“I’VE reached the limits of my strength.” With these words Germany’s most promising politician, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, resigned as defence minister this morning. He fell less than two weeks after revelations that large chunks of his 2006 doctoral dissertation had been plagiarised. At first, it looked as if his charisma and popularity would save him. The chancellor, Angela Merkel, backed him. So did voters, according to opinion polls.
But he could not survive the tsunami of outrage from Germany’s academic community and the internal contradictions of his position. Mr zu Guttenberg and his party—the Christian Social Union (CSU), which is the Bavarian branch of Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU)—stand for nothing if not for conservative values like personal responsibility. His downfall is a heavy blow for the chancellor, for both parties and for the health of politics in Germany generally.
It is rather obvious that no one would have cared about his plagiarism had he been a run-of-the-mill German politician. He distinguished himself and was brought down. However, as I said, once a political tool is introduced, its use will become frequent and for less important/interesting characters.