August 7th, 2013
11:14 AM ET
1 year ago

5 things to know from Obama's interview with Leno

(CNN) - Did you miss the president's interview on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno"?

Here are five things you need to know about the interview, which marked his sixth sit-down with Leno.

1. Obama: Embassy closings aren't an overreaction

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, Obama said.

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.

Read more: Prison breaks are among reasons for heightened security

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.

2. Obama will attend G-20 summit in Russia

The White House announced Wednesday the president won't sit down with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, but Obama confirmed in Tuesday night's interview that he'll still attend the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg.

Read more: Obama cancels talks with Putin ahead of G-20 summit

Multiple lawmakers–Republicans and Democrats alike–called on the president to skip the meeting with Putin after Russia granted temporary asylum to the former government contractor Edward Snowden.

Asked Tuesday about Snowden, who admitted to leaking details of U.S. classified surveillance programs, Obama said he was disappointed with Russia's decision.

"Traditionally we have tried to respect if there's a lawbreaker or alleged lawbreaker in their country," he said. "We evaluate it, and we try to work with them. They didn't do that with us. And in some ways it's reflective of some underlying challenges that we have had with Russia lately."

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.

But will Obama call him a whistle blower?

"We don't know yet exactly what he did, other than what he said on the internet," the president said. "And it's important for me not to prejudge something. Hopefully at some point he'll go to trial and he will have a lawyer and due process and we can make those decisions."

3. Do Obama and McCain have a 'bromance'?

The president offered a laughing assessment of Sen. John McCain. 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.

Read more: McCain visits Egypt

"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."

But that 'bromance' may have been short-lived. After the White House announced Obama was nixing the meeting with Putin, McCain zinged the president on Twitter.

His tweet referenced a moment when Obama was heard last year requesting Putin for space on the issue of a planned U.S.-led NATO missle defense system in Europe.

"This is my last election," Obama told then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. "After my election I have more flexibility."

"I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir," Medvedev said. Putin was the incoming president at the time.

4. Hillary Clinton not measuring the White House drapes

Saying Hillary Clinton was enjoying a "post-administration glow" at their White House lunch last week, Obama said she 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.

5. Obama has 'no patience' for anti-LGBT laws in Russia

Responding to a question about recent legislation in Russia that cracks down on gay rights, the president said he has "no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them."

"Do you think it will affect the Olympics?" Leno asked the president, whose own views on the subject have evolved in the course of his presidency. Russia is slated to host the Winter Olympics in 2014, in the city of Sochi.

Obama was adamant. "Every judgment should be made on the track, or in the swimming pool, or on the balance beam, and people's sexual orientation shouldn't have anything to do with it."

This was the first time Obama had commented on Russia's new anti-LGBT laws, which have come under increasing scrutiny as questions mount about the country's intentions during the Olympic Games.

Read more: Protests, boycott calls as anger grows over Russia anti-gay propaganda laws

But the president was careful to avoid singling out Russia, pointing out that many leaders he meets with support similar legislation in their nations.

"When I traveled to Africa, there were some countries that are doing a lot of good things for their people, who we're working with and helping on development issues, but in some cases have persecuted gays and lesbians. And it makes for some uncomfortable press conferences sometimes."


Filed under: Hillary Clinton • John McCain • President Obama • Russia
soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. just sayin

    six times on leno, a late night comedy show? i guess it makes sense. obama is a joke of a president. he's spent 4.5 years running away from any interviews with people that challenge him on his positions and policies. now wonder the russians perceive him as weak and a very nice doormat on which to wipe their feet.

    August 7, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  2. Rick McDaniel

    The ONLY thing to get.......was the entire program was a scripted, rehearsed, propaganda program filled with lies and deception.

    Leno really shot himself in the foot with this one. It was simply a SHAM!

