(Memphis) News Channel 3 invited a Democrat and a Republican to watch the state of the union at our studios.
Frank Colvett Jr., the treasurer of the TN Republican Party was our GOP guest. Steve Mulroy, University of Memphis professor and Shelby County Commissioner, was our Democratic guest.
Even before the president began speaking, the two sparred over gun control.
"This is a guy who could pick up the phone, call his buddies in Hollywood, and say these movies are easily desensitizing our children," Colvett said.
Mulroy responded, "These games are bad, but if you took games, mental health and gun control, I think games would be at the bottom of the list of what's responsible for the high body count."
But Obama didn't touch the subject of guns until the end of the speech.
Meanwhile, the most heated debate involved the national budget.
"It's got to be a balanced approach," said Mulroy. "It can't just all be spending cuts."
On the other side, Colvett said Obama's plan lacked details. He worried for businesses, saying the answer is in producing incentives for hiring.
"You raise taxes like California and New York, and watch the businesses run away. Wrong answer," Colvett said.
"What [Obama] did was return taxes to the Clinton-era level, when we had eight years of unprecedented prosperity. No one ran away. We increased jobs," Mulroy said.
Both agreed immigration reform needed to happen, but the difficulty will be in the details of how to solve the problem.
While Colvett said that Obama failed to act on the issue in his first four years, Mulroy accused Republicans of blocking the president's proposals.
Listening to Obama's points on climate change, Colvett said that he did not believe the phenomenon is proven.
"I want this on the record now," Mulroy said. "Because in a couple of years, you're all going to have to eat crow on this climate change stuff. Because it's getting harder and harder to deny the evidence."
Right away, PolitiFact sent out a tweet, clarifying that most scientists agree global warming is driven by human activity: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2011/aug/14/tim-pawlenty/do-scientists-disagree-about-global-warming/
But perhaps the one issue both men said could be solved with bipartisan cooperation was education. Obama talked about working with states to create universal pre-K for children.
No one disputes that early preparation leads to future success. Preschool and kindergarten have also recently been the focus of Shelby County education discussions.
After the speech was over, Colvett accused Obama of giving an hour of "happy talk" full of empty promises.
While Mulroy said the speech was "great," Colvett called it "hollow."
Colvett said the main problem is still the economy. "You create a free market society. You encourage the free market."
Mulroy responded, saying Colvett hadn't mentioned "a specific magic bullet solution yet. It's very easy to sit here and Monday morning quarterback, and say he's not doing enough."