Barack Obama campaigns with actor Robert De Niro, Senator Edward Kennedy, and Caroline Kennedy at a rally Monday in East Rutherford, N.J. (EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Wait, wait, wait. Now Robert De Niro is for hope, too? This is really getting surreal.
De Niro, the dean of "Goodfellas" thuggery, just made a surprise appearance at a rally here for Barack Obama, using words that we didn't know were even in his vocabulary.
"I've never made a speech like this at a political event before. So what am I doing here?" De Niro said. "I'm here because finally one person has inspired me. One person has given me hope. One person has made me believe that we can make a change."
Pretty florid words from a guy who's whacked more than a few wise guys in his long career, don't you think?
De Niro began his remarks with a backhanded compliment: "Barack Obama does not have the experience to be president of the United States." The crowd booed, but De Niro continued, and his intent was clear: Obama didn't have the experience to get the country into a misguided war, or operate a government run by special interests, and so on.
"You know, that's the kind of experience I could get used to," said De Niro, who stood clapping as Obama, Senator Edward Kennedy, and Caroline Kennedy mounted the stage, his trademark half-smile, half-scowl etched on his face. Allowing himself a moment off-character, he gave Obama a big hug, and descended.
Obama called De Niro "one of the greatest actors of our generation." "Some of you know I now have Secret Service protection," Obama said. "Those guys never smile; they are always cool. But I noticed when De Niro walks in, they're all like elbowing each other - 'Hey!' They were excited. Who wouldn't be excited?"
Given that we're at the Meadowlands, the home of those pesky Giants, there's one other little item we have to address: Last night's big (awful?) game. Obama, who had been rooting for the Pats, waded right in.
"I have said repeatedly that this campaign is about bringing people together," Obama said, referencing the senior Massachusetts senator at his side. "And for me to be able to bring a Patriots fan to the Meadowlands the day after the Super Bowl is like bringing the lion and the lamb together. We can bridge all gaps and all divisions in this country."
Obama then congratulated Giants fans, and said he had been commiserating with Kennedy. "My Bears didn't even make the playoffs," Obama said. "Although I think we should take heart, Ted, by the fact that sometimes the underdog pulls it out."
Obama was indisputably an underdog before. Is he still? He's pulled close to even in many polls, he's won more pledged delegates than Hillary Clinton, and he's drawing record crowds and record campaign contributions. So don't feel too badly for him.