Jim O'Hara

Jim O'Hara

Jim O’Hara covered state and national politics and the General Assembly for The Tennessean in the 1980s.

The late civil rights leader Kwame Leo Lillard raises his fist in Black pride as he stands in front of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s words etched at the Nashville Public Library. King showed moral imagination in his leadership. (Photo: John Partipilo)

A failure of the moral imagination

By: - May 1, 2023

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and the Republican supermajority of the General Assembly have failed a critical test of leadership in the wake of the Covenant School massacre: They have failed to exhibit moral imagination. The Covenant School’s letter to the community and two news stories of the past week bring this failure into sharp focus. […]

Gov. Bill Lee giving his fourth State of the State address. Jan. 19, 2022. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Commentary: Time for governor to go back to school

By: - February 14, 2022

Memo to Gov. Bill Lee and staff: Read your source material before you quote it in a State of State address. The governor, invoking President RonaldReagan, called for Tennessee students to be “informed patriots” during his recent State of the State, saying it is important “we teach true American history, unbiased and non-political.”  And he […]

Tennessee's leading Republicans: Gov. Bill Lee flanked by Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton, left, and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, right. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Commentary: Tennessee GOP passes away at 55

By: - November 1, 2021

The Tennessee Republican Party, nicknamed the “party of Lincoln,” passed away last Thursday as it was being carted between state House and Senate committee hearing rooms. A full historical autopsy won’t be carried out for 50 years. But observers cited as apparent causes of death: lack of historical knowledge, medical and scientific disinformation akin to […]

Tennessee State Capitol (Photograph: John Partipilo)

Commentary: A Modest Proposal for the General Assembly,

By: - April 21, 2021

I have a modest proposal to make. Why does Tennessee need 95 counties? Think of the efficiencies to be gained by consolidating them into one county. Why does Tennessee need general sessions courts, circuit courts – civil and criminal at that – chancery courts, appellate courts and a supreme court, not to mention the state […]

Patient Annette Hanna-Campbell, 72, gets the vaccine from Medical Assistant Molly Flores. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Commentary: COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy requires out-of-silo thinking

By: - March 26, 2021

Disappointing but not surprising that the muddled public health messaging from the Lee administration is now playing out in low rates of vaccination in many rural Tennessee counties. Moreover, Tennessee Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey is warning of signs of another surge and saying the state is conducting market research to figure out a public […]

Thousands of President Donald Trump's supporters storm the U.S. Capitol building following a "Stop the Steal" rally on Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington, D.C. The protesters stormed the historic building, breaking windows and clashing with police. Trump supporters had gathered in the nation's capital to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory over Trump in the 2020 election. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Commentary: Personal responsibility? Any Tennessee Republican leader ready?

By: - January 11, 2021

“Personal responsibility” is a favorite slogan for Tennessee Republican political leaders. Until it comes to their own words and actions. After the mob attack on the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday Tennessee GOP leaders issued their obligatory statements of condemnation.   U.S. Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty said:  “Yesterday was a shocking day of lawlessness… Last […]

Screenshot from WZTV Fox 17 story on ad.

Commentary: McNally must do the right thing

By: - October 16, 2020

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally once risked his political career to do the right thing. It’s time for him to take that risk again. In the late 1980s, McNally, an Oak Ridge Republican, helped the FBI, as part of Operation Rocky Top, expose political corruption in state government by wearing a wire and recording efforts to […]

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander

Commentary: Et tu, Lamar?

By: - September 22, 2020

Perhaps, it’s only fitting that Sen. Lamar Alexander be the one to bury the Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr. tradition of statesmanship, a tradition more reviled than remembered by today’s Tennessee Republican Party. Less than 24 hours after praising the “decency” of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Alexander jumped on the Mitch McConnell bandwagon, […]

Tennessee State Capitol (Getty Images)

Commentary: Time for the General Assembly to act on powers equal to governor

By: - August 24, 2020

So, it appears revolutionary fervor is sweeping the Tennessee General Assembly, and there is a move afoot to reign in the tyrannical Gov. Bill Lee. Last week an ad-hoc committee of the legislature held its first hearing to determine if the governor is abusing his powers with the executive orders he has issued to respond […]