When Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said last week: “I would rather have (constituents) complaining to me that I voted wrong on nominating somebody than saying I’m not doing my job,” we stood ready to applaud him.

After all, there simply aren’t many Republican senators showing interest in providing advice and consent on President Barack Obama’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, Merrick Garland. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made it clear he has no intention of scheduling a hearing while this president is in office.

Last week at a small town hall meeting in Cimarron, Moran expressed his thoughts about Obama’s nominee to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Moran made it clear he likely would vote against promoting Garland from chief judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

“I can’t imagine the president has or will nominate somebody that meets my criteria,” Moran said in what appeared to be following McConnell’s scripted opposition.

But there was more. As reported in the Garden City Telegram, Moran continued: “But I have my job to do. I think the process ought to go forward.”

We thought Kansas’ junior senator appeared unwilling to go along with the majority crowd and obliterate the Senate’s record for voting on a Supreme Court nominee. To date, the body has never taken more than 125 days — and Obama has more than 300 days remaining in office.

We also thought Moran might have been listening to national polls suggesting almost two-thirds of Americans support Garland getting a hearing and a vote.

But then came the immediate and forceful rebuke from far-right groups throughout the country. Furious press releases were received at The Hays Daily News, along with likely every other newspaper in the nation.

“This is a perfect example as to why conservative activists have no faith in their elected officials,” said Adam Brandon, CEO of FreedomWorks. “Statements like these … send a signal that Republicans will sell out their principles when it becomes politically convenient to do so.”

FreedomWorks, incidentally, states one of its own aims is to advocate for the principle of the rule of law.

Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund Chairman Jenny Beth Martin said: “Grassroots activists in Kansas and across the country are furious that Senator Jerry Moran has decided to join President Obama in denying them a voice in the next Supreme Court Justice with their votes in November. … We hope Sen. Moran will reconsider and stand with Kansans and the American people, rather than President Obama and his liberal allies.”

The chief counsel of the Judicial Crisis Network, Carrie Severino, offered: “Caving into President Obama, who wants to create a liberal-dominated Supreme Court as part of his legacy, is not serving the people of Kansas.”

All three groups strongly hinted Moran might get heretofore unanticipated opposition during the Republican primary election this summer.

These ultraconservative groups unabashedly prefer gridlock over governance — and apparently have little respect for the Constitution they say they cherish.

Moran, on the other hand, earned his law degree at the University of Kansas. He also learned common sense growing up in Plainville and residing in Hays for years.

And, as he told the Rotary Club in Cimarron, he wants to do his job.

Which is precisely why he should ignore the Traditional Values Coalition assertion he pulled “a Judas-style betrayal against Christian conservatives” and linked “arms with radical opponents of our Second Amendment rights, and cementing the Obama legacy of gay marriage, unaffordable health care, and the precise opposite of everything Justice Antonin Scalia stood for.”

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Before the furor even subsided, however, Moran’s office issued another press release. This one was unequivocal.

“I am opposed to President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee and this administration’s attempt to put another liberal judge on the Supreme Court,” the statement reads.

So much for wanting to do his job. Having a hearing is worthless if one’s mind already is made up.

Whether walking back his original statement in this manner is enough to prevent his own party from running a candidate against him in the primary remains to be seen.

The retraction does, however, close the door on a majority of constituents who simply would like Moran and his colleagues to get on with their constitutional duty to give the president’s nominee a hearing. We were hoping the senator saw us as the ones he worked for — not the special interest groups.

Apparently we were wrong.

plowry@dailynews.net

Editorial by Patrick Lowry