Buck talks gays, dope and student loans off camera at CU

BOULDER– GOP U.S. Senate candidate Ken Buck Wednesday met with Colorado College Republicans at the Colorado University campus here. He reiterated the wide-brush small-government fiscal-conservative positions he has articulated on the stump for the last year, dipping only lightly into social issues and policy specifics during a question and answer session. Nevertheless, Buck pointed out a Democratic Party tracker at the back of the room and asked that all videos be turned off after his introductory remarks.

“You see the guy in the back with the blue shirt on? He’s got a hidden microphone and he works for the Democratic Party and he usually films me wherever I go. Luckily all the cameras are turned off today,” said Buck.

College Republican President Gregory Calrson then approached media, including the Colorado Independent, and requested video taping stop.

The campaign of Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet released an ad called “Who is Ken Buck?” that uses video and sound bites from speaking events to make the case that Buck is too extreme to represent independent voters. Buck rode a wave of far-right tea party support to win a primary contest against former Lt Gov. Jane Norton last month.

Buck told the crowd here he would work to raise no new taxes, shrink federal government, assert state rights, oppose environmental regulations– particularly those meant to address climate change– increase energy independence by expanding domestic drilling, nuclear power and market-viable renewables and, more vaguely, to “restore American exceptionalism.”

During the Q&A session, students asked his position on the Park51 “ground zero mosque.” Buck said he acknowledged the projects backers’ right to build the mosque but lamented the plan.

“I think it’s somewhat insensitive to build so close to the 9-11 site… But it’s not a federal issue and it’s inappropriate for Senators to weigh in.”

He also told students he backed the military’s “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell” position on gay service members but he seemed to back the policy on a practical level not an ideological level.

“Right now, the policy works. I’m not saying it will never be changed. It probably will be changed. But I’m not sure if we’re ready today.”

Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell detractors such as Colorado Senator Mark Udall have made the exact opposite case regarding the functioning of the policy. In March, Udall championed a push to repeal the policy, telling the Colorado Independent that the facts speak for themselves.

“More than 14,000 service members have been discharged in the last decade. These are jet pilots, translators of Arabic, Farsi, Pashtun-– languages so important in the War on Terror. All the skill sets needed in the military are met by gay Americans.”

He said that the process of identifying gay members and discharging them is costly and counterproductive, that government accountants had estimated that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has cost the country more than $200 million since its implementation.

Buck told students here he would defend Colorado’s right to legalize marijuana. If the citizens of the state passed a law legalizing weed, he said, he would fight federal intervention.

“Even if I don’t agree with the law, the federal government should not interfere,” he said.

Buck also clarified that he does not want to do away with federal loans. He said he opposes recent new legislation that does away with programs where private lenders issue government-guaranteed loans. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the legislation will save taxpayers $61 billion over 10 years. Supporters of the legislation say private lenders have made billions by leaning on the government for security and on students to pay interest and fees. The new legislation takes the bank business out of the process and gives loans directly to students.

At least one College Republican in the audience, who didn’t want to be quoted, said she was relieved to hear Buck didn’t want to do away with federal aid programs.

“I need my student aid,” she said.

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Taran Volckhausen is a freelance journalist who primarily writes about the environment, politics, and drug policy. His work has appeared on National Geographic, Christian Science Monitor, The Intercept, Mongabay, among others. He is also a former editor at Colombia Reports. Twitter: @tvolckhausen

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