So. Who else wants to try debating `Uqab Saqr on live television? No one? I thought not. Unless the opposition is willing to dig a lot deeper, I don’t think March 14th’s James Carville is going to see much action for a while.
Of all the political operatives on the Lebanese talk show circuit, Saqr gets my vote for being the most dynamic rhetorician of all. Whether or not one agrees with his positions, can anyone dispute that his delivery is impeccable? The command of the language, the proverbs that come tripping off the tongue, the ability to pick apart arguments without missing a beat… all of this would be impressive in a political insider twice his age. As is, one can only imagine what Saqr’s skills will be like in another ten or fifteen years.
That is, if he’s still alive. Two nights ago, Saqr did battle with MP Hassan Yaaqoub on Marcel Ghanem’s talk show Kalam al-Nas, and Yaaqoub (according to Saqr) made several threats after the show, including one on his opponent’s life. Both men are running for the Shiite seat in Zahle; Yaaqoub is on the opposition’s list headed by Elias Skaff, while Saqr is with March 14th. If you’re at all interested in battleground districts (or if you get a thrill out of watching grown men hurl insults at each other for an hour on primetime TV), I recommend you watch the entire episode (it’s in eight parts on YouTube).
For those who’d rather just catch the highlight reel, here are some memorable clips:
1. `Uqab whips out Karim Pakradouni’s book (yes, he actually brought it with him to the show) in order to prove that Aoun made a deal with the Syrians before coming back to Lebanon. Saqr plays the role of the aggrieved former disciple to a tee; he’s fond of reminding people that he was a strong supporter of Aoun prior to his alliance with Syria.
2. `Uqab addresses the opposition’s argument about how the events of May 7th were a good thing because they led to the Doha Accord. Using that logic, he claims, one would have to conclude that the Lebanese Civil War was a good thing because it led to the Ta’if Accord. “They say that they prevented fitna. Why, what is fitna besides killing, and blood, and occupation? Fitna to prevent fitna, wow!”
3. Lots of shouting and hand waving in part 3.
4. The pièce de resistance: after Yaaqoub mockingly corrects the improper quotation of a Qur’anic verse (Q 49:6) by political opponent Nicholas Fattoush, Saqr swoops in to correct Yaacoub’s recitation as well (substituting the word an for the erroneous kay). For philology geeks like me, pedantic quibbling along these lines is more dramatic than televised cage fighting. (Catch the interchange from 6:00-7:15).