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.
When a person has to live their life doing nothing but worrying about "terror" then they aren't living their life in freedom and THEY ARE ATTEMPTING TO KEEP EVRYONE ELSE FROM BEING FREE! Should I hide in a cave cause there are dangerous volcanoes in the world? Oh and btw ,volcanoes do more harm to the earth then humans. This president has been the biggest failure we have ever had.
Wake up People!
The hate mongers are out in full force this morning....... What a sad, pathetic bunch of whiny losers, that probably bit their tongues as Bush crashed our economy
Ignore them babe.
They are loud but they are NOT the majority.
You see how one person posts under 10 different names on this site.
Pathetic bunch, worthy of your pity but NOT your time.
When did it become OK for a sitting president to appear on a comedy show? Nixon was on laugh in as a candidate. McCain was on SNL as a candidate. Once elected though presidents appear only on news shows with real journalists. We should be outraged that our president is avoiding journalists who might ask him hard questions.
Obama shows one thing clear – he
You've been unplugged.
Softball interview? What do you expect? Its Leno. He is just a comedian.
@us_1776 – Unless we STOP altering things then the terrorists have won.
Sure we can spend billions of dollars cowering in fear and closing down embassies or airports or whatever.
But that is not what we should do in the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.
If we just went about business as usual and ignored these terrorists what would happen. Oh sure, the terrorists might get a few hundred of us. But the other 350,000,000 would live free.
I find it astounding that you actually believe that. What if you, a spouse or a child were one of the "few hundred" they got, while minding their own business at an American mall.. or perhaps walking thru a public facility in Europe of Africa.
Then you'd be out screaming for their heads. Fact is – the right wing will do anything to make the POTUS the failure for anything they can. If the Embassies were not closed and anything happened.. it's HIS fault. It's already HIS fault for the closing them to avoid potential incident. Take some cojones to do that.
Besides, if Obama said the sky is blue, they'd argue vehemently night and day that it was not.
I agree with Russia on not discussing or having gays conversation around children. Unfortunately we have a president who is speaking out and promoting a right that totally ignore the rights of others who do not agree.
I purposely didn't watch Leno last night because I am tired of listening to Obama's SOS. Leno had it right, "How about taking care of the things that got our country in this mess." Obama wasn't counting on Leno giving him that shot. Even his Hollywood friends are tired of Obama's speeches, flying around the country and going on vacation.
Thanks for those encouraging words Dominican Mama. It's hard to believe it's 2013, I keep thinking it's 1960 or something like that. Very sad, very sad indeed.....
I love how our Emperor in Cieif is so concerned over Russia violating peoples rights for being gay, yet turns a blind eye to the IRS and his own adminstration who persecutes people for being conservative.
After four and fives, thousands of lives, trillions of dollars, has anything "CHANGES" for the better?
It' has "CHANGED" for the worse!
What a one sided story that doesn't cover all the details from last night. How about how Obama blamed the previous administration for the NSA issues he faces today. How can he claim that it was the previous administration and he expanded the use of spying? Obama doesn't take responsibility for any of his actions and never will. CNN stop giving Obama a free pass and get back to real news reporting. Stop determing political outcomes for people based on your political agenda. You are a news organization and should not have a political agenda. Just report the news, facts and truth...
I think Obama's number one priority needs to be education since he has no clue where the Gulf of Mexico is. I mean, I know he's the most powerful man in the free world, but even he can't obliterate the Atlantic Ocean.
stop having the same conversation on every article we need to stand together against this out of control tyrannical government instead of arguing amongst our selves about non issues
Why doesn't Obama just get a talk/comedy show and let a real President run the country! Almost anyone will do a better job!
Wow... this sums it up for me ""The odds of dying in a terrorist attack are a lot lower than they are of dying in a car accident, unfortunately," Obama said."... "Unfortunately" huh? I think I understand what he was trying to say.. but this quote sure makes it look like he would prefer it if terrorist attacks were more frequent and "effective".
"CNN stop giving Obama a free pass and get back to real news reporting."
Yeah! Where's our stories about Jabberwocky Barbie's latest mangling of the engrish language and rational thought!?!?!? And come on....it's almost noon and you haven't tried to sell us on the wonders of Clown Christie yet today....you're slacking!!!!
" I think I understand what he was trying to say.. but this quote sure makes it look like he would prefer it if terrorist attacks were more frequent and "effective".
Translation: "I think I understand what he was trying to say.. but I'm going to deliberately misinterpret it anyway so I have a reason to be angry."
al quada, according to this community organizer before the elections, was no threat at all since he killed their leader. what a joke this guy is. if the American public cannot see through his bs, we as a nation are in trouble. the Supreme Court has ruled that politicians do not have to tell the truth (LIE) to the American people in the interests of national security. so everything a politician says is in the interests of national security so essentially politicians lie. nothing new here.
"yet turns a blind eye to the IRS and his own adminstration who persecutes people for being conservative."
You mean like you turn a blind eye to all the evidence that has come out disproving that accusation?
This is where we are supposed to get our updates now – a late night comedy show. This is how we communicate with the masses telling them about current terror threats – a late night comedy show? How much did NBC pay and who did they pay? Who payed for all the secret service? What next, we he be on WWE grabbing the mic. I am sick and tired of the pop culture pandering – all those people clapping and yelling for him, they are the same ones clapping and yelling for Tiger Woods, Weiner, A Rod, Armstrong, etc. All surface thinkers just wanting to be with the "in" crowd. We have very few people to look up to anymore. I want a president who looks presidential and can inspire people – I don't want someone who is like me because I know they won't get anything accomplished.
Obama is joking right?
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.
If al Qaeda wants to kill the embassy personnel, they can kill them at home or on the way to work or later in the embassies when the alert passes.
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.
democrats and republicans have the same agenda the past two presidents have both inacted laws that are unconstitutional, the patriot act and the ndaa (national defense authorization act ) it is we the people who are to blame for our country's problems we've allowed corrupt politicians to steal our money and destroy our rights. stop falling for their tricks they divide up with issues that don't matter like race or gender or rich vs poor and while we are fighting each other they are advancing their agenda of destroying our country. wake up open your eyes get your news from other sources ask guestions demand answers. remember elected officials are public servants and work for us.
How can you take Obama seriously? This guy is a wanna be comedian or actor surely not a President!
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.