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'What the Heck Are You Up To, Mr. President?'

3.78  ·  Rating Details  ·  123 Ratings  ·  23 Reviews
At a critical moment in Jimmy Carter's presidency, he gave a speech that should have changed the country, instead it led to his downfall and ushered in the rise of the Conservative movement in America. Kevin Mattson gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the weeks leading up to the speech, a period of great upheaval in the US: the energy crisis had generated mile-long gas li ...more
ebook, 272 pages
Published July 1st 2009 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published June 23rd 2009)
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Anthony Bergen
(Review originally posted on Dead Presidents)

"What the Heck Are You Up To, Mr. President?": Jimmy Carter, America's "Malaise," and the Speech That Should Have Changed the Country
By Kevin Mattson
Paperback. 263 pages.
2009. Bloomsbury USA

"I just don't want to bullshit the American people."

That was what President Jimmy Carter told aides and speechwriters as he prepared to give his fifth national speech from the Oval Office about the energy crisis that paralyzed the United States in July 1979. As Ca

Jun 30, 2009 Adam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like Jimmy Carter. I really like him. I've even been known to describe him as the best American president. So I expected to like Kevin Mattson's new book about Carter's famous "crisis of confidence" speech. It's got all of its credentials in order: an author who publishes widely in journals of public opinion, a blurb from Michael Kazin, and relevance to the current political situation. Unfortunately, What The Heck Are You Up To, Mr President? falls flat in a number of ways.

Mattson studied unde
Mar 04, 2016 Matthew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really fast read. Much of the Carter administration seems like something Americans store in a repressed state in the deepest pits of their mind. The oil crisis accompanied by the Iran hostage situation, the 70s era of disco and self-love, Vietnam's shadow: all of these things add up to a seemingly impossible segment of American history, especially since Americans bend over backwards to accommodate the Reagan brand name. Where the **** did Lyndon Johnson go?

I liked the book because it gave a real
David Bales
Feb 15, 2010 David Bales rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
An excellent retelling of the events of 1979 built around President Carter's so-called "malaise speech" of July 15th in that year that has been remembered somewhat differently than it was then. Carter's "disaster year" is chronicled month by month, (oil shortages, gaslines, inflation, unemployment, Nicaragua and then Iran) as the president's administration seems to unravel from within, beset by anger on both left and right. Jimmy Carter was a fiscal conservative who enraged the left wing of the ...more
May 11, 2009 Benjy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
I realized reading through this book how little I know about the Carter era -- Reaqan gets a ton of coverage these days and I've always been fascinated by Nixon, but it feels like Carter has kind of been lost to history as a lousy transitional president that no one remembers too fondly. Mattson's book is technically about the famous "malaise" speech, but is more about the horrifying moment that was 1979, when the economy was being destroyed by a gas crisis and, by Mattson's account, society had ...more
Mark Taylor
Aug 19, 2014 Mark Taylor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jimmy Carter had a difficult presidency. During his four years in office, he battled rising unemployment and rising inflation at the same time, an economic oddity called stagflation. He suffered through the Iran hostage crisis, and while he was ultimately able to secure the release of the hostages, they weren’t freed until minutes after Ronald Reagan had taken the oath of office, as a final “fuck you” from Iran to Carter. He had to deal with the 1979 energy crisis, which caused long lines at the ...more
Howard Spinner
Jan 03, 2015 Howard Spinner rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very good read! Pres. Carter gave one of the most important Presidential speeches on our energy policy, self-sacrifice and a citizen's covenant with the government. It was received very well, with citizens asking what they could do to help! However, two days later, Pres Carter accepted the resignations of four Cabinet Secretaries, plunging the stock markets with the nation feeling that the country was adrift, this led to the inevitable election of Ronald Reagan, who dreamt of individual achievem ...more
Jun 21, 2012 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book really caught me off guard, I thought it would be some hokey book that tried to look back at pop culture and connect it to politics, to make for a more interesting read. Mattson doesn't go too deep in pop culture, he uses specific examples that actually shows the mood of the nation. The book covers a very interesting economic period in American history. My view on this time period is that it was one of the worst economic times since the depression (even compared to the great recession ...more
Oct 24, 2010 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the summer of 1979, Jimmy Carter delivered the fateful “Malaise” speech to a seemingly crippled nation. The US economy was handicapped by an endless oil embargo and high inflation coupled with increasing unemployment and cynicism. The term malaise was misapplied to the speech, but it seemed to encapsulate the feeling of the nation on the verge of the 1980s. The speech deserves a place of honor among the Gettysburg Address, but due to political miscalculations in the wake of its delivery, it i ...more
Nov 29, 2011 Bob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011, non-fiction
I was working at my dad's service station during this time. I remember us parking school buses across the lot to prevent people from pulling up to the pumps when we ran out of fuel. But people still found ways around them then got mad when we told them we were out of gas. I don't remember the shootings or the riots but do remember the trucker strike: that's a 10-4, rubber ducky... But I didn't pay much attention to the news back then, instead I would retreat to my room and read after getting hom ...more
Aug 14, 2009 matt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
My knowledge of Carter's presidency before reading this book was spotty (peanut farmer who wore cardigans) so a great deal of the information that I found interesting here could be a retreaded analysis to those in the know.
Mattson takes a sociocultural lens to help understand and explain the events that led to Carter's "malaise" speech which is defended here as a remarkably unique milestone for presidential speeches in that it showed Carter as both remarkably vulnerable while challenging the
Brian Ayres
Aug 17, 2009 Brian Ayres rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jimmy Carter gets a lot of slack for being an absent or ineffective leader. After reading Kevin Mattson's account, I can now see why. During the trying summer of 1979, Carter was MIA as the United States dealt with the effects OPEC and the energy crisis. However, Carter's much-maligned "malaise" speech deserves a second look for Carter's prescient ability, with the help of his pollsters, to tap America's "crisis in confidence" and demand that we could do better by desiring less and helping other ...more
Margot Friedman
Jan 15, 2010 Margot Friedman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Can Any President Unite Us?

