ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER He had barely finished one campaign--the Terminator 3 junket--when he began another, his bid to become California's Governor. Cue the sneering. And indeed the recall election began as a 250-candidate, porn-star-and--Gary Coleman circus. But voters warmed to Schwarzenegger's toss-the-bastards theme, and he helped inspire a 20% increase in turnout. In the early hours of Oct. 8, he stood alone as the decisive victor.
TONY BLAIR The Prime Minister paid dearly for sending troops to join what many Britons called "Bush's war." Blair, shown outside his children's room at 10 Downing Street, had to watch hordes march past the residence in protest. His reply? "People say you are doing this because the Americans are telling you to do it. I keep telling them it's worse ... I believe in it." When Saddam was captured, Blair called it a "time for celebration but also a time ...to unify."
JESSICA LYNCH As she will tell you herself, the tale that she mowed down the enemy while under fire and was taken prisoner only after being shot and stabbed was just a myth. The truth: her convoy was attacked; her legs were broken; and she was dramatically rescued days later. Lynch was no war hero, but she inspires by giving credit to others--to her rescuers and to Private First Class Lori Ann Piestewa, Lynch's best friend, who died that day.
L. PAUL BREMER "Ladies and gentlemen, we got him." So said Bremer following Saddam Hussein's capture, and then, as cheers rose, Bremer teared up. In that moment came a glimmer of the weary responsibility that proconsuls throughout history have borne. As head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, he must try to help Iraqis rebuild even as he protects U.S. political, security and commercial interests. The balancing act requires finesse and boldness, suits and work boots.
JIANG YANYONG When SARS hit China in 2002, the regime sought to squash the news. By April 2003, SARS may have infected thousands, but some hospitals emptied their SARS wards when U.N. health officials visited. Retired army doctor Jiang couldn't bear the cover-up and told TIME and other outlets the truth. Finally, the Health Ministry began an education campaign that helped contain the killer virus.
KIM JONG IL The overconfident pose, the fawning lackeys, the weird eyewear that suggests that no one can speak directly to him--the North Korean leader is a poster boy for dictatorship. Will U.S. troops one day roust a scruffy Kim out of a spider hole? For now Washington is trying diplomacy to persuade him to dismantle his nukes. But this doesn't look like a man who's eager to welcome U.S. weapons inspectors.
VLADIMIR PUTIN He has been called a "bureaucrat thrust forward in history." If so, in 2003 the Russian President compensated. He seized effective control of both the media and the ballot box. Putin's party swept the December elections, leading some observers to cry foul at the margin of victory. His regime also arrested a tycoon who just happens to fund Putin's political rivals. How does one spell "undemocratic" in Russian?