LOS ANGELES - President Obama wrapped up his Western swing with an appearance on NBC’s “Tonight Show.” In a wide-ranging interview with the late night talk show host, Obama discussed recent terrorist threats, Hillary Clinton, the NSA controversy and whether the U.S. might boycott the 2014 Winter Olympic games in Russia.
"The odds of dying in a terrorist attack are a lot lower than they are of dying in a car accident, unfortunately," Obama said when asked by Leno if it is still safe for Americans to travel abroad in light of recent heightened terrorist threats.
Obama denied that the U.S. has a domestic spying program but said the work done by the National Security Agency (NSA) is a “critical component” in keeping the country safe from outside threats.
"We don’t have a domestic spying program,” he said. “What we do have is some mechanisms that can track a phone number or an email address that is connected to a terrorist attack. That information is useful."
However, Obama did acknowledge that recent accusations of the government spying on average Americans has “raised a lot of questions for people.”
In a lighter exchange, Obama was asked about his lunch meeting with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Obama did not get into the specifics of the meeting with his former campaign rival but joked about Clinton's "glow" since leaving government.
"We had a great time and she had that post-administration glow," Obama told Leno. "When folks leave the White House, like two weeks later, they look great!"
Obama also had kind words for another former rival, John McCain.
When Leno asked Obama about his blossoming "bromance" with the Arizona Republican, Obama joked, "That's how classic romantic comedies go." He went on to say, "He is a person of integrity. He is willing to say things, regardless of the politics ... It's probably not good for me to compliment him on television."
Leno was also asked about former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who has recently received a one year asylum in Russia after leaking classified information about U.S. intelligence programs.
"We don’t know exactly what he did, except what he said on the Internet and it's important for me not to judge," Obama said.
However, Obama did say that in light of the incident he has asked the White House staff to look at ways of reducing the number of contract employees employed by federal agencies.
As to Russia’s decision to grant Snowden temporary asylum, Obama said he did not think that, or the recent controversy surrounding Russia’s stance on gay rights would deter the U.S. from participating in next year’s Winter Olympic games in Sochi, Russia.
"I think Putin and Russia have a big stake in making sure the Olympics work," he said. "I think they understand that for most of the countries that participate in the Olympics, we wouldn't tolerate gays and lesbians being treated differently," he said.
- Politics & Government
- President Obama
- Hillary Clinton