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

3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  88 ratings  ·  20 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

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Adam
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
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David Bales
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
Benjy
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
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
David
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
Mark
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
Bob
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
matt
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
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Brian Ayres
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
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
...more
Benjamin
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
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Jennyb
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
Lee
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
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Pabgo
great take on the history of the last generation. Predicted us being where we are today, by ignoring Carter's warnings.
Michael
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.
Mark
Didn't finish, but really liked what I read of it. Will try to get it form the library again later.
Laura
Didn't finish. I wondered how you could write an entire book about a speech, I still do.
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