First, obviously, it forced the Senate to agree to finally investigate the massaged and/or bogus Iraq War intelligence, after stonewalling the investigation for over two years.
Second, it shows the American people that the Democrats are serious about the Republicans' ongoing dismissal of critical national security matters, even if Republicans like Frist and Roberts have proven over the last two years they aren't trustworthy or responsible about pursuing them. And that Democrats are also dead serious about the Iraq War, and investigating any frauds or manipulations used to send us into the quagmire.
It absolutely nails the Republicans to the wall on Plamegate. President Bush, the Senate, and now the entire nation knows that senior administration official Scooter Libby, chief of staff to the Vice President, was the first administration official to leak the name of a covert CIA agent to the press, in retaliation for her husband's political stance. And we now know that Rove was the second, and that the two had some conversations as to Plame's status and what they were telling reporters about it.
And yet Bush didn't fire either one of them. He allowed Libby to resign after being indicted for obstructing the further investigation into the White House leaks. And Rove remains by his side today, while the investigation continues.
Today, by demanding a response to Senate obstruction efforts, Reid squarely brought the national discourse back to the ongoing now-criminal obstruction efforts in the White House -- a criminal obstruction that had in the last days been made into a talking point praised by Republicans as a Republican victory over the investigation. And it masterfully highlights the fundamental dishonesty of a Republican Senate with no intentions of getting to the bottom of either of them. Frist squealed like a stuck pig at even the mere thought of having to discuss either matter.
It completely disrupted and short-circuited the nasty, Swift Boat hackery of the Republicans attempting to defend the far-right Judge Sam Alito. The Republican spin machine isn't the only group capable of setting the parameters of the national debate.
Perhaps most importantly, it fires a huge warning shot into the Republican efforts to break Senate rules to disallow filibusters. Remember, Reid did similar parliamentary moves during the last discussion of Senate-busting "nuclear" rule changes by Republicans. So this is just a little punch to say "You want to mess with the rules? We can make your legislative lives into an unworkable living hell, if you're not willing to play by the rules. Think about whether you want to fire those shots."
That is, in fact, why it was called the Nuclear Option by the original Republicans to propose it... because the Senate revolves around the basic comity of allowing the majority party to set the debate. But that's not because of the rules -- it's because of the gentlemen's agreement of the minority party. If the Senate goes nuclear, bye-bye gentlemen's agreement. Bye-bye to the ability of the Republicans to set the terms of legislation.
And finally, it made Bill Frist look like an utter amateur. Whining like a stuck pig, Frist made it perfectly clear that he isn't nearly the political tactician his lockstep demands for party loyalty require him to be. Today, Reid made Frist look like a complete fool -- actually, Frist mainly did it all by himself. This further weakens him and his own hold on his party.
But looking for a way of a very deep dark isn't easy for those who may actually like it there.