What Obama said last night
August 6th, 2013
09:15 PM ET
10 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. Borderless

    I thought an interview involved members of the press, not campaign donors.

    August 7, 2013 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  2. chronickelly

    I think it's pretty great that a President will go on a talk show and have a discussion like a normal human and not couched in the officialism of the presidency. It makes him more human, not less a president. And he's speaking about human rights. Without rhetoric or political bias. Obama is closest thing the US will have to President Kennedy. You should all be grateful you have a humanitarian running your country. Otherwise, the rest of the world would still hate you.

    August 7, 2013 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  3. Captain Nemo

    To all complaining about an American president appearing on a TV comedy show, get over it: that all started in 1968 when Richard Nixon went on Laugh In.

    August 7, 2013 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  4. Donkey Party

    The right-wing filth continue to show their ignorance, hatred, and racism. They're worse than Al Queda.

    August 7, 2013 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  5. Wake up People!

    People so full of hate and envy..... It's not a good way to feel.

    The people commenting here are pathetic and the mods are worse.

    August 7, 2013 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  6. Niki Coates

    "The Truth about Benghazi" aired on CNN last night by Erin Burnett, was excellent. Bravo to CNN. Obama on The Late Show made Benghazi a joke. Terrorism is not a joke. Obama went on the show because he can't stand the pundits making fun of him.

    August 7, 2013 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  7. Otto

    Two phrases stuck: I've been very clear... I have no patience with countries... This guy talks like a king now. I regret having voted for him.

    August 7, 2013 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  8. Rico53

    how much do you think it cost us tax payers to secure the area for him to appear on Leno`s show?

    August 7, 2013 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  9. deathstalker

    "The Clintons, the Bushs, and Obamas... Just another talking head telling Lies on teleprompters." – Michael Render

    August 7, 2013 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  10. Malory Archer


    Wait a minute, didn't Obama say not too long ago that "Al Qaeda was on the run"??????


    The previous occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue said that. You're just confused.

    August 7, 2013 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  11. Sniffit

    "the GOP is ridiculed by CNN posters for not going on CNN or NBC with their debates, even though the moderators clearly aren't interested in asking illuminating questions, only gotcha questions to make the GOP candidates look bad."

    Just because they have no good answers to normal, everyday questions about the issues concerning Americans, doesn't make the question a "gotcha question." The only reason it starts to look like a "gotcha question" is because the bigoted ideologue hate-priests in the GOP/Teatrolls blabber canned answers full of demagoguery and ideological nonsense that are tangential and irrelevant and fail to answer the question posed and aren't even prepared to answer obvious questions that they should have expected in the first place.

    August 7, 2013 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  12. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Obama is closest thing the US will have to President Kennedy. You should all be grateful you have a humanitarian running your country. Otherwise, the rest of the world would still hate you.
    No truer words have been spoken chronickelly.
    Very well stated!!

    August 7, 2013 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  13. Malory Archer


    Two phrases stuck: I've been very clear... I have no patience with countries... This guy talks like a king now. I regret having voted for him.


    Yeah, and I regret voting for mcwar and romeny. Oh, wait a minute, I'm being facetious – just like you!

    August 7, 2013 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  14. JeffG

    Obama shows one thing clear – he lies smoothly. He always gets soft questions from who ever interviews him and if he can't dodge the question, he will lie. No media will ask him or his admin tough questions or dig into scandals and that includes CNN. Why is he on Leno when there is so much happening in the US and the terror problems? The answer is because he is Campaigner in Chief and really has no answers for any situation except he wants the US to fail. Obama supporters may disagree but ask yourself what is better since he has been President. We hear lies on the unemployment rate (yet we have massive growth in welfare), inflation is said to be stable but gas and groceries tell us different, and the media just keeps saying the same thing that the Obama admin says and nothing changes for the better.

    August 7, 2013 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  15. nuclear mike

    This just caused me to not channel surf to Leno anymore as this is propaganda at its' worst for a President in office to appear as a guest on a self serving NBC show.

    August 7, 2013 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  16. Sniffit

    There's a lot of RWNJs off their meds today I see. "Waaaaaah....demographic changes are taking away white male hegemon and there's nothing I can do about it...booohoooo blubber blubber....*sniffle*..."

    August 7, 2013 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  17. sofork

    The president likes soft ball interviews. Those are the only ones he will do.

    August 7, 2013 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  18. Sniffit

    "he's speaking about human rights"

    And nothing could possibly make the GOP/Teatrolls angrier.

    August 7, 2013 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  19. Rudy NYC


    Obama shows one thing clear – he lies smoothly. He always gets soft questions from who ever interviews him and if he can't dodge the question, he will lie.
    I guess that you missed that interview with Bill O'Reilly. Bill never gave Pres. Obama a chance to answer a question. He kept interrupting him, dozens of times over the span of just a few minutes. Bill had his chance and blew it. Never again.

    August 7, 2013 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  20. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Greta job Mr. President.
    Glad to see you doing what works BEST for you and America: having the people hear DIRECTLY from your mouth what is going on with our nation in and around the world.
    The MOST EFFECTIVE way to mitigate the damage done by the Rethuglikkklan mouth droppings is to have you get in front of the camera on a nationally televised show, or one of your televised speeches.
    They are going nuts on this thread about it because IT WORKS!!!
    Keep it up and may God continue to protect you and our country.

    August 7, 2013 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  21. RealVoiceOfReason

    Figures as his presidency is a joke. Unfortunately not a funny one.

    August 7, 2013 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  22. Tom

    Good to see our president doing the talk show / variety show / late show tours. Very presidential.

    August 7, 2013 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  23. 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.

    Otherwise, the way things are going security is going to bankrupt us all.


    August 7, 2013 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  24. pep

    Nicely done, Mr. President.

    August 7, 2013 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  25. Dave Rogers

    It's interesting how the press chooses which stories to allow comments on and how to present them.

    Assuming of course, the US government actually allows the press those choices.

    August 7, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
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