    August 7, 2013 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  3. Rudy NYC

    just sayin

    six times on leno, a late night comedy show?
    -----------------------–
    That many? Yeah, but how many times as POTUS, though? Don't you just love the way the right wing lies to you by telling you only half the truth? They do it all of the time. It's how they can do it with such a straight face all the time. You cannot accuse the of outright lying. They just like to cherry pick the facts that they like.

    August 7, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  4. J'Cincinnati'Redd

    @ just saying. You really need to get out more and take a breath of fresh air. But come on, 6times on Leno? i wish he would lead this nation and quit all the P.R the liberals already love you Obama,so you quit sucking up so much!

    August 7, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  5. J'Cincinnati'Redd

    I mean other then Rudy NYC,who cares to even look at the Jay Leno show? he already lost one job and he is working on loosing this one.

    August 7, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  6. just sayin

    Rudy NYC
    just sayin
    six times on leno, a late night comedy show?
    -------––
    That many? Yeah, but how many times as POTUS, though? Don't you just love the way the right wing lies to you by telling you only half the truth? They do it all of the time. It's how they can do it with such a straight face all the time. You cannot accuse the of outright lying. They just like to cherry pick the facts that they like.
    --

    the article stated the fact, 6 times on leno. don't argue nonsense with me, argue with cnn.

    nice try on trying to divert attention away from the joker-in-chief that is more interested in celebrity interviews than real interviews with journalists that will challenge him but we gotcha!
    \

    August 7, 2013 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  7. rs

    Boy it just burns you Righties that Obama can lead the nation, be popular, and make coherent policy announcements doesn't it. Y'all see just how petty you all sound? Ever think maybe he's actually using the media effectively to get his message to the people? Meanwhile the idiots running on the GOP side keep up their attacks on the "LSM" and hide from programs like Leno because someone might ask them a hard question or two. And you guys STILL wonder why your elections are slipping away....

    August 7, 2013 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  8. Larry in Houston

    # 1 ) regarding the "embassys" . . . "IKE" would have never closed any of them. Why ? because he wasn't afraid of anyone, or any country. . . IF one embassy EVER attacked our's, in another country, he would have dealt with it, whatever country they were from, would have had repercussions.
    # 2 ) Obam had better attend. IF he doesn't it will make him appear weak, not only to Putin, but he will appear weak, in every other countries eyes. . . . (as if he isn't already)
    # 3 ) "no patience" ?? for what ? and Who ? it's nobodys business, what Putin wants to do, or what he does to the people in his country, why should we stick our noses into another country's business ?

    If that is the case, then why don't the Obama administration stick their nose's into Fidel's business, down there, in Cuba ?

    August 7, 2013 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  9. Rudy NYC

    J'Cincinnati'Redd

    I mean other then Rudy NYC,who cares to even look at the Jay Leno show? he already lost one job and he is working on loosing this one.
    ------------
    Bad assumption, really bad assumption. I'm a Lederman guy. NYC, get it?

    August 7, 2013 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  10. Rudy NYC

    just sayin wrote:

    the article stated the fact, 6 times on leno. don't argue nonsense with me, argue with cnn.
    ---------------
    Like I always say, sarcasm is totally wasted on the right wing. They don't get it. Just because the article says that he's appeared on Leno six times does not automatically mean that he's appered on Leno six times as POTUS, which he hasn't BTW.

    August 7, 2013 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  11. Cubbie11

    The President does seem to appear on talk shows to deliver scripted messages. I suppose he wants to be thought of as a personable, funny guy. For me, it isn't working. President Clinton was a warm, personable guy, but he got things done in Washington. He brought Reps and Dems together. He actually made speeches that were aired on television. Clinton may have been as out of touch as Obama, but he seemed to create an environment of coming together and conversing. For me, Obama has a "this is what you are going to do", Chicago style manner. We didn't have to stay up for late night talk shows to figure him out.

