President Obama’s sixth appearance on The Tonight Show yesterday saw the Commander-in-Chief covering a variety of topics, from goofy stuff like his bromance with John McCain – “That’s how a classic romantic comedy goes; initially, you’re not getting along, and then you keep bumping into each other…” – to a trifecta of heavy topical issues: a recent spate of embassy closures across the Middle East and North Africa, the NSA and Edward Snowden, and Trayvon Martin.
The conversation began lightheartedly enough, with Jay Leno asking Obama about his recent birthday party and whether Michelle teases his graying hair. Leno then seamlessly steered the conversation toward this weekend’s embassy closures, which came in the wake of a terrorist threat that seems to have originated from al Qaeda. The threat was “significant enough that we’re taking every precaution,” Obama noted, adding that though progress has been made, “this radical, violent extremism is still out there, and we’ve got to stay on top of it.”
That said, Obama continued, any person is far more likely to die in, say, a car accident than a terrorist attack – and it’s important not to allow terrorists to “shut us down.” As the president put it, “Terrorists depend on the idea that we’re going to be terrorized. We’re going to live our lives.”
Talk soon turned to the NSA’s information collection program, parts of which Obama defended as “critical component[s] to counterterrorism.” He expressed disappointment in Russia for granting asylum to whistleblower Edward Snowden, and cautioned that we still don’t know exactly what Snowden did – but added that if the allegations against Snowden are true, the former NSA contractor did not come forward in the right way.
After getting through a few talking points – the economy, infrastructure, Obamacare – Leno asked Obama to speak about the remarks he made after a verdict was released in the Trayvon Martin case. “I think 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 answered, adding that this doesn’t mean “Trayvon was a perfect kid.”
“What I think all of us agree to is that we should have a criminal justice system that’s fair, that’s just,” he continued. “And what I wanted to try to explain was why this was a particularly sensitive topic for African-American families, because a lot of people who have sons know the experience they had of being followed or viewed suspiciously.”
And then he said some stuff about broccoli.
From a serious discussion about race to jokey vegetable quips – that’s America in a nutshell, isn’t it?