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What the Heck Are You Up To, Mr. President?: Jimmy Carter, Americas Malaise, and the Speech That Should Have Changed the Country
     

What the Heck Are You Up To, Mr. President?: Jimmy Carter, Americas Malaise, and the Speech That Should Have Changed the Country

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by Kevin Mattson
 

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At a critical moment in Jimmy Carters 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

Overview

At a critical moment in Jimmy Carters 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 lines, inciting suburban riots and violence, the countrys morale was low and Carters ratings were even lower. The administration, wracked by its own crises, was in constant turmoil and conflict. What came of their great internal struggle, which Mattson conveys with the excitement of a political thriller, was a speech that deserves a place alongside Lincolns "Gettysburg Address" or FDRs First Inaugural. Prominent politicians on both sides of the aisle play important roles, including President Jimmy Carter, Vice President Walter Mondale, and speechwriter Hendrik Hertzberg, within the administration, and Jerry Falwell, Ronald Reagan, and Ted Kennedy, without. Like the best of political writing, Mattson provides great insight into the workings of the Carter White House as well as the moral crisis that ushered in a new, conservative America.


Watch the speech: http://millercenter.org/scripps/archive/speeches/detail/3402


Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

The 1979 "national malaise" speech that defined Jimmy Carter's presidency-though he never used the word "malaise"-gets its due in this contrarian homage. Ohio University historian Mattson (When America Was Great) considers the speech-which expressed Carter's own crisis of confidence, bemoaned Americans' loss of faith in government and deplored the country's selfishness and consumerism-to be a thoughtful response to the problems of the day that initially won public acclaim, before political opponents caricatured it as a gloomy scolding. Following the speech from its bizarre provenance in an apocalyptic memo by pollster Pat Cadell through its honing during a messianic "domestic summit," the author sets his colorful study against a recap of the gasoline shortages, inflation and Me Decade angst that provoked it. He interprets it as a tantalizing road not taken: with its prescient focus on energy, limits and sacrifice, its "humility and honesty," it was, the author says, the antithesis of the Reagan era's sunny optimism. Mattson makes Carter's maligned speech a touchstone for a rich retrospective and backhanded appreciation of the soul-searching '70s. (July)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Library Journal

Mattson (contemporary history, Ohio Univ.; Rebels All!) revisits the 1970s, the Carter presidency, and the major television address that has come to symbolize Carter's term in office—the "malaise" speech of July 15, 1979. In terms of content and delivery, it was an effective performance. The author reminds us that Carter never uttered the word malaise in his address and that his popularity actually rose after delivering it. Moreover, Mattson argues that the content of the speech still resonates with ongoing concerns over consumer wants, the nation's dependence on oil, and a loss of trust in government. Unfortunately, after delivering this key speech, Carter undermined it by an unexpected mass purge of his cabinet. Carter's image became that of the amateur blunderer, allowing Ronald Reagan, a smiling and friendly grandfather on a horse, to ride into Washington to lead the nation. VERDICT With background to the speech that is itself fascinating to read, this book becomes a page-turner for those interested in the decadent disco decade, Jimmy Carter himself, and the modern presidency.—William D. Pederson, Louisiana State Univ., Shreveport


—William D. Pederson
Kirkus Reviews
Mattson (Contemporary History/Ohio Univ.; Rebels All!: A Short History of the Conservative Mind in Postwar America, 2008, etc.) presents a bright snapshot of a nation in flux. The election of squeaky-clean Jimmy Carter in 1976 was in part a reflection of America's desire to shed the overwhelming feelings of distrust and negativity that surrounded Watergate and Vietnam. In his inaugural address, the president humbly asserted that even if we couldn't solve all of the country's problems, at least, "in a spirit of individual sacrifice for the common good, we must simply do our best." But by the summer of 1979, the country seemed to be imploding in the face of a gas crisis, resulting in long lines at the pump, trucker strikes and violence. The nation's confidence plummeted and calls for "inspirational and innovative leadership" remained unheeded. Starting on July 4, Carter holed up at Camp David for ten days, emerging with a legendary address-delivered on national television on the evening of July 15-that would both galvanize and deeply cleave the country. Mattson, who takes his title from a July 5 headline in the New York Post, sifts through the varied media coverage of the event to isolate this crucial moment in America's recognition of itself. In Carter's speech-largely engineered by speechwriter Hendrik Hertzberg-the president warned about a moral crisis affecting the United States, acknowledging the "wounds" of the past and the loss of faith in public institutions. He also enumerated action for the energy crisis and how the country could work together to pull out of it. Yet despite the outpouring of support for the speech, the forces of the GOP's Moral Majority-especially RonaldReagan-were gathering strength against Carter. Mattson fully renders the motley array of Carter's "Georgia Mafia," along with countless details of this turbulent era in American history. A galloping history full of interesting characters and significant moments. Author appearances in New York, Washington, D.C., Ohio

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781608191390
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
07/01/2009
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
463,024
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

Kevin Mattson is the Connor Study Professor of Contemporary History at Ohio University. Hes the author of Rebels All!, When America Was Great, Upton Sinclair and the Other American Century, and Intellectuals in Action. He writes for the American Prospect, Dissent, the Nation, the New York Times Book Review, Washington Post Book World, and many others.
Kevin Mattson is the Connor Study Professor of Contemporary History at Ohio University. Hes the author of Rebels All!, When America Was Great, Upton Sinclair and the Other American Century, and Intellectuals in Action. He writes for the American Prospect, Dissent, the Nation, the New York Times Book Review, Washington Post Book World, and many others.

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'What the Heck Are You Up To, Mr. President?': Jimmy Carter, America's 'Malaise,' and the Speech That Should Have Changed the Country 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
People tell me that I'm crazy when I say that Jimmy Carter was right when he gave his now infamous "malaise" speech in 1979. I'm glad Mattson's got my back with this wonderful book. Frightening to consider that the narcicism and consumerism of the late 1970's pales in comparison to that of today. People are spending an entire paycheck on useless gizmos like iPhones during recession. While newspapers are dying, millions "follow" Ashton Kutcher on Twitter. Please wake up America. Before it's too late (if it already isn't).