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For much of the year, Carter appeared so ineffective a leader that his seeming weakness touched off an unprecedentedly early and crowded scramble to succeed him. Ten Republicans announced as candidates for the party's 1980 presidential nomination; at year's end, however, the clear favorite was the man who had done or said hardly anything, Ronald Reagan. On the Democratic side, Senator Edward Kennedy overcame his reservations and declared his candidacy, but early grass-roots enthusiasm about his "leadership qualities" dissipated in the face of his lackluster campaigning, his astonishing incoherence, and his failure to stake out convincingly different positions on the issues. At year's end Carter was looking much stronger, primarily because his firm yet restrained response to Iran's seizure of hostages led to a classic popular reaction: Let's rally round the President in a crisis.
None of these trends could match in power and drama, or in menacing implications for the future, the eruption in Iran. A year ago, in its cover story on 1978's Man of the Year, Chinese Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping, TIME noted that "the Shah of Iran's 37-year reign was shaken by week upon week of riots." Shortly thereafter, the Shah fell in one of the greatest political upheavals of the post-World War II era, one that raised troubling questions about the ability of the U.S. to guide or even understand the seething passions of the Third World.
Almost to the very end, the conventional wisdom of Western diplomats and journalists was that the Shah would survive; after all, he had come through earlier troubles seemingly strengthened. In 1953 the Shah had actually fled the country. But he was restored to power by a CIA-inspired coup that ousted Mohammed Mossadegh, the nationalist Prune Minister who had been TIME'S Man of the Year for 1951 because he had "oiled the wheels of chaos." In 1963 Iran had been swept by riots stirred up by the powerful Islamic clergy against the Shah's White Revolution. Among other things, this well-meant reform abolished the feudal landlord-peasant system. Two consequences: the reform broke up properties administered by the Shi'ite clergy and reduced their income, some of which consisted of donations from large landholders. The White Revolution also gave the vote to women. The Shah suppressed those disturbances without outside help, in part by jailing one of the instigators —an ascetic theologian named Ruhollah Khomeini, who had recently attained the title of Ayatullah* and drawn crowds to fiery sermons in which he