What Obama said last night
August 6th, 2013
09:15 PM ET
12 months ago

What Obama said last night

Updated at 10:23 p.m. ET on 8/6

(CNN) – The decision to close a broad swath of American embassies and diplomatic posts across the Middle East in response to a terror threat was not an overreaction, President Barack Obama said Tuesday in his first remarks on the new security precautions.

The U.S. security posture throughout the Middle East, and especially in Yemen, was heightened after officials intercepted a message from al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to a top ally in Yemen telling him to "do something." A worldwide travel alert was issued, along with the slate of embassy and consulate closings.

The latest threat, Obama said, was a reminder that violent extremism still exists in the world. He stressed the importance of using caution and common sense while traveling abroad.

"The odds of dying in a terrorist attack are a lot lower than they are of dying in a car accident, unfortunately," Obama said.

The president spoke on NBC's "Tonight Show" with Jay Leno, which was taped in California and was to air later Tuesday evening. General notes about Obama's remarks were distributed by a pool of journalists traveling with the president.

Asked about Edward Snowden, who admitted to leaking details of U.S. classified surveillance programs, Obama said he was disappointed Russia had granted asylum to the former government contractor.

Russia's leaders, he said, have a proclivity for slipping into a Cold War mindset; though he added essential cooperation between the two nations continues.

The president will still attend September's Group of 20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, Obama said, though the White House has said an earlier meeting in Moscow between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Obama is under review.

Breaking: Obama cancels meeting with Putin

Discussing Russia, Obama criticized a new law in the country barring public discussion of gay rights and relationships anywhere where children might hear it. The law has been condemned by Russian and international rights groups as highly discriminatory.

President Obama: “No patience” for anti-LGBT laws in Russia

While Obama predicted Russia's treatment of gays and lesbians would not ultimately adversely affect its ability to host the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, he did say he had little tolerance for nations who intimidate or harm citizens based on their sexual orientation.

Russia, he said, has a big stake in making next year's games successful – and a crackdown on gays and lesbians would prevent a successful Olympics.

On a pair of fellow politicians - and fellow 2008 candidates for president - Obama offered laughing assessments of Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The budding "bromance" between Obama and McCain - manifested Tuesday in the Republican senator's trip to Egypt at Obama's request - is akin to a romantic comedy, the president said.

"Initially, you're not getting along and then you keep bumping into each other," he joked.

In his opening monologue, Leno joked that McCain had been working with Egyptian leaders since "the King Tut administration."

And Clinton - enjoying a "post-administration glow" at their White House lunch last week - doesn't need to scope out the Oval Office ahead of an anticipated 2016 presidential bid. When Leno joked the former first lady may be measuring the drapes, Obama pointed out she has plenty of experience in the executive mansion.

"Keep in mind she's been there. She doesn't have to measure them," he said.


Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (216 Responses)
  1. Sniffit

    "Washington has not explained how closing the embassies foils the plot. If al Qaeda wants to blow up the embassies, it can blow them up whether they are open or closed. "

    Really? And would rather the people be in them when that happens? Here's a big hint: Al Qaeda doesn't give a crap about the buildings themselves other than for the symbology they can maybe achieve by damaging them. What they really want is vengeance and to "send a message" though deaths. Protecting the human beings who live and work at the embassies is the very essence of "foiling" their plot.

    August 7, 2013 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  2. corndog man

    Obama is the king of bad company...Jay Z, Leno, Emmanuel, Daley, Jarrett, Holder, etc.

    August 7, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  3. Sniffit

    "The NSA gets busted engaging in clearly unconstitutional and totally illegal universal spying and the Obama regime pushed the Fear Button and hyped a new terror plot in order to shut up critics."

    Except there is information coming out about the conference call between over 20 Al Qaeda operatives that caused the alarm. That's ok tho...I'm sure living in your fantasy world of conspiracy theories is far more comfortable for you, so please proceed.

    August 7, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  4. USAF Vet

    For some people no matter what he does they are going to attack him for it. He is taking flak for closing embassies but if he didn't and one American was harmed, they would go after him. To allay fears he said that the odds are sadly a person is more likely to die in a auto accident then in a terror attack. Someone bashed him for saying it sounds like he would prefer more terror attacks! People laid down for the Patriot Act, but now are outraged about the NSA! You people are pathetic!

