, calling for hearings in early September.  At the scene, rescuers are still drilling a sixth and final hole that will delve 1,500 feet into the mountain in an attempt to locate the men. 

Mine co-owner Bob Murray saying the mine may become their tomb, but, in his words, bring closure that I could never get them out alive.  Trouble is, some of the miners‘ families are livid, angered by the way Murray has treated them and for ending what most everyone feels has already been an extraordinary effort to reach the miners.  “Today‘s” Ann Curry asked the girlfriend of miner Brandon Phillips (ph) and her mother about it all. 


JACKIE TAYLOR, FRIEND OF TRAPPED MINER:  On Monday he told us that—he more or less came in and told us that our family members were dead.  He was very blunt about that.  He was very mean.  It was awful.  It really was awful.  And he was yelling at us when he did tell us.  But in the very beginning, he told us that our family members would come out one way or another, dead or alive. 

I stood up and I asked him—I said Mr. Murray, you did tell us that. 

He said well, I‘m going back on my world. 

ANN CURRY, “THE TODAY SHOW”:  You know that three people have died in this rescue effort and another six have been injured and that some are deeming the rescue effort to be too dangerous.  What do you say about that? 

TAYLOR:  We are so appreciative to all of the rescue members and their families.  Don‘t get us wrong.  We are so appreciative.  And our love and our prayers go out to all of them family members.  But our family members are still under there.  They‘re underground.  And we need that closure in our lives also.  And so we plead to him, please get our family members out. 

CURRY:  Brandon also has a five-year-old son, Gage.  There‘s so much heartbreak here.  Is there anything you want to add, Lacee, this morning? 

LACEE TAYLOR, GIRLFRIEND OF TRAPPED MINER:  I don‘t understand how somebody can be so heartless.  Because Mr. Murray, he pretty much said he wants to leave them down there, not knowing if they‘re dead or alive and that just hurts. 

CURRY:  I know he‘s talked about the risks involved and that being the reason why he‘s said some of these things.  Lacee and Jackie Taylor, thank you so much.  A lot of people in America are praying for you this morning.  Thank you. 


STEWART:  Turning to our nightly round-up of celebrity and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs.  Nothing puts a damper on a date like being called away to meet your own child.  NFL star Tom Brady is now baby daddy.  Actress Bridget Moynahan gave birth to a son in Los Angeles last night.  But model Giselle Bundchen is his girlfriend.  Moynahan was his girlfriend, obviously, but they broke up about eight and a half months ago. 

Bad summer for Beyonce.  First she took a header down some stairs during a concert.  Now she had her own wardrobe malfunction, ala Janet Jackson, only this time for Beyonce it was both the girls.  As she was performing in Toronto, a breeze blew open her filmy dress to reveal she was not wearing a bra.  While Beyonce didn‘t flinch after the double flash, she can‘t be all too happy that it‘s all over the Internet, in slow motion, again and again. 

Finally, CBS, the same station that brought you the original boob flash during the Super Bowl, is in trouble again, this time for its new reality series, “Kid Nation,” which put a bunch of children in a deserted town by themselves to, you know, see what happened.  Did anybody read “Lord of the Flies.”  Our correspondent John Larson explains why it may have been illegal.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s the first-ever “Kid Nation.”

JOHN LARSON, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  The idea, 40 kids, no adults, living in a ghost town.  Reality TV meets the “Lord of the Flies.”

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is our world.  Kids can do just as much as adults can do. 

LARSON:  Here‘s the problem; the state of New Mexico wondered whether the taping of “Kid Nation” last April violated child labor laws. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We were a little concerned about the kids and the type of environment they were in.  I don‘t see where this state is going to bend its rules for anyone. 

LARSON:  The kids were hauling water, cleaning latrines, cooking meals and missing school.  Sure, there were adults taping the show.  But was it safe? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s just been really stress and tough.  I guess I‘m going to have to keep pushing. 

LARSON:  One parent complained her daughter had been burned while cooking and there wasn‘t proper adult supervision.  New Mexico labor officials say they tried to investigate, but were prevented from inspecting the site. 

CARLOS CASTANEDA, NEW MEXICO DEPT OF LABOR:  In the end, we were unable to contact any of the production staff. 

LARSON:  CBS, who according to New Mexico labor officials argued the show was like summer camp, yesterday called the complaints against “Kid Nation” irresponsible, and said CBS had on-site paramedics, a pediatrician, a child psychologist and others.  New Mexico‘s attorney general so far has found no violation, which means “Kid Nation” may already be getting the two things every reality TV show needs, controversy and publicity. 

MICHAEL SCHNEIDER, TV EDITOR, “VARIETY”:  What will make or break the show is, A, does it seem like the kids were exploited on the show?  There are clips of them crying.  Does that turn off people?  Or is it done in a way that‘s tasteful enough that people are willing enough to suspend their concerns and come back the following week? 

LARSON:  And advance publicity apparently can sway even the toughest audience. 

CASTANEDA:  I‘m even anxiously awaiting “Kid Nation.”

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Forty kids, one town, no adults.  Welcome to “Kid Nation.”

LARSON:  John Larson, NBC News, Los Angeles. 


STEWART:  From controversy here to controversy around the world.  Eyebrows are raising and tongues are wagging.  Is this any way for the president of Russia to dress or undress while on vacation in full view of photographers.  From Russia with guns, next on COUNTDOWN.


