This Time cover, depicting Jimmy Carter as a western sheriff about to have a showdown with an unseen outlaw, was a distillation of the hapless situation that Carter confronted in the spring of 1980. Two of the most pressing concerns of the moment were the fifty Americans being held hostage by Muslim fundamentalists in Iran and the Soviet Union's armed interference in Afghanistan. To force the release of the hostages and make the Soviets back off from attempting to bring the Afghans under their influence, Carter wanted to take strong retaliatory measures. But in order to give those measures teeth, he needed the backing of America's allies, and that support was not strong. Thus, Carter may indeed have been feeling like this holstered caricature of himself, marching to meet his foe, while his neighbors, who stand to benefit from his bravery, scurry off in search of refuge.
Time cover, April 28, 1980
In 1978, Time magazine donated approximately eight hundred works of original cover art to the National Portrait Gallery. The museum is dedicated to telling the stories of individuals who have shaped the United States, and the Time Collection—featuring prominent international figures and events—enriches our understanding of the United States in a global context.