Call it wishful thinking, if you will, but we detect increasing energy toward finding an end to the Washington stalemate that has led the federal government to cease nonessential services and to the brink of being unable to pay its bills.
This flicker of hope is not brought on by any sudden fit of conscience by members of Congress, but rather the realization that the public is unhappy about both the government shutdown and the talk of default. The anger is so strong, in fact, that both parties are feeling the heat.
Even Karl Rove, the GOP's uber political operative, on Wednesday cited a CNN poll that found 63 percent of the voters were angry -- not just disappointed or frustrated, but angry -- with Republicans because of the government shutdown. The same poll revealed that 57 percent were also angry at the Democrats and that 53 percent were angry at President Barack Obama as well.
One thing politicians can do is read a poll and those kind of numbers have members of both parties worrying about voter backlash next year.
We think that is why Obama invited the Republicans to the White House on Thursday and why leaders in the GOP began floating the idea of a short-term, no-strings-attached raising of the nation's debt-ceiling limit. The respite would be brief, to be sure, but it would be welcome all the same.
But by far the most encouraging sign of progress on the federal fiscal front is that former vice presidential candidate and House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan has injected himself into the discussion through an op-ed that appeared in The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.
In that piece, Ryan advances the notion that the deadlock is not really about shuttering government or even the nation's new health law. He argues that those things are merely manifestations of much larger issues that must be tackled by the Congress and the president.
Ryan insists that for the nation to move forward, both sides must agree to engage in a good-faith effort to reform the nation's entitlement programs, as well as its tax code. He says that doing so is an opportunity to pay down the national debt and jump-start the economy.
It is important to note that none of this is radical; both Republicans and Democrats have acknowledged similar beliefs at one time or another, albeit from different perspectives.
Whatever one may think of Ryan's ideas, he offers both sides an escape route from the respective corners they have painted themselves into. All that remains is to see if each side has enough sense to be rescued.