The New York Times sums it perfectly in this editorial today, Congress's Midnight Frenzy....
The sight of Congress and President Bush intruding into the sufferings of the Schiavo family was appalling. Washington had years to properly consider the agonizing dilemmas that cases like this one raise for uncounted, less publicized American families. But the Republican leadership did nothing until the issue ripened to a maximum moment for simplistic political exploitation.
Most Americans appreciate the complicated and sensitive concerns at stake here far better than the politicians. Whatever the range of opinion on the underlying issue, polls show that the public recoiled at the sight of elected officials racing to make hay of this family's private pain.
Those findings only underline the hubris of the House majority leader, Tom DeLay, and the other G.O.P. leaders. Their egregious pandering was directed not at the bulk of the populace, but at their base vote among the evangelical and fundamentalist conservatives who have been demanding greater deference since working to deliver Republican victories last year.
The political timidity of potential opponents was woeful. No one dared even demand debate in the Senate. In the House, many opponents seemed simply to prefer to stay away. Arguments against the bill were led by Florida Democrats, who had the most reason to be offended by Congress's crude overriding of state government.
Sanctimonious rhetoric rang out about the value of each individual life even as a strategy memo was reported circulating among G.O.P. lawmakers cynically relishing the points to be scored with the right-to-life political machine in next year's elections. The rush to save Terri Schiavo was mixed with the urge to get rid of Senator Bill Nelson, the Florida Democrat who faces re-election next year.