The German press was both philosophical and forgiving Wednesday in its appraisal of the plagiarism scandal that led to the resignation of Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg.
The German press offered mixed messages on the affair
The German press was mixed in its message a day after the sensational resignation of the country's defense minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, after he became embroiled in a plagiarism scandal relating to his doctoral thesis.
The Berliner Morgenpost daily wrote that Guttenberg's resignation demonstrated Germany maintains functioning democratic institutions. Unlike Berlusconi's Italy, neither media stardom nor political persistence could minimize the evidence against Guttenberg. But giving people second chances was also a part of democratic political culture.
Guttenberg was a rising star in the CSU
"Guttenberg did wrong, but he did not commit a capital crime," the Berlin daily wrote. And if Guttenberg truly has the talents that everyone attributes to him, then he will overcome this detour and return to political life hardened.
The Cologne-based Kölner Stadt Anzeiger daily wrote that Guttenberg left behind a political paradox. His entry into political life initially satisfied people’s desire for charismatic leadership. But he ultimately disappointed them because he could not live up to his own pretenses. The paper added that the need for charismatic leaders would only grow after this controversy, while public opinion of those currently holding political office would become more unmerciful.
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote that if everybody were truly replaceable, then Christian Social Union (CSU) leader Horst Seehofer and Chancellor Angela Merkel would have named a successor as soon as Guttenberg resigned as defense minister.
"Yet it has been clearly difficult to find someone capable of taking on the difficult tasks of reforming the armed forces and justifying the mission in Afghanistan," the Frankfurt-based daily wrote. The conservative Christian Democrats had reached the end of their personnel reserve, it said, and their liberal FDP coalition partners feared nothing more than being dragged into a game of musical chairs with cabinet-level positions.
Guttenberg made several visits to Afghanistan whilst minister
Germany's most-subscribed newspaper, the Süddeutscher Zeitung, took a more optimistic approach to Guttenberg's situation.
"Exactly because Guttenberg is a celebrity it does not mean he will spend the rest of his days locked in his castle. It is foreseeable that in a few weeks, for a rather large part of the population, he will be that man who faced his responsibilities. He will remain popular and only the undying trouble-makers will hark back to his thesis. He, himself, will write a book, perhaps about politics in the age of sensationalism."
The Passauer Neue Presse wrote that the CSU now had real fears over the political consequences of Guttenberg's departure.
"Guttenberg's resignation could lead to the CSU losing a seat in the Bundestag lower house of parliament. … The reason for this is that the CSU has overhang seats in the Bundestag. Legal advisors are currently checking whether there is any suitable successor to Guttenberg, or else the seat goes to ruin."
Author: Darren Mara, Spencer Kimball
Editor: Rob Turner