"Live free or die," the man instructed, and they all promptly died.
This was Monday's "Die-in," an Occupy New Hampshire event in the parking lot of the campaign headquarters of President Barack Obama. The death certificate lists the name of deceased as "democracy, freedom, liberty and the 99%." Cause: "The influence of Wall Street money." The protesters were demanding the campaign staff explain, among other things, President Obama's heavy reliance on corporate cash to fund his re-election effort. The campaign explained by calling the cops to break up the protest.
Recounting this story, though, would have taken longer than Mitt Romney was prepared to allow later that day, when he exchanged words with an Occupy New Hampshire protester interrupting his event by way of advocating for - what else - the liberation of politics from corporate money. "This president is spending money and has spent money, we have had over the history of this country a public funding plan for our presidents, and you know what? This president has been the first one to throw aside the public funding program to break all those barriers and to spend massively more than any president in history," he told the protester, one of a number who chanted and held up "Get money out of politics" signs at Romney's eve-of-the-vote rally at McKelvie Intermediate School in Bedford.
I followed the protester for comment, but was stopped by a Romney supporter who taunted me, "It's one protester! Make sure you interview her!"
"I cover protesters," I explained. "That's my beat."
His judgment: "Pretty bad beat."
Whatever the rest of the Romney fans' views on journalists covering protest, their attitude toward the protesters themselves was clear from their chant of "Mitt! Mitt! Mitt!"
But Mitt didn't want to be the center of attention, not only receiving introduction from New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, but also inviting his wife Ann and 13 of their children and grandchildren to join him on stage - gratifyingly, they were not creepily dressed by gender, as in their Christmas card.
Mitt and Ann both credit her with inducing him to run this year. As Ann told the crowd, she asked her husband, inclined at the time not to run, "Can you turn America around?" He responded, presumably with reluctance, "Yes." Mitt must have known what was coming next: Ann's injunction, "You've got to run." He went on to fill in the details of the story, described being at a farm in New Hampshire when "we decided we would run for president." Potential voters there to appraise the candidate were supposed to come away with the image of Mitt Romney as a family man, a tactic designed to signal his religiosity without having to address the whole Mormon thing. His campaign slogan, "Believe in America" contributes to the same effort.
A family man and a hawk. There was much veneration of America's armed forces from Senator Ayotte's introduction of her husband, Iraq war veteran Joseph Daley, to Romney's declaration that he didn't want to "win wars" so much as spend enough on the military to "prevent wars by being so strong," though he neglected to cite a historical instance of militarization succeeding in preventing war.
Indeed, militarization has, unsurprisingly, always led to wars, and Romney paid tribute to those in the room who'd been on the front lines of them, reciting a verse from "America The Beautiful" in their honor:
"O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!"
At The New York Times, David Firestone cautions Romney against too deep an exploration into that song, lest he discover its anti-wealth verse:
God shed his grace on thee
Till selfish gain no longer stain
The banner of the free!"
If selfish gain stains the flag, then Romney's could probably use a good laundering, Mitt having accumulated some $250,000,000 as head of Bain Capital, which turned business around in part by laying off thousands of workers.
I asked Senator Ayotte how she felt encouraging working Americans to place their employment hopes in such a man. She returned the pen I'd lent her to sign a guy's Romney poster, mustered a half-hearted response - "I have great confidence he'll turn around America and get people to work" - and walked away.
John, the man whose poster Ayotte signed, was in town from Romney's home state of Massachusetts. He took exception to my question, informing me that he's an engineer who, having worked for both private companies and the government, knows jobs. "I've been working since I was twelve," he explained, "and I've been laid off. Shit happens. Like that BP oil spill - sometimes, things go bad. But you suck it up."
Romney's message was a bit cheerier. Twice, he mentioned his fourfold recipe for success: hard work, education, dreams and risk taking. One can split that proposition - Americans are working harder than ever, with less access to education than before, their dreams dashed by the risk-taking robber barons of the financial sector - but should expect to be shouted down by chants of "Mitt! Mitt! Mitt!"