Wednesday, March 27, 2002
Steamboat Springs U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., displayed a short fuse Wednesday during a town meeting with Steamboat Springs residents.
Campbell, who served in the Air Force during the Korean War, appeared to lose his temper when a resident questioned him about President Bush's policy on missile defense. Campbell told the man he had too little respect for the military that was fighting to protect his freedom and was aligning himself with "flag burners."
After listening to another resident ask about prescription drug benefits, he said he is tired of people asking the government for help when they can't do things themselves. He quoted John F. Kennedy: "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."
"Boy, I don't know where that went," Campbell said. "What I get at most of my town meetings is, 'What is my country going to do for me?'"
For a politician who switched parties after getting elected, the senator inspired strong feelings among people on both sides of the partisan line in Steamboat.
One part-time resident called Campbell's speech "total partisan drivel."
"He tended to puppet the goals of the party he's currently aligned with," Wayne Arden said.
But Steamboat resident Steve Weinland disagreed, saying he has no question that Campbell is a man of his word and will stand up for what he believes in, regardless of which party he is in.
"Ben Campbell does not vote the party line. He votes his mind," Weinland said.
"I think he's a very fair person. I think he's an open-minded person."
Campbell is making his way across Northwest Colorado this week to talk to residents at town meetings. He is not up for election for a third term until 2004. Campbell used to represent Routt County as a congressman in the Third District.
Campbell voted against the campaign finance bill signed by President Bush Wednesday and said he thinks it may get shot down in the courts because it infringes on free speech.
He said the bill allows people with a lot of money to have an undue advantage when running for office, among other issues.
Campbell is watching the wilderness battle brewing in Northwest Colorado and said he thinks potential wilderness areas must be studied thoroughly before they are designated.
"I'm moving along slowly on new wilderness being put in until we have more (input from local residents)," he said.