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Obama to Leno: 'We Don't Have Domestic Spy Program'

Covers a lot of ground, from Snowden to terror, on 'Tonight Show'

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 7, 2013 1:41 AM CDT
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(Newser) – President Obama covered a lot of bases—most of them serious—in his fourth Tonight Show appearance as president. Some highlights from the Jay Leno interview, which Politico sees as part of the president's push to "get back to being Barack Obama again" and stop being the butt of late-night jokes:

  • On the global travel warning for US citizens: "The general rule is show some common sense and some caution," Obama said, praising the reactions of Americans who went about life as usual after the Boston Marathon bombing. "Terrorists depend on the idea that we're going to be terrorized," he said.
  • On Trayvon Martin: "All of us were troubled by what happened, and any of us who are parents can imagine the heartache that those parents went through," Obama said after Leno praised his "eloquent" remarks after George Zimmerman's acquittal. "It doesn't mean that Trayvon was a perfect kid, none of us were," Obama said, adding that the issue of having a fair justice system for everybody is a "particularly sensitive topic for the African-American community."

  • On Russia's anti-gay laws and the Sochi Olympics: "I think Putin and Russia have a big stake in making sure that the Olympics work," the president said, "and I think that they understand that for most of the countries that participate in the Olympics we wouldn't tolerate gays and lesbians being treated differently."
  • On NSA surveillance and Edward Snowden: "We don't have a domestic spying program," claimed Obama, calling the controversial NSA programs "mechanisms that can track a phone number or an email address that is connected to a terrorist attack." He confirmed that he would attend the G20 summit in St. Petersburg and that the US-Russia relationship is intact, despite disappointment with Moscow's decision to grant asylum to Snowden. There is "still a lot of business that we can do with them, but there are times when they slip back into Cold War thinking," he said.
  • The interview had a few lighter moments, including discussion of Obama's recent lunch with Hillary Clinton, NBC notes. Asked whether Clinton was measuring the Oval Office for drapes, Obama quipped, "Keep in mind she’s been there. She doesn’t have to measure them."

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