I've never known for sure exactly where the cliché started, though it's often attributed to "The West Wing." Faced with a serious challenge, the solution on the television show was to "let Bartlett be Bartlett." The results tended to be more effective when the president was encouraged to just be himself.
I thought about the phrase watching Hillary Clinton accept the Democratic nomination last night, because it's likely she and her team received all kinds of advice about that speech. She was no doubt given an endless stream of tips about what to say and how to say it, but in the end, the candidate and the campaign decided to "let Hillary Clinton be Hillary Clinton."
And it worked like a charm.
It's no secret that Clinton prefers prose to poetry, and she'll never be hailed as a legendary orator, so last night was partly about turning a perceived negative into a positive. Consider:
"It's true, I sweat the details of policy -- whether we're talking about the exact level of lead in the drinking water in Flint, Michigan, the number of mental health facilities in Iowa, or the cost of your prescription drugs. Because it's not just a detail if it's your kid, if it's your family.
"It's a big deal. And it should be a big deal to your president."
Later in her remarks, she noted that in Donald Trump's convention speech, the Republican nominee "offered zero solutions." Clinton added, "[H]e doesn't like talking about his plans. You might have noticed, I love talking about mine."
Clinton was pitching a substantive, solutions-oriented candidacy. Trump may want to revel in post-policy bliss, rejecting wonky details as annoyances to be avoided, but Clinton reminded the nation last night that she actually cares about policy minutiae -- which is something voters should feel good about.
Because by the time the balloons dropped, one thing couldn't have been much clearer: in practically every way that matters, Hillary Clinton, the first woman to ever lead a major-party presidential ticket, is the anti-Trump.
Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian, discusses Hillary Clinton's historic nomination as a cultural milestone, and puts the gap between Clinton and Trump into past political context. watch
Senator Cory Booker discusses how the Hillary Clinton campaign proceeds from the convention against the unconventional campaign style of Donald Trump in what will be an exceptionally long general election. watch
Nicolle Wallace and Steve Schmidt, Republican strategists, talk about how Hillary Clinton's Democratic nomination acceptance speech will resonate with demographic groups beyond the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. watch
Chris Hayes outlines the liberal policy points Hillary Clinton covered in a portion of her Democratic presidential nomination acceptance speech that made up in substance what it lacked in poetry. watch
Joy Reid describes how Hillary Clinton's Democratic nomination acceptance speech managed to absorb some traditionally Republican cues while accepting the more liberal Democratic Party from President Obama. watch
Chris Matthews postulates that the candidacy of Donald Trump has been a good thing for Democrats, reminding them of their American values and pushing them to remind the nation at their convention. watch
Third night in a row that Dems have prominently featured law enforcement officers and their family members at DNC.
An MSNBC panel discusses the additional challenges Hillary Clinton faces as the first female major political party nominee for the presidency of the United States of America in her address to the Democratic National Convention. watch
Launched in 2008, “The Rachel Maddow Show” follows the machinations of policy making in America, from local political activism to international diplomacy. Rachel Maddow looks past the distractions of political theater and stunts and focuses on the legislative proposals and policies that shape American life - as well as the people making and influencing those policies and their ultimate outcome, intended or otherwise.