As if teetering over the Fiscal Cliff last December and trying to stop Sequestration were not enough, the just-averted federal government shutdown shows that finding common ground in these polarized times is the real challenge of our elected leadership. It has been so since then-future president James Madison talked about Factions in Federalist #10 in the early days of our Republic—and the outlook is not good in the months ahead.

The political point-scoring and our charged ideological bases that call for purity over pragmatism are contributing factors, and often are the enemy of thoughtful policymaking. Even things as simple as calling for living within our means and going after waste, fraud and abuse (WFA) find no safe harbor in some political storms.  It should not be that way and we are left wondering: “Is it us, the system we inherited, the leaders we elect, or a combination thereof?”

Just as we can all agree with then-presidential candidate Barack Obama that Ronald Reagan was a transformational president, so we can also draw inspiration from others before him like Harry Truman who ascended to the Vice Presidency (and ultimately the Presidency) in part because of a commitment to rooting out waste, fraud and abuse. Politicians of all convictions should embrace it especially when our national attention is so focused on debt issues and the long-term sustainability of the country we love. It will not solve all of the fiscal challenges that confront us but it would show seriousness to American taxpayers that every dollar is accounted for.

Nineteen ninety-two was the first election I could vote in and while balancing a full-time job and going to school at night, I volunteered on one of the presidential campaigns. Some might remember Ross Perot’s “Here’s the Deal” infomercials, Bill Clinton playing the saxophone on the Arsenio Hall show or comedian Dana Carvey’s impersonation of George H.W. Bush. Oddly enough, what I remember most during that cycle was the release of David McCullough’s Truman. I was impressed with how such a plainspoken man with Midwest, salt-of-the-earth values could guide America through tough times and still speak to us decades later. I learned what a haberdashery was and also of the Pendergast political machine. What really stood out, however, was how his investigation of U.S. war production gave him a national profile and also committed his party, the Democrats, to looking into waste and inefficiency.

The bipartisan “Senate Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program” was formed 68 years ago and lead by the Missouri Senator. Known as the Truman Committee, it was one of the most successful investigative efforts ever launched by our government and is estimated to have saved $10 to $15 billion in military spending and the lives of thousands serving in uniform. What is remarkable is that even with over 400 hearings, close to 1,800 witnesses and almost 2,000 pages, every committee report was unanimous—meaning bipartisan support.

Much to the chagrin of many Americans, the unthinkable sequester cuts have been implemented—risking our military, economy, job creation, and more. A short-term funding bill was approved and signed by the White House—thus averting a government shutdown—but it still locks in the across-the-board spending cuts through the end of September. It is hoped that in the next few months, part of the solution is a bipartisan commitment to rooting out WFA in all areas of spending—defense, entitlements, etc. It would not solve our debt problem or the major contributing factors but it would send a message to the American people that our leaders can work together and put country ahead of petty politics. Let’s also hope the White House and Congress can work out a sequestration compromise that honors our 33rd president’s WFA legacy. It also just so happens that the USS Harry Truman and its 3,360 officers are on the front line of the fiscal gridlock battle.

Edward Headington is the owner of Headington Media Group and a Fox & Hounds Daily contributor. A version of this originally appeared in the Santa Clarita Valley Signal