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.
Obama is so right about Russia slipping into a Cold War mindsit. So unproductive. So..?
If al Qaeda is decimated and on the run (campaign message) then how come US folks are getting on the planes and leaving?
Looks like they have us on the run.
Obama just likes to redefine to make himself look good... like fort hood is work place violence... yea sure....
What is this man thinking?
He goes to a High School in Arizona to discuss the Housing Crisis with teenagers.
He goes on a late night talk show to discuss terrorist plots with a comedian.
Am I the only one that see's something wrong here?
Let's face it. He's damned if he does and damned if he doesn't. He didn't do enough at Benghazi, but now he's overreacting. There's just no pleasing the repugs. They still think they won the election. Talk about delusional.
"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." e.g. try not to travel to countries that the US bombs regularly – they are not too fond of us.
"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." ...so he can come back to the US to be put in jail indefinitely for showing the american people what our gov't is up to.
I can't believe that Obama thinks the American people are that stupid that they believe anything he says. Can't stand him - he's very annoying in his speech patterns.
Thank God we have a smart, eloquent, caring President !
The odds of dying in a terrorist attack are lower than getting killed by falling furniture
Hey, O. When on terror alert, you don't go doing the talk-show circuit and grabbing burgers in Cali during limo rides through Burbank, OK? Can you please get back to the White House ASAP and actually command something? Thanks.
Nobody, except his brainwashed hardcore zombie fans, believes his lies anymore.
its great that Obama's first comments on this major alert to our national security and safety of americans abroad comes from a discussion with a comedian on national television.
What a joke.
Obama, you were the great false hope. I really believed in you and yu are a charlatan of the highest degree. I wish you had a conscious to live with your lives. But you are just a psychopath like every other politician.
Love is all you need.
Just more smoke & mirrors from the most transparent administration ever...and from the most disgusting name in news.
straight propaganda to the maximum.
Do your job, Mr. President – don't waste time on Leno or other shows.
What a bloody JOKE! How much longer until he's gone? How much more destruction must the American people go through until the African Muslim president is gone?
Some should tell President Obama that thanks to his policies the United States is in no position to tell Russia what to do..
United States is in no position to tell China what to do…
Obama has a proclivity to slip into a fascist/police state mindset even though he campaigned against exactly that in 2008.
So cool that our POTUS chills with Leno as the key form of Presidential communication. Next BO and Michelle should go on "Inked" together for an episode and get matching tattoos so we can know he and she are, like, so way cool man..... Please god let this presidency end soon so we can be rid of this man.
Why, in the middle of this so-called Terror Alert, is he on Leno?
"The odds of dying in a terrorist attack are a lot lower than they are of dying in a car accident, unfortunately," Obama said ; So does this mean I can get a 1000 LB car with no computer and a good four banger that gets 80 mpg. Or What -?
You avoid to mention that the aid that goes to those countries including Turkey is about 30 billion dls in the last ten years. Nothing wrong to help. The question is how long we will be able to afford that. With a debt of 14 trillion. I guess we can stop paying social security benefits, or food stamps. Oh I remember just increase age of retirement. Never mind, then besides what is 30 billion dls anyway.