The long-distance telephone hookup with author Isaac Asimov kept going on the blink, but Pete Boyles, ace drive-time talk-show host of radio station KNUS ("The Talk of the Rockies"), was unfazed. Having lost his scheduled guest, Boyles segued to the unscheduled topic that has kept his phone lines ringing for weeks, the only thing his Thursday morning listeners wanted to talk about.

"The more I listen to this colonel, the more I believe him," the first caller said, and with that the debate was joined.

"About 15 years from now, when Central America goes down the tubes, I'm going to have the names of all these senators in a notebook," growled Ron of North Denver. "I'm going to remember that they hounded this guy North because he was trying to prevent a tragedy down there."

"I want to know why they don't ask North about the drug money," retorted Gene, from the eastern suburbs. "Why don't they ask why we had to make these drug-runners and murderers down there our allies?"

"Yeah, but they are going easy on North," responded a listener three calls later. "They haven't followed up on the stuff that guy Rob{ert W.} Owen said about North a few weeks ago."

A short way up the AM dial, the talk show hosts at station KOA were surveying their listeners. Fully 88 percent of the respondents said they thought North was telling Congress the truth this time. Nearly two-thirds agreed that North is a "hero." Only 11 percent said he was "overzealous."

Back at KNUS, Boyles finally got his connection with Asimov, who chatted awhile in his charming way. But when Boyles went back to the phone lines, callers were still fixated on North.

"I think it's disgraceful the way Congress is going after that young man," said an elderly caller from Colorado Springs. "I could get 25 years for my contempt of Congress, the way I feel right now."

"I really don't think I trust this North," came the rebuttal, from a Denver woman named Bev. "When he says, 'I'm not sorry for what I did,' well, what the hey? Who can believe him now?"

"All in all, he made a good showing for himself," Boyles said at the end of the hour. "The real liberals, they still won't believe him. And the conservatives are strong for him. But among the sort of moderate types in the middle, he's won over a lot of people this week."