So I went away for a few days (thanks again to Martin Longman for his guest blogging!) and came back to exactly the same situation in Washington: a fiscal year-end mess in which House and Senate Republicans cannot agree on which destructive if ultimately symbolic gesture they wish to pursue.

I’m not sure who’s the biggest villain of this melodrama: Ted Cruz for threatening his fellow Senate Republicans with hellfire from “the base” if they don’t filibuster the “defund Obamacare” House-passed spending bill he and his friends intimidated John Boehner into passing (long story short: a cloture vote would allow Reid to reinsert Obamacare funding by a majority vote); or Boehner himself, not only for going along with the “defund Obamacare” lunacy, but for quietly and persistently maneuvering to replace it with a debt limit bill that’s even crazier and more dangerous.

I normally enjoy intra-Republican battles that expose the fundamental fact that they are mostly over strategy and tactics rather than what these birds actually want to do to the rest of us. But this time the competitive grandstanding is too dishonest and the collateral damage is too high. What’s really bizarre is the effort (by Cruz at least) to pretend that Obama and/or congressional Democrats are responsible for risking a government shutdown or a debt default because they are (so far) refusing to make major concessions to the party that does not control the White House or the Senate. This cynical gambit needs to be mocked relentlessly. If Republicans evade total responsibility for the chaos currently gripping Washington, it will be a historic injustice. They lost the 2012 elections, and consequently their activists want to pitch a hissy fit and kick over as much furniture as possible. I wish someone could design a video game where they could work out their frustrations and recommit themselves to the imagined America of the distant past without ruining the neighborhood.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.