August 7th, 2013
11:14 AM ET
9 years ago

5 things to know from Obama's interview with Leno

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(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. it must be said

    "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.

    This can only mean one thing. Obama will propose banning cars. "If we can save just one life...", the usual liberal chant for outlawing everything in order to guarantee a completely safe life, free of any risk, or enjoyment, or excitement, or freedom.

    August 7, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  2. dinkydo

    "Ever think maybe he's actually using the media effectively to get his message to the people?"

    Oh there's no doubt in anyone's mind how he's USING the media to get his message to the sheeple...uh, I mean people. You're obviously one of them so why don't you just baa baa baa along.

    As far as leading the nation is concerned...sure he's leading the nation.... right straight to hell.

    August 7, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  3. Kat

    To the right...if you don't have anything good to say....shut the .... up. So tired of your whining. All you do is whine and nit pick.... get over it already, get your side to actually DO something, anything of worth, in congress. If you want to whine, whine abt that perhaps huh – the do-nothing house that is led by republicans.

    August 7, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  4. Hammerer

    Obama goes on late night tv to spin his trash because no one will watch his prime time sales pitch.
    Leno probably had his lowest viewer number of the year because of his guest.

    August 7, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  5. Bubba

    Obama has been reelected by a real margin (no counting hanging chads, nor polling neighborhood cats), and he now enjoys going out to let the GOP (and their Tea Party Masters) know they have nothing. Call Obama a joke if you must, but he will hear of your petty bickering from THE CHAIR, in the OVAL OFFICE. This is funnier than watching cats in the rain.

    August 7, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  6. Knucklehead

    "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??? Really??

    August 7, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
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