Judging from the sidelines, one can't help but feel that part of the political crisis in Lithuania involves an acute conflict of personalities. On one side there is President Rolandas Paksas and his loyal followers, and on the other - everyone else.
The confrontation is intensifying by the week, dragging Lithuania into unpleasant, albeit temporary, isolation. Just this week the Italian president cancelled a scheduled visit to Vilnius, and the Council of Europe hinted that Paksas was no longer welcome to give a speech (at least while the impeachment process is continuing).
Because he is at the center of the maelstrom, Paksas looks increasingly frazzled. As a consequence psychologists, both amateur and professional, have taken to profiling this individual. They are examining him from afar, of course, based on available information, and the results are not flattering.
As TBT's Vilnius bureau chief Steven Paulikas explains in this week's issue (see story on Page 1), some psychologists believe that Paksas exemplifies the classic negative-active leader: stubborn, willful, ambitious, selfish, aggressive, unforgiving, sensitive to criticism (sometimes to the point of paranoia). Indeed, anyone who has followed Paksas' political, and perhaps private, life will immediately recognize this string of adjectives. In a colloquial manner of speaking, the negative-active leader is akin to a hyperactive spoiled child.
Just this week, in fact, Paksas demonstrated several of these characteristics. Meeting with journalists on the morning of Jan. 12, he made his stance unequivocal: "I will not resign," he said, "because I do not feel guilty." In the evening of the next day, in a phrase that was chillingly portentous, the president said on public radio: "I think tendentious information presented by the press poses the biggest threat to us all, to our conception, as well as to the public opinion. I think this is the greatest menace."
These two quotations alone show why negative-active personalities - e.g., Rolandas Paksas - are often dangerous: It doesn't matter what is best for Lithuania, what matters is whether the president feels guilty. Let the country drown, Paksas is telling us, I don't care since I don't feel guilt.
By contrast, a more compassionate, compromising leader in Paksas' position would understand that personal intransigence amounts to national plight and stagnation, and, for the benefit of the country, he would resign.