I picked up “’What the Heck Are You Up To, Mr. President?’: Jimmy Carter, America’s ‘Malaise,’ and the Speech That Should Have Changed the Country” by Kevin Mattson because I wanted to be reminded that I had lived through times as bad as the current ones. I was 16 years old when President Carter made his “malaise” speech. My first experience of driving included waking up at 5 a.m. to get in the gas lines.

After 9-11, President Bush missed the opportunity to call for sh
Nov 10, 2011 Benjamin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recentreads
The author does a good job of describing how Carter's so-called "malaise" speech has been misinterpreted, for primarily what seem to be political reasons, in the history books and America's collective social memory. In fact, the public's reaction to the speech was overwhelmingly positive, and Carter's ratings increased dramatically overnight. I wish more time had been spent on analyzing how the country so quickly dis-remembered or perhaps ignored the speech, given its huge popularity.

The author
Ian Plenderleith
May 13, 2015 Ian Plenderleith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, usa
“This is not a message of happiness or reassurance, but it is the truth and it is a warning,” President Jimmy Carter told the US in July 1979. Although Carter’s remarkably honest speech about the need for an enlightened energy policy resonated with the public, the media and the Moral Majority savaged the President for the “malaise” he supposedly believed was afflicting America (he never used that word). A fine book about the brave speech that sounded the death-knell of the 70s.
Jul 28, 2014 Jennyb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A quick little book about a speech Carter gave at the height of the 1979 gas crisis -- thought-provoking out of all proportion to its fairly narrow subject. It is also quite disheartening when you realize that, despite 30 years of political blathering and promises promises, just about nothing has changed in all that time. We are still yammering about energy independence without having done a thing about it, we are all cynical and disengaged from the political process (and why wouldn't we be?), w ...more
Rather interesting. I was 11 that summer, and I remember bits and pieces of these things from the news. I really do not remember gas lines, maybe Ohio dodged that bullet?

This was something unusual for me, but the title jumped out at me from the library's "new" shelf. The author did a good job, IMO, looking at Carter and his advisers in June and July, 1979. He also went over the media spin of the speech that wanted to encourage Americans and bring them to a unified effort against the energy crise
Apr 26, 2014 Pabgo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
great take on the history of the last generation. Predicted us being where we are today, by ignoring Carter's warnings.
Oct 27, 2009 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, non-fiction
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Professor Mattson's book. I was born after President Jimmy Carter's 15 July 1979 "Crisis of Confidence" speech so unfortunately most of what I have heard about the speech has been negative. Professor Mattson does an excellent job of providing a fresh perspective on the third year of President Carter's term of office and the events surrounding his "Crisis of Confidence" speech. Supporters and critics of President Carter should read 'What the Heck Are You Up To, Mr. Pr ...more
Jonathan Brandis
Tone was snide, flip and cynical through most of the first half, but got a little better later on. I got the basic outline of why the public turned on Carter, which was what I was looking for.
Wes Bishop
Excellent book by a OU professor about Carter's Malaise Speech. It was extremely well written and engaging. Another reason why I want to do my graduate work at OU.
Jun 01, 2010 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned, history
Didn't finish, but really liked what I read of it. Will try to get it form the library again later.
Aug 15, 2011 Laura rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Didn't finish. I wondered how you could write an entire book about a speech, I still do.
Bill marked it as to-read
Jul 27, 2016
Andy Sytsma
Andy Sytsma marked it as to-read
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Jun 25, 2016
Andrew Jung
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Jun 06, 2016
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Jun 18, 2016
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