What Obama said last night
August 6th, 2013
09:15 PM ET
9 years ago

What Obama said last night

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.

Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (216 Responses)
  1. rs

    The GOP had better keep their treasonous mouths shut on this one. No more Benghazis? No more diplomats or staff until the coast is clear. If the GOP complains about this, then they are actually advocating for placing State Dept. personnel in potential harm's way.

    August 6, 2013 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  2. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    What is it that you Tea Tards want? You scream about Benghazi, now you say it's overkill. Which is it?

    August 6, 2013 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  3. California

    Under the circumstances I agree with Obama BUT he shouldn't of let the circumstances get this far. The ignorance with the Benghazi incident contributed to this I'm sure. We are now in the eyes of the terrorists considered weak.

    August 6, 2013 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  4. Chris

    Its nice that the President can talk with ab over the hill tv comedian and not talk with tv reporters who ask tough questions.

    Too bad Mr Leno does notmhave the stones to ask Mr Obama about Benghazi or if the terror alert is simply deflection.

    Mr Obama is an embarressment to the country. He is simply a Chicago hack.

    August 6, 2013 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    All the people that voted for this Yahoo should be fired when he is fired. Doesnt the President of the United States have more important things then to be a "celebrity" on the Tonight Show?

    August 6, 2013 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  6. Brad

    "Do something." he said. If they had continued watching the video, he goes on tot say "about this freaking outrageous phone bill! Oy vey!!"

    August 6, 2013 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  7. mrl

    I see Obama is still fiddling like Nero while everything around him is burning... what a silly little court jester

    August 6, 2013 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  8. Brad

    "Do something about these outrageous gas prices!" He exclaimed and then stormed out of the cave.

    August 6, 2013 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  9. Howie

    Looks like al-ZAwahiri has us on the run.

    August 6, 2013 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  10. Woman In California

    I trust your judgment Mr. President especially when it comes to foreign policy. For those who don't – please go to the Middle East and plan to stay there permanently.

    August 6, 2013 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  11. Greenspam

    Jay Leno sucks, Obama sucks for being on Jay Leno.

    August 6, 2013 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    Campaigning still!

    August 6, 2013 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  13. Matthew Gaines

    An al Qaeda leader says to "do something." Well there you have it, folks. A terror plot of epic magnitude.

    August 6, 2013 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  14. Robert

    if obama mouth is open lies are coming out.

    August 6, 2013 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  15. Soldeus

    So fitting that this miserable puppet president will go on Leno but avoids the actual press. Scandal after scandal, this man has turned out to be no less of a scum bag than the previous guy. I am sure his partisan supports will love him. They are just as bad as the fools who supported all the terrible things the last president did because of party.

    Until we band together as a people and elect new people outside of the sway of big money, this dog and pony show will continue until the middle class is completely destroyed.

    August 6, 2013 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  16. Mike Buck

    So if the embassies go on alert and get closed their are complaints from the right wing. If the embassies and / or consulates don't get closed and are attacked, then it must be is a cover up. But there was NO COMPLAINING or calls for INVESTIGATIONS during the numerous attacks on embassies and consulates from 2001 to January of 2009. Now why is that?

    August 6, 2013 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  17. LT-7

    Dear Sirs:

    The closing of the embassies isn't an overreaction.

    As far as al Zawahiri is concerned, I think the speculation that he is in Pakistan is probably wrong. He and bin Laden split up long before bin Laden's death. If I were looking for him anywhere at this point, it would be in his native Egypt. He has had a pretty good opportunity to get there, especially if he had gone to Somalia first on his way. The recent upheavals would make it easier for him to move around and he has trusted people there to help him.

    August 6, 2013 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  18. TimeforChange

    This story was pathetic.

    August 6, 2013 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  19. davecu

    Oh happy day!
    What's he selling now?

    August 6, 2013 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  20. Bjorn Bjornsen

    Well, thank God he went onto the Tonight Show to relay the country this important news ... :s

    August 6, 2013 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  21. j williamsom

    More tap-dancing than Fred Astaire. The selling of one's soul is never a good idea – even when one is greatly tempted with grandeur and immortality.

    August 6, 2013 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  22. Telluride Greg

    "The odds of dying in a terrorist attack are a lot lower than they are of dying in a car accident, unfortunately," Obama said. Obama wishes we had more terrorist attacks as car accidents unfortunately.

    August 6, 2013 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  23. Winston Smith

    Why do we have to get our news from the people doing late night variety. Can't we get some form of enlightenment from our leaders getting paid to enlighten us, without bringing in some half baked celebrity to act as the sounding board.

    August 6, 2013 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  24. Betty Boop

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

    August 6, 2013 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  25. duh

    still campaigning I see

    August 6, 2013 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
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