    August 7, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  12. penguin

    I never listen to any President. Everything they say (whether Republican or Democrat) is scripted political talk. I'm a liberal, but I must say that Obama has done more to crush privacy and due process rights than the Bush administration even dreamed of. His drone policy has probabably fostered more hatred of the United States than any other policy we have ever employed because it kills too many innocent people. His policy of rendition and indefinite detention has also fostered hatred of us. Yes, Bin Laden was killed while Obama was in office, but has Bin Ladens death weakened the Taliban or Al Queda?-apparently not.

    August 7, 2013 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  13. hender1123

    Is Obama building support for his upcoming boycott of the Olympics? Jimmy did it in 1980 and all it did was hurt the athletes. This divide and conquer policy of these liberals is a disaster. Ordinary people end up paying the price for someone's empire building.

    August 7, 2013 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  14. Doug in NYC

    I just love the way the Tighty Righties get all up in arms when President Obama does things like this, claiming he isn't leading. Let's face facts here, just because the last guy to live in the White House couldn't walk and chew gum at the same time, he could barely even talk straight, doesn't mena President Obama can't!

    Just remember the last time he was laughing it up at the correspondence dinner, after dangling his birth certificate in all your faces, OBL was killed. I wouldn't be surprised if he has something big to announce.

    President Obama is one multi-tasking cool customer. he distracts with stuff like this, while big things are being done!

    August 7, 2013 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  15. Guest

    The Campaigner in Chief......not impressed, at all, never have been!

    August 7, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  16. Wake up People!

    There's a huge difference between Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. They may not have liked Clinton, but he was one of them......

    August 7, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  17. Thomas

    Leno is no Johnny Carson .

    The decline of American Comedy.

    August 7, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  18. Craig Shetterly

    Don't want to prejudge? Not trying to get in the way of a trial, and let just cause/due run its course in legal process?

    Must be a new concept, Mr. President.

    I bet if you had a Whistle-Blower, he'd look like Snowden.

    August 7, 2013 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  19. Fair is Fair

    "Like I always say, sarcasm is totally wasted on the right wing. They don't get it."
    -----
    Oh, we get it all right. We get it that every time you're caught in deception, intellectual dishonesty, or an outright lie, you reply that you were "being sarcastic". I guess "being sarcastic" in Rudyville means "I was lying".

    August 7, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  20. Dixie

    Enough with the other TV stuff. What happened to the POTUS talking to the people in the oval office. There use to be a national address that we could hear from him about his administration. We don't want to hear second or third hand what is going on or what you are doing. We should't have to search the web to know maybe what is going on.

    August 7, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  21. just sayin

    Rudy NYC
    Just because the article says that he's appeared on Leno six times does not automatically mean that he's appered on Leno six times as POTUS, which he hasn't BTW.
    --

    thank you for settling that burning issue between yourself..... nobody else cares if it was while he was president or before. although i will bet that he has appeared on leno more while he has been president. he is always looking for adoring crowds that don't know much. it is a well known fact he has thin skin and does not take criticism or questioning very well.

    btw, look up the definition of sarcasm, there was none in your reply. only the usual smoke and mirror bs to try and deflect from the joker-in-chief and his lack of substance and toughness. putin is sure pointing that out these days.

    August 7, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  22. Rudy NYC

    Cubbie11 wrote:

    ... For me, Obama has a "this is what you are going to do", Chicago style manner. ...
    ------------------
    Meanwhile, at the same time, the other side is saying "repeal Obamacare, or we will shut down the government."

    August 7, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  23. Jan

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

    August 7, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  24. jpm

    He should be on the comedy talk shows since his Presidency is such a joke! Keep blaming everything on Bush. the Bush tax cuts are bad..Oh yeah you renewed them twice. His war on terror is bad. Why are you continuing it. What a joke!

    August 7, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  25. WS

    Obama stated that "Every judgment should be made on the track, or in the swimming pool, or on the balance beam..."

    Russia is hosting the WINTER Olympics, not the Summer Olympics. There will be NO track or swimming or gymnastics events. His speech writers were too stupid to recognize this, and apparently so was Obama.

    August 7, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
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