STEWART:  Russian President Vladimir Putin has become quite the controversial figure lately.  His critics say his government is becoming more and more dictatorial.  But apparently many people are mad for Vlad and maybe these photos from his website are the reason why. 

Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, a few vacation pictures on the Russian president‘s website, taken from his Siberian vacation, buffing up his image, trying to look buff?  Just take a look at those guns.  A whole new meaning to the arms race.  More is more where this came from.  Here he is doing a little John Wayne, or is that Jake Gyllenhaal? 

Has anyone explained to Putin that those crazy Americans came up with an update of the cowboy genre.  And kid you not, these captions for these pictures in the “International Herald Tribune” included this quote, “some Russian gay chat rooms and blogs claim that by stripping to his waist, Putin was somehow pleading for more tolerance for homosexuality in Russia.”

Anyway, according to the “Herald Tribune,” the ladies of Russia are loving it too.  Women sent emails complimenting Putin‘s physique.  When a radio commentator criticized him for looking unpresidential, just a man and his rod there.  And just to round out the theme, Putin‘s vacation guest, Prince Albert II of Monaco, quote, relaxing and having a tee in a tent camp of the expedition. 

Now wait just a minute there, partner, not to be outdone in the I can take my shirt off sweeps stakes.  Here is recently elected president of France Nicholas Sarkozy, canoeing with his son while on vacation in New Hampshire.  These pictures were published in the French magazine “Paris Match.”  But, oops, apparently the magazine air brushed Mr. Sarkozy‘s love handles, as pointed out by a rival publication, “Le Express.” 

Let‘s bring in comedian Paul F. Tompkins, also a regular contributor to VH1‘s “Best Week Ever.”  OK Paul, are you ready for this one? 

PAUL F. TOMPKINS, VH1:  Indeed, I am, Allison.

STEWART:  President Putin first; no matter what anyone thinks of these pictures, love them or hate them, they all seem very posed.  What do you think he was shooting for there, Paul? 

TOMPKINS:  I think he was shooting for the image of health, because you have to remember this is a part of the world where they are still poisoning people.  They are quaint and old fashioned in that way.  I think what President Putin is trying to say is you can try to poison me, but I am strong, like ox. 

STEWART:  Of course, he has been accused of manipulating the media.  A mass market tabloid in Russia actually published just a huge color photo of the bear chested president, with the headline, be like Putin.  What does that mean, be naked, be fit, be manipulative?   

TOMPKINS:  Considering that a large percentage of Russia is still below the poverty line post-Communism collapse, and he has been pictured with a fishing rod, I think he is saying be catching your own food. 

STEWART:  In political circles, the suspicion that Putin is preparing to run for a third term, even though he would have to get that constitution changed to do this; is this all part of a PR blitz to boost his favorability ratings?  Can you see a scenario where showing up shirtless could lead to changing a country‘s doctrine? 

TOMPKINS:  Showing up shirtless can change the dynamic just about anywhere, a bar, a bank, somebody‘s wedding.  So who knows how far it can go if you‘re just willing to commit to it.  For all we know, the Russian constitution was written shirtless. 

STEWART:  You make an excellent point.  Let‘s talk about France and talk about President Sarkozy.  A spokesman has denied the reports that the presidential palace asked the magazine owner to doctor that picture.  But the magazine owner is a friend of the president‘s.  Do you really think the French president would be so vain? 

TOMPKINS:  If they actually are friends, a true friend would do that without being asked.  You know something is really a friend of yours when they take a picture of you with a digital camera and delete it and tell you, you were not going to like that one. 

STEWART:  So true.  Meanwhile, the magazine responsible—“Paris Match”—admitted that it retouched the picture, but said it did so because, quote, the position of the boat exaggerated the protuberance.  What do you think?  Good excuse? 

TOMPKINS:  Yes, I think they throw a word like protuberance in there to throw you off track, make you feel dumb. 

STEWART:  Or make me not be able to pronounce it correctly, one of the two.

TOMPKINS:  It is not a word you encounter that much.  I think if Sarkozy was smart, he would have said it is easy not to have love handles like Putin if you have your pants hiked all the way up to mid rib cage.  Just wear higher pants and nobody will see your love handles. 

STEWART:  Be Dutch, just wear them right up to your nipples.

On to another presidential choice.  Our president, far more demure.  President Bush just showing a little bit of leg there, a little bit of calf.  He was wearing crocs on the White House grounds, along with socks that have the presidential seal on them.  Is this a good look for Mr. Bush during down time? 

TOMPKINS:  It is a good look because it is also a fashion service to America, because the president wearing crocs tells you that crocs are officially over.  If you have them, get them out of your house.  Give them to the Good Will.  This is what he is dressing like with Karl Rove still around.  I think by the time Rove is out of the White House, you will see the president wearing a trash bag and a pot on his head. 

STEWART:  Comedian Paul F. Tompkins, contributor for VH1‘s “Best Week Ever,” best segment ever Paul.  Thanks a lot. 

TOMPKINS:  Thank you, Allison. 

STEWART:  That is it for this Thursday edition of COUNTDOWN.  Have you heard?  There is going to be a Sunday edition of COUNTDOWN, this weekend, anyway, on NBC, 7:00 Eastern, 6:00 Central, right before Sunday Night Football.  Set your TiVos, call your friends, have a party.  I‘m Allison Stewart, in for Keith Olbermann.  Thank you so much for watching.  



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