Can Germany’s teflon Defense Minister survive plagiarism accusations? That was the question posed in this piece by William Boston, published just yesterday and explaining how the popular, plausible, ultra-posh Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, until recently tipped as a possible successor to Angela Merkel, came to be in such a pickle. Well, we didn’t have long to wait for an answer. Zu Guttenberg has just resigned.
In a hastily convened press conference in Berlin, the German politician announced “the most painful step of his life.” He said he had taken the decision not only because he stood accused of having copied portions of his doctorate (an accusation, by spooky coincidence, also now leveled at Saif Gaddafi), but because he feared his work as defense minister was now compromised. “I was always ready to fight, but I have reached the limits of my strength,” he said.
It’s as yet unclear who will succeed zu Guttenberg or how his departure will impact on the increasingly embattled Merkel. As for the abrupt end to zu Guttenberg’s promising career: that seems to conform to that odd law that states politicians can weather big controversies only to be undone by smaller delinquencies. Zu Guttenberg has admitted to flaws in his doctoral thesis, but denies deliberate deception. Nevertheless, as I remarked on Twitter, he’s not the first Guttenberg to gain a reputation for reproduction of the printed word.