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Guttenberg: From political rock star to 'Baron Cut-And-Paste'

AFP · 1 Mar 2011, 16:24

Published: 01 Mar 2011 16:24 GMT+01:00

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Suave, good-looking and media-savvy, the 39-year-old aristocrat, who can trace his ancestry back to the 12th century, was named Germany's youngest-ever economy minister two years ago and was often mentioned as a future chancellor.

Karl-Theodor Maria Nikolaus Johann Jakob Philipp Franz Joseph Sylvester Baron von und zu Guttenberg, to give him his full name, or "KT" for short, was until very recently the darling of the media and public alike.

During the last election in 2009, he was dubbed the "Rocking Baron" or the "Cool Baron" for his love of rock music and apparent lack of pretension, drawing hysterical crowds to election rallies that invited comparisons to Barack Obama.

His youthful looks, slick gelled-back hair, trendy glasses and snappy fashion sense earned him front-page appearances not only in the mainstream media, but also in the glossy weeklies.

Together with his wife, the no less glamorous descendant of Otto von Bismarck, Germany's 19th century "Iron Chancellor" and father of the modern state, the pair formed the high-profile power couple.


Click here for the best of Guttenberg’s photo-ops.

And despite the aristocratic name and a castle in Bavaria's Franconia region, German voters flocked to the baron and he was credited with boosting the appeal of Chancellor Angela Merkel's often staid Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian conservative allies in Guttenberg's party the CSU.

Appointed defence minister in a post-election reshuffle in 2009, the tide began to turn as he came under fire for his handling of the aftermath of a deadly airstrike in Afghanistan that happened before he became minister.

A high-profile target, German papers then jumped on a series of minor scandals at the end of last year, beginning in November with an alleged mutiny on the naval training ship Gorch Fock.

Then in December he was accused of turning a visit to Afghanistan into a publicity stunt because he took with him not only his wife but also a television chatshow host and a battalion of photographers.

When he got back to Berlin he was pictured at an evening function cutting a dashing figure still in his battle fatigues, with his explanation that he had no time to change failing to convince suspicious commentators.

But it was "Copygate" that finally brought down the high-flyer.

Story continues below…

Allegations surfaced in February that "Dr" zu Guttenberg had in fact copied large passages of his 475-page law thesis without proper attribution.

Smelling blood, the sharks moved in for the kill and the next few days saw the former pin-up of German politics widely ridiculed with nicknames like "Baron Cut-And-Paste" and "zu Googleberg."

In a botched announcement to selected media, causing a walk-out in protest from other journalists at a nearby government news conference, he said he would temporarily give up his "doctor" title, becoming plain old Baron zu Guttenberg.

But despite backing from Merkel and CSU party boss Horst Seehofer, the baron finally fell on his sword, depriving Merkel, who has six state elections to fight this year, of a key vote-winner.

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Your comments about this article

17:16 March 1, 2011 by Louis Prince
It is a shame that a good minister should fall like this, small mistakes we make have great effects on our lives and in this case on an entire country.
18:11 March 1, 2011 by Surferjoe
This was no "small mistake" Louis Prince, this was a matter of cheating pure and simple by a high profile member of the government. Its a wonder Guttenberg was tolerated by the CDU for as long as he was considering the immense amount of damage he caused.
18:17 March 1, 2011 by radagast
finally. i hope i will see the local homepage without any picture(s) of gutenberg. its like ages i see his photo up in the front page.
12:10 March 5, 2011 by Johnny Cash
Would be nice to hear the word integrity resurrected in the political arena. From what Louis prince asserts this is not required anymore in a minister of the state. Rings a little of the blind faith placed in past charasmatic leaders of Germany with no integrity. Enough said. Comparisons of Guttenberg to Obama in the press might not be such a good analogy now of course except for their lack of integrity.In responce to radgast above, so would you rather see mrs incredibly plain every day. I really do not envy the photographers who are sent out daily to collect another image of the same uninteresting visage over and over and over and over and over again. These mediocre politicians are so often in front of a camera it is no wonder the country is badly administered. When do they have time to do the work we pay them to do?
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