Guttenberg Comes Out Swinging

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Guttenberg Comes Out Swinging

Germany’s defense minister, under attack by political opponents, rises to the occasion.

In the face of a concerted well-timed attack on his political persona, Germany’s Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg swung into aggressive defensive mode last week.

“Frankish firs do not fall down” was his rejoinder to the concerted effort by a primarily Free Democratic Party (fdp) and Social Democratic Party effort to blacken his name in the run-up to important state elections in Germany (Bild, January 23). The allusion was to the young aristocrat’s long family heritage of unyielding resistance in the face of battle. It is such charismatic confidence that endears Guttenberg to the German public, while at the same time causing his political enemies such frustration in their efforts to blacken his name.

As the German daily Bild commented, Guttenberg’s use of the “Frankish fir” analogy was a message delivered pointedly to both his “critics and competitors in Berlin” in the wake of their latest attempt to bring him down (ibid.).

Bild also quoted Guttenberg as stating, “I have asked the inspector general to undertake a review of all branches of the armed forces, whether there has been in recent years or even now indications of the engagement in rituals which are not in agreement with the principles of the Bundeswehr and I will quickly point out the consequences which must result from such.

“The same applies to the question of whether there was in some cases any relationship between these situations and the violation of principles of internal governance and regulations, such as the careless handling of weapons.”

If Guttenberg’s past performances when under attack from both “critics and competitors” gives any indication of how he will handle this latest imbroglio, he will masterfully turn the current “crisis” into an opportunity for his own political advancement. In fact, his opponents may well have handed him a fast ticket to cleaning house within all Germany’s armed forces in a manner that will just accelerate his two-year agenda to craft the most professionally efficient high-tech military force on the planet.

Amid all this political brouhaha sits Chancellor Angela Merkel. With so many state elections confronting her in just a matter of weeks, she can ill afford any dispute among her coalition partners nor any attack on her most popular government minister.

In essence, Merkel is in a precarious position as members of her main coalition partner, the fdp, go on the attack against Guttenberg. But if the truth be known, Merkel would be glad to see the back of Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, a prime Guttenberg antagonist, who has taken his party’s poll ratings into the pits since he gained office at Germany’s federal elections just over a year ago.

On the other hand, Merkel has no choice but to be seen supporting Germany’s favorite, Guttenberg, at this important election time. It will be interesting to see her political pirouette between these two senior ministers till the current attack on Guttenberg is quelled, as quelled it must be before the onset of the elections if her party is to demonstrate any semblance of unity before the polls in order to avoid a rout.

Watch how this most popular of German politicians, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, handles his latest challenge with Frankish aplomb, with the chance of emerging more popular than ever in the public eye, perhaps with his own eye more firmly planted on gaining the chancellorship of Germany himself.