    August 7, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  5. ceg10

    Its about saving lives, blowing up a building don't have same impact compared to the loss of life.

    August 7, 2013 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  6. HUSSEINGETSTHEBLAME

    USAF VET: America's only civlian military branch..

    August 7, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  7. Greg in Arkansas

    Just read 6 pages of comments.....so much hate for our President.....so little time for the little minds that can't see the bigger picture...

    August 7, 2013 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  8. Sharp T

    This interview is a reminder of how great of a communicator Obama is. Great Job!

    August 7, 2013 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  9. Ken in MD

    Gotta love how the GOP complains that nothing was done when there were warnings about an attack on Bengazi, but also complain that closing the embassies when there is a known threat is overreacting. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

    August 7, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  10. Miles

    Remember fireside chats that old radio show? Best POTUS since F.D.R. Thank you Mr. President

    August 7, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  11. somebody

    "The NSA gets busted engaging in clearly unconstitutional and totally illegal universal spying and the Obama regime pushed the Fear Button and hyped a new terror plot in order to shut up critics."

    Actually, the NSA gets busted doing exactly what the Patriot Act authorized. During the Bush administration it was called 'keeping us safe' and those on the right cheered. Now that it's President Obama's administration suddenly people are complaining about it. I read conspiracy theories about marshall law (recent tea bagger snail mail) and the NSA spying all being part of a current or planned totalitarian state (internet articles).

    Now we have people on the right complaining about people being killed in Benghazi (fair enough) and the same people complaining that we've taken people out of harms way. WTF? It's really sad that such hypocrisy is fostered via partisan blinders.

    For the record, I had concerns about the 4th Amendment when the patriot act and FISA bills were passed initially and still do. However, I'm on the fence about the definition of a 'reasonable' search as it applies to the 4th Amendment. We have laws preventing guns in courtrooms (2nd Amendment) and laws against child pornography (1st Amendment) and I support those laws even though they technically go against bringing a gun anywhere and publishing anything anywhere. The NSA spying is legal. I think the question going forward is where do we draw the line for reasonable vs unreasonable.

    August 7, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  12. LONDON BACH

    More queefing snot drooling from the mouths of two smooching Leftist men. Stuff it.

    August 7, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  13. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Ken in MD

    Gotta love how the GOP complains that nothing was done when there were warnings about an attack on Bengazi, but also complain that closing the embassies when there is a known threat is overreacting. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.
    -------------------------------------------------
    Yes except that it is really: Damned if HE does and damned if HE doesn't, isn't it Ken?

    August 7, 2013 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  14. Steveo

    If you are going err, err on the side of caution. Look people, IF your son, daughter, mother, father, wife, or husband were out there and you heard about the chatter, what wouid you want this man, the president to do? This placed him in a lose-lose situation (some would not be satisfied no matter what he did). I believe he made the correct call! I support this move and for you newbies, I don't not vote for him but this I support!

    August 7, 2013 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  15. Steveo

    Correction.. Did not vote....

    August 7, 2013 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  16. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Lynda/Minnesota

    But ... where are all the folks who were complaining all day yesterday over on the Bush thread about how awful it was for others to make anti-Bush comments about GW? I thought for sure we'd see them on this thread condemning the anti-Obama comments as well
    -------------------------------------------------
    They are on their knees praying for a terrorist attack, preferably a really big one here at home, that they can then promptly hang around President Obama's neck proclaiming how right they were that he couldn't keep us safe.
    They are too busy having wet dreams about non-evacuated embassies being bombed to smithereens by Al-Queda, hell by anyone really, so that they can proclaim how President Obama couldn't keep us safe.
    In sum they are too busy wishing and praying for any type of destruction that they can remotely but quickly tie in to this President so that they can proclaim how he couldn't keep us safe.
    When they are done with that they will go back to demanding that we be respectful in our treatment of the Crawford Village idiot because he was our EX-president.
    I know what you meant, and I'm sure you know that my "misundertanding" of same was intentional my friend.
    On my way to Dominican for three weeks of fun in the sun. Good luck dealing with the usual suspects my friend.

    August 7, 2013 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
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