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.
Jay Leno's show probably suffered the lowest rating of the season today. I purposely watched Julia Dreyfus' interview instead.
Obama says Valerie Jerraiot makes all my decisions
after January 2016 America will be taken seriously again.
He is criticized for being overly cautious, but then attacked for not being cautious enough with Bengazi. Which one do you want?! You can't have both!
Where is the PUKE BUCKET?
If the odds are better that we die of a car accident, then why doesn't Obama close our interstates?
No, they're not overreaction. They're a distraction from the NSA scandals.
Does this fraud really think that people are this dumb?????? These embassy closings are nothing but a distraction from his scandals. First he tried the economic distraction and now this. Now that his approval ratings are down he needs to go on Leno to connect with the brain dead sheeple.
I thought this was a joke that 0b0z0 was on Leno. He's more of a celebrity anyways....the real rulers are in the Fed Reserve, and probably Europe.
The president spoke on NBC's "Tonight Show" with Jay Leno .
Leno , the gas guzzling over paid comic who will never hold a candle to Johnny Carson .
Well the president (Obama) has already proven that he isn't up for the task of defending our embassies! ...Benghazi is obviously still haunting him!
Mr. President, you are saying that it's unfortunate that more people die in cars versus terrorist attacks? Why is that unfortunate? Would you rather have them die more frequently in terror attacks?
I must have been asleep for the past year.
Listening to Obama. Al Queda was destroyed and its leaders dead, captured or hiding!
Why closing so many embassies, if they were on the run??
Can someone explain?/
The Fourth Amendment is part of the Bill of Rights. It prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and requires any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause. NSA violates the 4th amendment.
The DEAR LEADER, on Oct. 17, 2012: " Al Qaeda is on the run....." Yeah, right.
I suppose AL Qaeda didn't guess that "THIS WAR MUST END."
Anti Obama Comments in 3...2....1...
You don't address the United States citizens by going on Leno. This is not a President. This is a Tyrant. A dictator. This is how megalomaniacs work. The ones who watch Leno are just about the mentality Obama and his goons look to keep close to their breast. The ones who are traditional and understand how a real President conducts the affairs of the nation are the same people the IRS targeted. They don't watch Leno, because they work early. Ben Franklin said it best: Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise. The Americans Ben Franklin spoke of still exist, but the opportunity to become wealthy in America doesn't because of the failure of Obama, his voters and the administration that is leading this once great nation far away from tradition and values those who stay up late to watch this trash do not have, nor will they ever because they're lazy, dull and too busy looking for hand outs from their false messiah. Go ahead and tear this post up, but ANYONE with half a brain can see right through this fake President and his filthy lies, war mongering, destruction of tradition, destruction of family and his blatant and obvious goal of driving America apart and into the ground. I've said enough to tilt the minds of the weak and prime the minds of those who are strong. Keep the faith real Americans! You are right to feel the way you do about such FRAUD.
Isn't it better to close down the embassies permanently. If the terrorists see anyone of them open again, they will easily phone themselves to do 'something' . Is it the type of cowardly fear Americans would want to live .
What the heck is he doing on TV when he should be working...
Jay Leno? Yes that is our POTUS.
Going on late night talk shows instead of taking hard questions from the press is not leadership. The President wants to be a celebrity not a leader. Is the Presidency now simply a position of celebrity fundraiser? He doesn't go up to the Hill to cut deals because he "does not like to do that sort of work" but he meets with every celebrity he can find.. We went from a reckless cowboy Priesident to a cult of personality celebrity fundraiser. Where is the leadership in this country?
Embassy Closure is the response to get the public attention away from the series of embarrassing setbacks Obama Admin is suffering in current Snowden Saga.
Wag the dog. Plain and simple. He has something to sell
What a laughing joke. This homosexual socialist muslim has ZERO credibiilty and trying to tell Putin how to deal with his own homosexual perverts? Putin laughs at thie skinny nerd who is a pathetic excuse for a human being with his lies corruption racism and bigotry against America who he pspies on 24/7/365 like the sneak peeper he is tracking their cars etc.