Heidi Ad: Robert Trefethren’s Other Son — The College Student
This election season, we have been inundated with countless political ads from both sides of the political spectrum; so many that it is often hard to keep straight what is reality and what is false drama, hype, or outright lie. Just yesterday, the Heidi Heitkamp campaign was embarrassed by the revelation that advertising run by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee regarding Representative Rick Berg’s relationship with Goldmark was found not to be factual, and thus pulled by several broadcast stations running it in North Dakota.
A popular genre of political advertising used by both sides is the old reliable “Average Joe or Jane”, that guy or gal who has a family supposedly just like ours and faces the same challenges in life we do. We are supposed to be able to relate to this new friend we get to know for roughly 33 seconds on our screen, and see that their reasoning for promoting their candidate should be ours too. The Heitkamp campaign’s own advertising has used this genre extensively, but Berg has plenty of similar type messaging.
What is not always understood is often times this “Average Joe or Jane” is either a party hack, or somehow closely tied to one. Such facts don’t always come to light because people want to believe the Average Joe or Jane is truly sincere — nothing necessarily says they are not — and the other side won’t always go after the story told in 33 seconds by Average Joe or Jane out of fear of alienating all their new “friends”. That is probably why this genre has been so popular on both sides for so long.
A case in point is the saga of Robert Trefethren, a truck driver from Fargo, ND. The Heitkamp campaign began featuring his story on September 21st in an ad entitled “Explain“. Rob (as in Port; there are a few Robs which need to be kept straight in this story) even wrote up a post on how this ad plays on class envy to get your vote (which it does).
The script of the ad reads:
Robert Trefethren: Morning boys. I’m proud of my boys. I went straight from high school to driving a semi. They want to go to college. But without college aid, we can’t afford it.
Robert Trefethren: Rick Berg is worth $24 million. But voted to cut college aid to pay for a tax break for millionaires like himself.
Robert Trefethren: I’d like him to try and explain that to my sons.
Heidi Heitkamp: I’m Heidi Heitkamp and I approved this message because no one should miss out on college to pay for a millionaire’s tax break.
Now on the surface, you can’t help but not like this guy. If he is your neighbor, you just want to believe he would be the first to come over and help you move a new couch into your house. He maybe coached Little League for his boys and yours too. He drives a truck, and no one can argue he probably works hard in that respect. But, because of that likability factor, we just don’t want to ask him the following questions:
“Hey Rob , what have YOU done to better ensure your boys can will have the money they need to attend college?
Did you save any money yourself? Maybe set up an Educational Savings Account for each one?
How about your boys? What responsibility have they taken for themselves to go to college? Have they been saving money? Have they considered maybe joining the military? How about going out to oil country and working hard a few years? They could probably make what they need out there to pay cash, and not become part of the Student Loan bubble burst looming on the horizon. You do realize most aid is in the form of loans you will have to pay back, right? You also realize that a big reason why higher education costs are skyrocketing is because assistance has been so accessible?
They need truck drivers out west. They are making some good money. Ever thought about working out there, even from time to time?
We don’t know because it seems to us, based on your commercial, that you had NO PLAN to take care of something which you obviously feel is important for your boys, and was very much yours and their responsibility.
Oh, sorry, just one more question, and I’m sorry to sound like Columbo when I say that. How did your son Robby, the one not seen or mentioned in that commercial, manage to go to Minnesota State University – Moorhead (MSUM)?”
Now, the younger Robert Trefethren’s (Robby) existence is actually not much of a secret. He was featured in the previously-mentioned SayAnythingBlog article penned by Rob, and the fact that Robby is a Democratic operative was discussed then, as well as in this article from The Hill. Robby has even worked as a state intern for Senator Kent Conrad and also as a field organizer with the Democratic-NPL Party of North Dakota in Fargo.
But what is not apparent is the fact that young Robby, the son not seen on the Heitkamp ad, IS going to college. According to his May wedding announcement, he is a PoliSci major at MSUM who wants to move on to law school or earn a master’s degree in public policy. In his off time he even likes to hang out with Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar
These are all great ambitions, and there is nothing wrong with any of it. But if the elder Rob is so concerned about his other boy’s going to college, how did Robby get there — and find himself in a position where he can consider moving on to law or graduate school?
Maybe the answer to that would not conveniently fit in a 33 second ad, but even if there is a good one, nothing would trump the very fact that obtaining a college education is supposed to be a personal responsibility. Unfortunately, it has now become an expectation, and thus to too many kids and parents, an entitlement they feel is owed them.
Unfortunately, the Heitkamp campaign is all too willing to precipitate the expectation through promises of higher education as an entitlement versus something worked for. As for Mr. Trefethren, if your other two boys can’t go to college, Rick Berg doesn’t owe them an explanation as you say in the ad. You do.Tags: big government, Domestic Issues, Economy, election 2012, Heidi Heitkamp, higher education, national debt, North Dakota News, Politics, Rick Berg