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.
What a joke this pathetic creature is.
Yay! Obama! Best prez.
Obama says Benghazi is a "Phony Scandal", yet they charge some terrorist with the "Phony Scandal".
Why even waste the effort to comment here on someone who's words are always empty and full of hot air?
This must be a highly sophisticated and intellectual dialogue between two astute "statesmen?"
So, no address to the public, but he can go on the tonight show? Who voted for this clown?
Obama is still dodging the hard questions and refusing to talk honestly to the American people. Other presidents held press conferences and got hostile questions that were not pre-planned and had to take their lumps answering them and thinking on their feet. Think about it. Instead, King Obama gives press conferences to a comedian and not to the press corps. Doesn't that imply that his administration is a joke?
I still find it hard to believe that the so called "leader" of our nation goes on talk shows. I'll be glad when his rein is over. Geez...
Is this not the same President who claimed the War on Terror was over just a few weeks ago? Good to know all the embassy closings were so amusing that it had to be discussed in depth with a late night comedian. The good news is that the jihadist don't watch The Tonight show (past their bedtime).
obama knows all about terror. That's what he is doing to America.
Treatment of gays and lesbians in Russia really needs to be the last thing on this guys agenda right now. He is merely pandering to his base and campaigning as usual instead of really leading the nation.
A very Prudent thing to do. He did good this time, why endanger lives.
Really? On the tonight show again? You have lowered the office of the President...no wonder you get less and less respect. It's almost as though you are trying to turn the US into a third world country!
Nothing to see here.
"The odds of dying in terrorist attack are a lot lower than they are of dying in a car accident, unfortunately" I heard that and took that to mean he wishes more people did die in terrorist attacks. Not a very good choice of words.
What a load the war on terror is dead....that gets a pass but not Mission Accomplished. Now students returning to college are finding their health insurance doubling. Welcome to obamacare. You young people, will be carrying the water Ganga din for many years to come. Cancel tho home ownership dreams
So he would rather us die from terrorist attacks ???
People still watch leno?
First criminal charges are made relating to Benghazi on the day Obama appears on an incredibly popular talk show.
Just a coincidence, I'm certain. Just like all the other silly coincidences.
Great news, the White House uses another media outlet to instill more fear in the American people and to hopefully gain more support for the programs and practices for the invasion of our privacy. Its all for the greater cause.Right?
Of course it is; even the Russians know it is and have said so...you everything is orchestrated when it becomes banal and usual...Barry is so obvious, so predictable...
He also said we don't have a domestic spying program – wink-wink. Of course we have a domestic spying program. It really got off the ground post 9/11 under Bush and complicit Congressional Democrats, and Obama (with the help of complicit Congressional Republicans) put it on a steady diet of PED's. We now have a full-blown domestic surveillance system in the hands of a massive, largely unchecked federal government. And somehow that's okay?
he appears on more shows than any other president that i can remember
How pathetic, do these GOP idiots want Embassyies open and get in trouble? Then blame Obama and come into power? Nasty ruse of rethuglicans–enough–I mean enough. 24 percent of deficit is recouped as of today–hard news for GOP.
"Aren't an overreaction"....yeah, right. They're a smokescreen to try to break the momentum of the scandals he's been facing. Eat up Barry, you brought this on yourself through your gross incompetence and negligence