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Campaign 2016: CSUF Experts React to First Presidential Debate

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Presidential nominees Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump pecked at each other’s positions on jobs, race relations and taxes on the wealthy in the first of three presidential debates, prompting comments from Cal State Fullerton faculty members, including those who joined nearly 150 other campus members to watch the televised action Monday in the underground pub of the Titan Student Union.

Faculty members also judged the debate live on the University’s Presidential Debate Portal. They’ll offer live comments again during the Oct. 4 Vice Presidential Debate and the Oct. 19 Presidential Debate.

Here are some reactions to Monday’s debate.

What are your top takeaways?  

“On the issue of the economy, Trump and Clinton both spoke to their supporters and made an effective case based on their sincere policy differences. That was clearly the most substantive area of the debate. Trump’s strongest area was his populist appeal on the trade deals like NAFTA, with specific appeals to the swing states of Ohio and Michigan. After that part, the debate was a clear victory for Hillary Clinton. She remained poised, energetic and more passionate than most people typically view her on a wide range of policy issues, including ones directed specifically at millennials. She also baited her opponent into becoming undisciplined and off message. His answer about temperament, Obama’s birth certificate and his weak response to her critique of his treatment of women were definite low points.” — Stephen Stambough, professor of political science

“It is by now clear that Donald Trump has less in the way of substantive ideas than almost any other candidate in recent memory. He can’t cite sources. He can’t keep track of pronouns. He has flipped on more issues than any politician has flipped on before, most spectacularly the Obama birth certificate issue.

“It is equally clear that none of these things matter to his supporters, and the only remaining issue is whether it will matter to the rest of us.” — Jon Bruschke, professor of human communication studies

Who won?

“Clinton did her job. I’m not sure I would say she ‘excelled.’ Trump did a better job than he has done; he clearly disciplined himself to call Clinton ‘Secretary Clinton’ every time, instead of ‘Hillary’ or ‘Crooked Hillary’ as he is known to do in his speeches, tweets and media interviews.

“However, that’s grading Trump on a curve. At the end of the day, Clinton had a better debate, while Trump had the same bag of tricks. I don’t think it will matter much; these are two very well-known figures. No Trump supporters saw anything to make them reconsider last night; nor did any Clinton voters.” — Matthew Jarvis, associate professor of political science

Did either candidate show improvement in areas of previous weakness; enough to motivate voters?

“There was really nothing new to see in the debate. These are their styles — Clinton is prepared; Trump shoots from the hip. Combined with his repeated use of ‘stamina,’ Clinton’s attack on Trump’s ‘fat-shaming’ of a former Miss Universe winner, Trump’s continued attacking of this Miss Universe winner this morning and Trump not contesting his history of — to use a term generously — not-female- friendly comments, I think that undecided women might have gotten pushed toward Clinton last night.” — Matthew Jarvis, associate professor of political science

How did the candidates handle the question about improving race relations?

“I feel that Trump’s emphasis on ‘law and order’ only reinforces the divide between African-Americans and Latinos, and law enforcement. It also draws upon subtle and yet palpable racial insecurities for many whites, especially those with with less education, in the lower-income quintiles. Clinton, on the other hand, had an economic program focused on jobs, education and a criminal justice agenda focused on policing reforms rather than more punishment. These differences will resonate with African-American and Latino voters, as well as with liberal white voters.” — Scott Spitzer, associate professor of political science

Climate Change: A Hoax or Real?

The issue of climate change was brought up by Clinton, charging, “Donald thinks that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese (referencing Trump’s November 2012 tweet). I think it’s real … the science is real.”

“Global warming (climate change) is real. The prospect of the president of the United States — the leader of the most influential country in the world — dismissing science is terrifying. What’s next? Using magic to cure cancer? Trump’s level of anti-intellectualism (and use of faulty reasoning to ‘support’ his ideas) is simply unacceptable for a person who intends to speak for America.” — Matthew E. Kirby, professor of geological sciences, who studies past climates

“Trump has demonstrated that facts and evidence are irrelevant if they do not support his personal views, so it’s not surprising that he is unwilling to address climate change. His reply, ‘We invested in a solar company, our country. That was a disaster,’ implies that we are unable to fix old problems, as if the technology is stagnant. Every leader in the world should be thinking about the future in anticipation of how much it is going to change, recognizing that they can’t even imagine what those changes may be. I was glad to hear that Clinton thinks climate change is real and needs to be dealt with, but renewable energy is only one of the many things we can do to address climate change.” — Darren R. Sandquist, professor of biological science

Who’s Behind Cyberattacks?

“State-sponsored hacking activities of Chinese, Russians, and others are well- known for targeting U.S. systems. China, in fact, had integrated cyberattacks involving the theft of intellectual property into its overall economy, as the research shows. Now, the reason why state-sponsored hacking is so successful has partly to do with the fact that the state of our cybersecurity in the U.S. is very abysmal — due to companies simply failing to secure their systems and the carelessness of employees. One employee opening an infected email attachment could be the only thing that is needed to get into the company’s networks. Whether Clinton or Trump is correct on ‘whodunit’ is hard to say. The bigger and more important question here is: How do we stop these people who have the capability to sabotage our elections? This is a problem we are hoping to help address here at the Center for Cybersecurity — through education, research and outreach.” — Mikhail Gofman, assistant professor of computer science and director of CSUF’s Center for Cybersecurity

Other Campaign 2016 stories: 
Secretary of State Alex Padilla Joins CSUF’s Efforts to Register Young Voters
The Millennial Vote
Political Experts Discuss the Possibility of a Brokered GOP Convention
CSUF Experts Use New Campus Website to Judge Presidential Candidates During Live Debates
Campus Political Science Experts Say Fear Drives Voters