I weighed the pros and cons of hiring Fred Davis and concluded I didn't have much choice. Don't misunderstand me, it was my decision to make, bottom line, but I felt like I was being pulled in this one direction. My advisors wanted me to go one way, while I wanted to go another, so I tried to look at the decision qualitatively. Fred was the choice of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and we hoped going with their guy would be a gesture of good faith. He did good work; he was available immediately, and perhaps most important was that a big part of the pitch was that his production company almost always brought his clients a double- digit bump in the polls. And we needed a double- digit bump. So what did I do? I ignored my gut, listened to my advisors, crossed my fingers, and hoped like crazy this guy would put us ahead. The moment I did, I regretted it. I started thinking of Ronald Reagan, one of my all- time political heroes, a guy who didn't always listen to his closest counsel. You see, all great leaders know when to ignore those advisors and follow their own instincts instead. It's a delicate balance, and President Reagan managed it quite heroically with his landmark speech at the Berlin Wall. Historians recall that key members of Reagan's staff urged him not to utter the words that would become one of the most memorable phrases of his presidency: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"
Reportedly, that one line was cut from and restored to the president's speech a number of times. For the most part, the advisors were doing the cutting, while the president was doing the restoring. Even the State Department warned of global consequences if President Reagan dared to make such a provocative comment in such an important setting. However, according to firsthand accounts, the president took one last look at his prepared remarks as he stood at the podium . . . and he went on his own way. Without telling anyone what he was about to do, he read the speech the way his heart told him to. It wasn't an act of rebellion or defiance so much as one of doing the right thing. He knew how important those six words could be, delivered in just the right way, at just the right moment. And indeed they were: They changed the course of history, and Reagan's monumental speech now marks the beginning of the end of communism.
Now, I'm not suggesting here that the decision before me carried anything like the weight and importance of President Reagan's decision at the Berlin Wall. Not at all. I'm simply saying that in this instance I didn't measure up.
And then— get this!— right after we signed an exclusive, ironclad contract to work with Fred Davis, we learned that the quick turnaround he'd promised wasn't about to happen any time soon. Turned out we couldn't set up our commercial shoot for another week or so, which meant we could have gone with our first- choice production company, Screaming Dime, all along.