Rancho Santa Fe political satirist seeks to turn country around with common sense
By Arthur Lightbourn
ContributorFor more than 30 years, he specialized in corporate turnarounds — helping ailing companies regain their corporate health by refocusing on what made them successful in the first place.
Nowadays, T.J. (Terry) O’Hara, wants to turn the country around and he thinks he can do so with political satire bringing what he calls “a little common sense” into the country’s current political environment.
He has, in fact, dubbed himself The Common Sense Czar™, and as such, has transformed himself into a dedicated blogger, a recurring columnist for “The Washington Times Communities,” and the author of three recently published books: “The Left Isn’t Right,” “The Right is Wrong,” and “The National Platform of Common Sense.”
His stated mission is “to create a more informed electorate … using satire to surface all the incongruities, irrational thoughts and immature behaviors that drive our current political process…”
In his columns and blogs, both major parties suffer the slings and arrows of his political wit. He doesn’t take political sides and he doesn’t tolerate political polarization.
Or as he asserts in his latest book, “The National Platform of Common Sense,” “I write not to convince you, but rather to entertain you and to stimulate your thoughts so that your opinion, moving forward, is more informed and reflects your true feelings rather than what someone else would have you believe.”
Politically, O’Hara is an Independent, although he says he has been, at various times in the past, a registered Democrat and a registered Republican.
We interviewed the 59-year-old O’Hara in the clubhouse at Morgan Run Club and Resort in Rancho Santa Fe. He and his wife, Kimberly, a Hewlett-Packard account executive, live at the resort with their three dogs.
In addition to his work in the political commentary arena, O’Hara also continues his work a strategy consultant to businesses and motivational speaker.
Asked what “common sense” he is trying to bring to the political scene these days, he said: “What I’m trying to do is present the facts and have people weigh those facts regardless of whether they are facts that are favorable to either of the major parties, Democrat or Republican. I did turnarounds in corporate environments for 30 years and I never saw any particular benefit to wasting time fixing the blame rather than fixing the problem.
“I really apply what I did in the turnaround environment of the corporate world to the political world. I look for controllable versus non-controllable elements.
“The political rhetoric today is so polarized that it pontificates what it’s going to accomplish and yet fundamentally if you look at the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights for your guidance, a lot of the pontification isn’t something that can be brought to fruition by the individual who is asserting it.”
The rhetoric attracts power and money, he says, but it doesn’t fix the problem. And in many regards it deepens the problem.
“The political paradigm today by which both of the major parties play is accusatory,” O’Hara said; “so the finger-pointing goes on and nothing gets resolved.”
Asked how he thinks the situation can be changed, he said: “I really think there is going to have to be a paradigm shift. I think the focus on money and the focus on power within the context of our current majority parties is going to explode at some point.”
He likens the situation to the Hans Christian Andersen tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes” in which a child is the only one of the emperor’s subjects who reveals the truth: that the emperor was obviously conned by two unscrupulous weavers into believing that his new clothes, purchased at great expense, would appear invisible to those of his subjects who were unfit for office or fools. “But,” the child cries out, while the emperor is parading before his subjects, “he hasn’t got anything on.”
“I think that voice,” O’Hara said, “is going to be heard and it’s going to be loud and strong — and will disrupt the current paradigm between the two majority parties.
“Neither party can break from this current paradigm because they are both committed to playing within it…
“I think there has to be an intellectual revolution where the facts are presented without the political spin. The truth has an amazing ability to impact people.”
Only when we have an informed electorate, he added, will we start solving the problem.
O’Hara was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, the product of a mixed marriage: Catholic father of Irish heritage and a Protestant mother of Italian heritage. His father was a Republican. His mother was a Democrat. His father served as a Navy commando in World War II, worked as a newspaper blue-collar journeyman, served as his union’s secretary/treasurer, and later started his own successful business as a painting contractor.
“I was raised,” O’Hara recalls, “‘to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.’”
He studied electrical engineering and earned his B.S, degree in industrial management from the University of Cincinnati in 1975 and a law degree from the same university in 1978.
While in law school, he worked as a tennis pro.
He started his career in Cincinnati as a litigation attorney and, in 1981, entered the corporate world with The Reynolds & Reynolds Company, a business forms and document management company, in Dayton, Ohio, eventually becoming vice president of sales, marketing and new development, specializing in acquisitions, divestitures and turnarounds.
In 1990, he and a partner formed The SPECTRA Group, an executive consulting boutique in Dayton, Ohio, and Orlando, Florida.
He subsequently served as president, CEO, COO, and strategic planner for a number of firms from start-ups to Fortune 1000 companies, including BMS Inc., the Moore Corporation and Corporate Express.
In 2000, he moved to San Diego as president and CEO of SupplyPro, Inc., and later as president and CEO of the professional training and coaching company, Bachrach & Associates.
Asked specifically if he has any plans to run for political office, he said he would only consider doing so as an Independent.
“My only political ambition would be to become part of the solution,” he said.
For more information on O’Hara and his ideas, visit his Website:
T.J. (Terry) O’Hara
O’Hara, a.k.a. The Common Sense Czar, is a political satirist, author, columnist and a business strategy consultant. He is also former chairman of Morgan Run Club and Resort.
Rancho Santa Fe since 2004
Cincinnati, Ohio, 59 years ago
B.S. degree in industrial management, University of Cincinnati, 1975; J.D. from the University of Cincinnati, School of Law, 1978; M.B.A. studies, Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management.
He and his wife, Kimberly, an electrical engineer and Hewlett-Packard account executive, have been married two years. He has one son from a previous marriage.
Politics, tennis, and all sports
“That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back,” by Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum.
Nikki, an Eskimo terrier; London, a Lhasa Apso; and Coco Chanel, a Yorkshire Terrier, “who lay by my side as a write and bring me their toys when they think I need a break.”
“Being at home with the pack.”
Network news programs, History Channel and National Geographic programs.
“Each day try to make someone smile and every day try to leave the world a little bit better than it was the day before.”