Sometimes I think there is nothing that politicians in Washington enjoy more than accusing their opponents of “playing politics” with an issue. (I mean other than a good junket to the Bahamas, of course.) Every time the fists start flying, that’s the first thing you hear. “Why, Senator Porkbelly is playing politics with this matter!” Cue the horrified gasps.

Democrats said it about Republicans this week as the budget battle roared, and the GOP hurled that mudball right back. But accusing a politician of playing politics is like accusing a rabbit of running, or a bear of doing whatever it is they actually do in the woods — it is the nature of the beast.

And the fact that politicians constantly choose this particular insult offers a weird insight into how they must see themselves. Think about it. Would you attack your auto mechanic by saying he was playing with the engine? “Hey Farmer Bob, don’t go getting all farm-y on me!” See? It doesn’t even make sense.

I realize what pols mean, of course. When one says another is “playing politics” he means, “That untrustworthy, self-serving bonehead is only looking out for his re-election plans; while I, a veritable paragon of virtue, am sacrificing my sleep, my family and my very sinew in the high-minded pursuit of the common good. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must get back to my daily reading of the Constitution, or I’ll be late for my volunteer shift at the soup kitchen.”

But you don’t have to hang around Capitol Hill long to realize they’re pretty much all playing politics. It’s how they got here. And to be honest, a lot of voters wouldn’t have it any other way. We get into this game also. When an elected leader pushes for something we want, we call it reasonable, smart, good governance. If he opposes our wishes, we too are quick to say he is “playing politics.”

The real complaint, I sometimes suspect, is not that politicians are playing politics; but that “mine” are not playing hard enough to win.

–CNN’s Tom Foreman is a regular on “AC360°”/ and “The Situation Room.”