Obama on Russia: 'They slip back into Cold War thinking'

McClatchy Washington BureauAugust 7, 2013 

President Barack Obama, disappointed that Russia granted leaker Edward Swowden asylum, told Jay Leno Tuesday night that sometimes Russian President Vladimir Putin forgets that their two nations have left the days of the Cold War behind.

"There are times when they slip back into Cold War thinking and Cold War mentality," Obama said in a taped appearance on the comedian's show. "What I continually say to them and to President Putin, that’s the past."

Obama said he was disappointed in Russia's decision on Snowden, but he said the two nations still work together on Afghanistan and the Boston bombing. He said he would be attending the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia next month.

Obama appeared on "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno, which was taped several hours in advance at the NBC studios in Burbank, Calif. Leno asked him a myriad of questions about government surveillance, the closures of embassies, the economy and health care.

Leno asked Obama what he would call Snowden?

"We don’t know exactly what he did, except what he said on the Internet and it's im important for me not to judge," he said.

Surveillance is a "critical component to counterterrorism." But, he said, he knows that the surveillance programs have "raised a lot of questions for people."

"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 terroritst attack...That information is useful." 

Obama appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, which was taped several hours in advance at the NBC studios in Burbank, Calif. Leno asked him a myriad of questions about government surveillance, the closures of embassies, the economy and health care.

Obama said the United States was not overreacting to a threat that has closed nearly two dozen diplomatic posts around the globe.

He said people can still take vacation, just do so in a “prudent way” by checking on the State Department Websites for up-to-day information before making plans.

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

Obama delivered standard talking points on the economy, reiterating the need to address housing, agreeing with Leno that there should be bipartisan agreement on infrastructure projects.

"My argument to Congress has been, this is just like fixing your house….Sooner or later, you’re going to have to fix it, and it’s going to be more expensive the longer you put it off."

He left some of his most colorful comments for his one-time rivals, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Leno asked about the “bromance” brewing between Obama and McCain. The president praised McCain for speaking his mind.

“That’s how a classic romantic comedy goes. Initially you’re not getting along and then you keep bumping into each other," he joked.

Obama said he invited Clinton to lunch at the White House recently. “She had that post administration glow,” he joked.

Obama said they were “genuinely close” and said she had been a “great secretary of state.”

Leno asked if she was measuring the drapes in the Oval Office. "Keep in mind she's been there. She doesn't have to measure them," he said.

Leno started the show by wishing Obama a happy birthday. (He turned 52 on Sunday). Obama told Leno he had a bunch of friends come over that he doesn’t see that often to play some golf and basketball.

“It was a sad state of affairs,” he said laughing. “A bunch of old guys…”

At the end of the show, Obama presented Leno, a car enthusiast, with a toy model of his car. Leno appeared to be thrilled, even asking POTUS to sign the car.

"Oh, cool!" he said twice.

Obama on his birthday, embassy closures and global travel warning:

Obama on the NSA, Edward Snowden and privacy:

Obama on Vladimir Putin and attending the G20 summit:

Obama on boosting the middle class and fixing infrastructure:

Obama on bromance with John McCain, lunch with Hillary Clinton, and Obamacare:

Obama on Trayvon Martin, his love for broccoli, and gift to Jay:

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