According to a White House pool report, Leno asked Obama about his lunch with Hillary Clinton, and whether she was measuring the drapes in the Oval Office, a reference to speculation that she will run for president in 2016.
Laughing, Obama said, “Keep in mind she’s been there. She doesn’t have to measure them.” Obama said that she had a “post administration glow.”
Obama also presented Leno, a car enthusiast, with a gift: a toy model of The Beast.
The president joked about what Leno called the “bromance” developing between him and John McCain. “That’s how a classic romantic comedy goes,” Obama said. “Initially you’re not getting along and then you keep bumping in to each other.”
“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. He told Leno that he asked his staff to look for ways to reduce the number of government contractors, which Snowden was.
He also said that he would be attending the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, as there has been speculation that he would cancel a summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin to protest the government’s temporary asylum given to Snowden.
“There are times when they slip back into Cold War thinking and Cold War mentality,” Obama said. “What I continually say to them and to President Putin [is] that’s the past.”
He defended government surveillance but acknowledged they 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 terrorist attack…That information is useful.”
Far more than any other president, Obama has been more willing to go on “The Tonight Show” and other late night talk shows, having made his first appearance on Leno’s program in March, 2009. White House spokesman Jay Carney said at a press briefing today that “some of his more substantive interviews have appeared in non traditional settings. So you never know what you might get.”
“I think the reason why we’ve agreed to appear on shows like this is because we’re trying to communicate with Americans where they are,” Carney said.
In fact, the “Tonight Show” appearance marked Obama’s comments on Snowden broke news, as well as on other issues.
Obama landed midafternoon at LAX and flew by helicopter to Burbank Airport. His motorcade took him to NBC’s studios, with one person on the street holding up a sign that read “Hollywood loves Obama.” He is staying overnight in the Los Angeles area.
Update: Obama is headed after the “Tonight Show” appearance to what a source describes as a “private dinner” with supporters, including those from entertainment. He is staying overnight at the Hilton in Woodland Hills.