For one thing, it forces the spotlight off the Alito nomination and back onto the issue of the administration's case for the war in Iraq and, of course, the related matter of the Scooter Libby indictments. Second, it also serves as a nice pre-emptive strike against the Republican "nuclear option" in the Alito fight, a reminder that the Democrats have power in the Senate and they're not afraid to use it. But perhaps best of all, it puts the two parties in strikingly different lights. The Democrats are starting to give evidence of actually having a spine, and the Republicans are crying like a bully who's stunned that someone he's tormented has finally struck back.
Check out these different descriptions of Frist and Reid from the CNN coverage:
Frist said Democrats had "hijacked" the Senate, and Democrats threatened to close the chamber each day until Republicans agreed to move forward with the investigation. "This is an affront to me personally," said Frist, a Tennessee Republican. "This is an affront to our leadership. It is an affront to the United States of America, and it is wrong." ...One party's leader is demanding the answers the country wants and, at long last, actually doing what Congress is supposed to do -- seek accountability from the executive branch. The other is crying because his feelings got hurt. I could get used to this.
Democratic leader Harry Reid said the surprise move was necessary to overcome Republican efforts to "obstruct" a full investigation of how the Bush administration led the United States into war. "There's nothing more important to a Congress or a president than war," the Nevada Democrat said. "I think the American people are entitled to know how we got there. That's what this is all about." ....
Reid said the GOP leadership in Congress has "repeatedly chosen to protect the Republican administration rather than get to the bottom of what happened and why." He said he had "zero regret" about the move: "The American people had a victory today."