07/17/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

In Praise of Barney Frank's Flip on the Iran Blockade Resolution

It's amazing how many people who should know better get sucked in by the corporate media's obsession with "flip-flops." The corporate media love this frame, because if someone said last year that two and two is five, and today they say it's four, you can nail them for "flip-flopping" without exposing yourself to criticism by trying to verify how much two and two is.

But it's not obvious why anyone else should buy into it. If a politician had a bad position, and they've changed that to a good position as a result of public pressure, that's a good thing, and we should sing their praises, in the hope that they will be joined by others. Come on over to our side. You'll be much happier over here.

As Keynes said: "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?"

Let us therefore praise Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts.

Frank is one of more than 200 Members of the House of Representatives who have co-sponsored a resolution (HConRes 362) heavily promoted by AIPAC that effectively calls for a blockade of Iran, an act of war.

But when peace activists complained, he did something that, to my knowledge (and I eagerly look forward to being corrected), none of those other Members of Congress have done.

He publicly admitted that he was wrong.

Last week, Frank told the Northampton Massachusetts Valley Advocate:

"I'm all for stricter sanctions against Iran, but the blockade part goes too far... I'm going to call the sponsors and tell them I'm changing my vote."

In a letter to an activist from Peace Action, Frank wrote:

I thank you for contacting me about language in the resolution regarding Iran that calls for a blockade of its naval activity. I agree that this should not be our policy, and I regret the fact that I did not read this resolution more carefully. I'm going to consult with the authors to see if a change can be made that would omit this language, and if they are unwilling to do that, I will make very clear my disagreement with this in the most appropriate form. I am grateful to those who called this to my attention. I apologize again for not having read this more carefully.

I do support sanctions against Iran and I disagree with those who think that sanctions are inappropriate. I believe that sanctions appropriately done can have an impact on the behavior of countries whose behavior ought to be changed. The fact that our European allies, and even Russia and China, have agreed with us on the sanctions I think is a testimony to the legitimacy of this approach. But I repeat that I do think we should have a very clear distinction between sanctions and military action or the threat of it, and the blockade clearly falls on the wrong side of that line, so I will be making clear my opposition to that.

This country urgently needs more Members of Congress like Barney Frank, who are willing to state forthrightly that they made a mistake. You can ask your Representative to stand with Barney Frank here.

UPDATE: Rep. Robert Wexler also says the Iran resolution must change, in a Huffington Post blog here.