Change of Command

Was it sex, TV politics or controversial opinions about the Middle East? Or something else entirely?

News reports and sources cite conflicting reasons why Israeli-born Rod Lurie was booted or departed as show-runner of the successful new ABC drama, “Commander in Chief,” about the first female president of the United States. Lurie, the show’s creator, was replaced by TV veteran Steven Bochco (“NYPD Blue,” “L.A. Law”) last week — a highly unusual move on a show that is doing so well in the ratings.

Neither Lurie nor Bochco was available for comment on the backstage drama of who deposed the show’s real-life commander in chief and why.

However, rumors began circulating when well-connected entertainment columnist Nikki Finke reportedly told “The Drudge Report” that Lurie was sacked for wanting a “rough” limo sex scene between the president’s daughter and a Secret Service agent.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported that Lurie and his bosses had “creative differences” about future episodes. A source told The Journal that the pro-Israel producer had hoped to create episodes in which the fictional president grapples with the Middle East conflict — episodes that may have been too controversial for the network.

Lurie is the son of Ranan Lurie, the famed Israeli political cartoonist, who often entertained Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres in the family’s Herzelyia home. Young Rod moved with his parents to Greenwich, Conn., as a boy. He studied Middle East politics at West Point and worked for the U.S. military, before becoming a film critic and, ultimately, a director in 1999.

His first film, “Deterrence,” revolved around a Jewish president of the United States (Kevin Pollock) who must decide whether to drop the atomic bomb on Iraq.

The Post also surmised that Lurie, who retains his executive producer title, was “stretched too thin trying to handle writing, producing and directing … while juggling those helpful ‘notes’ from 25-year-old studio and network suits.”

Production reportedly fell so far behind that executives worried that they wouldn’t have enough episodes to push the show through sweeps month in November. Another potential looming problem is the show’s mixed critical reception: Some reviewers speculated that the appealing premise and stars – — Geena Davis and Donald Sutherland – — would not be enough to retain viewers, unless the quality or depth of the product improves.

This season, the Jewish Bochco unveiled Hollywood’s first TV drama on the Iraq War, “Over There,” which aims at a realistic depiction of war that Bochco insists is apolitical.


Why George W. Bush?

“The clear choice for president of the United States for the American Jewish community is Gov. George W. Bush of Texas.” Four years ago in a similar article, I argued for our community to support then-Gov. Bush in the 2000 presidential election.

I urge you to look back at what has transpired over the past 48 months. Now, as we approach the 2004 election, the choice we must make to support our president is even clearer.

“Americans are yearning for a bold, new leader with the courage of his convictions….” In 2000, we sought a strong leader to restore the luster of a tarnished presidency and with a clear vision for America. Less than a year later, we faced Sept. 11, 2001, and the voting public learned everything it needed to know about our president. In those hours, Bush truly became our commander-in-chief.

One issue in this election overwhelms all others — the Bush Doctrine. Our president stands by his unyielding commitment to fight the forces of international terrorism, regardless of how long it takes or how much it costs to achieve victory.

The tenets of the Bush Doctrine have a special meaning for American Jews. We have unique concerns that weigh into our voting choice.

Sure, we look to the election like most Americans, interested in the candidates’ plans for the economy, health care, Social Security and more. Yet we have an additional concern: our country’s special relationship with the State of Israel. Through that prism, our community best understands the message of Sept. 11.

Terror attacks against America and terror attacks against Israel stem from the same evil. We have known that for far too long, and it is Bush’s message to America.

Perhaps the most important trait our president exhibits to our country and to the world is that of a leader “with the courage of his convictions.” He does not straddle both sides of every issue, accommodating the whims of political pollsters and the Hollywood elite.

Bush is a proven man of conviction; he knows where he stands. And America’s enemies have no doubts about his sincerity or their futures when he is re-elected.

Four years ago I wrote, “When George W. Bush is president, America will not interfere in Israel’s democratic process … his support for Israel is not conditional on the outcome of the peace process.”

Republican or Democrat, friend or foe, from the White House to the State Department, no other elected leader or appointed staff has done more to respect Israel as a dependable ally, preserve her security, stand with her elected leaders and stand up to the terrorists in her neighborhood.

Most candidates are required to detail their promises, what they will do for our community and to support America’s special relationship with Israel.

More than any other president in our history, from Harry S. Truman to Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton, Bush’s actions and achievements make these ongoing promises unnecessary. For our community, this president stands on his record.

If foreign policy and his response to Sept. 11 were all Bush had accomplished, dayenu! It’s very easy to think in terms of the war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan as the sole defining events of the president’s term in office. But Bush’s entire record is one of a leader, who through executive initiatives, has produced real results.

Foreign policy is the first strength we attribute to Bush, and education reform is next. Four years ago, I wrote, “Under George Bush’s leadership, we can expect the nation’s public schools will be reformed.”

The No Child Left Behind Act, proposed three days after his inauguration, has brought that fundamental change to American education, giving disadvantaged children hope and opportunity that didn’t exist before.

Parents with children in failing schools have options to transfer them to better schools or receive tutoring. Student progress must now be measured and tested, and educational savings accounts allow parents to save — tax-free — for the schools of their choice to educate their children.

The president’s tax policy was critical to successfully ending the recession that began as he took office. In 2000, I urged you to support a candidate whose “tax plan will promote economic growth by cutting high marginal rates for all taxpayers, doubling the child credit, eliminating the death tax, reducing the marriage penalty and expanding educational savings accounts and charitable deductibility.” In the last four years, Bush delivered on each and every one of those campaign commitments.

This election, more than any other election since the Civil War, is about the critical choices we will make as an American community for our future. The world is watching what we do and who will lead our nation.

The world has changed in an essential way since the 2000 election — America has lost its innocence. Because of our history as a people, our community understands the importance of the fundamental decision we will make in November.

Bush has earned our trust and our votes to complete his responsibilities as our commander-in-chief.

Dan Cohen was a lobbyist at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (1985-92); he is currently an officer and vice president of global government affairs at Inamed Corp., a medical device company.